Ohio State made everything look easy against Michigan State.
It beat the Spartans 38-3 and scored all 38 points on six of its first seven drives. Coach Ryan Day decided to sit the starters for nearly the entire second half and cruise to victory instead of running up the score.
Though a dominant performance against a lowly Michigan State team should perhaps be expected for a team ranked No. 1 by the College Football Playoff selection committee, there were still plenty of good takeaways on film, like Kyle McCord’s performance and a few interesting concepts Day might turn to more the rest of the season.
Let’s jump into it.
McCord was fantastic
Let’s start with McCord, who had the best day of his career. He completed 24-of-31 passes for 335 yards and three touchdowns. Most importantly, he looked comfortable all night.
The first-year starting quarterback focused on his footwork last week, and you could see the difference on Saturday. This throw to Cade Stover looked simple, but it showed off some good pocket presence from McCord:
There’s some pressure in his face, but the offensive line does a nice job of picking it up and giving McCord time. He backs up away from the pressure and keeps his eyes downfield. He finds Stover on the sideline. It’s not an overly impressive throw, but I like the way McCord handles himself and his footwork.
He made some nice throws into tight windows, too. His 26-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison Jr. is as good as it gets:
The offensive line does a great job in protection and McCord does a great job with his eyes. The pre-snap read looks like it’s Harrison, as nearly every play should be, but McCord has to look back over the middle to make sure the safety doesn’t help.
Once the safety takes a step away from Harrison, McCord lets go of a beautifully thrown ball. He does all of it while taking a short drop and setting his feet perfectly in rhythm.
His touchdown throw to Stover was another great ball into a tight window, but there’s more I want to touch on, so let’s not dwell on this topic too long. All in all: He was extremely accurate on Saturday, so much so that I had a hard time picking a favorite throw. The 57-yard pass to Harrison was terrific too because we’ve seen McCord miss on those throws this season.
But this one to Julian Fleming might be my favorite beyond the two touchdown passes. This is an NFL throw:
It’s a short drop, quick read and throw to an out route on the field side on a rope. Putting that on the money and on time is not as easy as McCord makes it look there, and it shows just how in control of his body and feet he was on Saturday. If he’s slightly off, this isn’t a completed pass.
The hope is that he can build on this performance. It’s easy to say that, yes, this is a down Michigan State team, but there were a few things on film that showed growth.
The offensive line allowed pressure on just 11.8 percent of dropbacks, despite Michigan State ranking 25th nationally with a 36.3 pressure rate, per TruMedia. And McCord’s footwork and comfort in the pocket were on full display. We’ll see how it translates next week against a Minnesota team that has just a 30.2 pressure rate.
That was a terrific game by McCord, and it was also well called by Day and well executed by the offense.
Marvin Harrison Jr.’s case for the Heisman Trophy
One offensive concept I’m falling in love with
With a healthy offense, Ohio State is able to expand what it does. This wasn’t the first time we saw Ohio State go with a split back look, with Chip Trayanum as the lead blocker, but it worked well and the Buckeyes are expanding their usage of it.
This was the first play:
Trayanum is the lead blocker for Xavier Johnson. Stover does a nice job pulling, as well. Johnson is a good runner in space, so this is a great formation for him and a nice way to get him the ball in a place he’s comfortable.
My biggest question after watching this live was how they could build off this play. Day does a good job establishing tendencies and then building off that to surprise the defense. The Buckeyes did exactly that:
It became obvious before this play that Ohio State was going to run Johnson out of this formation and use Trayanum as the lead blocker. This time, though, Day throws out of it. The fake is to Trayanum, who Michigan State probably expects to run because the Buckeyes love running to the short side.
It’s also a nice play design to get Johnson matched up on a linebacker. He runs right by them on the wheel route, a matchup he’s going to win every time.
I’m curious to see how this formation continues to grow next week against Minnesota because there’s a lot the Buckeyes can do with it.
Igbinosun was tremendous
I thought this was Davison Igbinosun’s best game. He led the team with five tackles and had two pass breakups. Michigan State targeted him six times and he gave up just two receptions for 14 yards, per PFF.
This wasn’t one of the breakups, but this play was terrific, as well:
This is a good route combo by Michigan State, as it runs the slot vertical into the curl route on the outside and hopes to get the defensive backs mixed up or picked off one another. Igbinosun does a great job not to pick his teammate while also playing his man. He doesn’t get credit for the pass breakup here, but this is a good example of how sticky to routes he was the whole day.
Ohio State struck gold when it got Igbinosun from Ole Miss out of the transfer portal, and it’s paying off right now.
(Photo: Joseph Maiorana / USA Today)