There are beatdowns, and there are beatdowns. The Buckeyes led by 38 points at the half, and they never looked back. This was the kind of statement game that Ohio State needed, especially given the play of the teams ranked ahead of them heading into the weekend.
There's still hope that Ohio State makes it into this year's playoff. A small, small glimmer, but a glimmer nonetheless. Regardless of what happens with the committee, the Buckeyes got better week in and week out, and got the job done in outstanding fashion despite more adversity than any five teams should face in a single season. There are a lot of kudos to hand out from Saturday's "good old fashioned whoopin'" (to quote the text I got from my mom at the final whistle), so let's get to it:
Blue Chip Stocks:
Cardale Jones, QB: Next man up! The third-string quarterback changed the look of the offense, but not the speed of it, en route to a great day through the air. Jones finished the day with 257 yards on 12 of 17 passing, and all doubts as to whether he had what it takes to get the job done were put out to pasture by halftime. Jones didn't look like a guy who had only thrown 20 career passes before Saturday. He had no qualms about putting the ball downfield, using his massive arm to air things out early and often. He was rewarded with three (!) long Devin Smith touchdown grabs for his trouble.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB: It would be hard to put Elliott anywhere else after his performance on Saturday. The sophomore ripped off an 81-yard touchdown run to put the Buckeyes up 14-0 early on, and punched another one in from 14 yards out a few minutes later There's running hard, and there's running angry, and Elliott looked like he was doing an awful lot of the latter against Wisconsin. The man with the half-shirt finished up with 220 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries.
Cam Johnston, P: How is this guy not considered the best punter in college football? Johnston doesn't punt often, but when he does, it's always spectacular. The Aussie punter played a huge role in Ohio State's monster first half, with a B1GCG record 72-yarder coupled with a ridiculous pin-down inside the five a few drives later.
Devin Smith, WR: Ohio State's deep-threat veteran wideout has been frustrated by a lack of touches this year in the quick-hitting offense led by J.T. Barrett. Things looked a little different on Saturday night. Smith was Cardale Jones' favorite target, with a handful targets leading to three absolutely absurd touchdown grabs. Two of the three were all Smith, too -- give Jones credit for getting air under the ball, but Smith warded off some really heavy coverage (read: some obvious & uncalled pass interference) to reel in the ball. It's great to see him finally getting to make the most of his massive playmaking abilities.
Rashad Frazier, DE: Welcome to the report, Mr. Frazier. Frazier spelled Steve Miller often on Saturday, and wreaked havoc off the edge in his first real opportunity to make plays for the Buckeyes this season. Frazier played a huge part in the Buckeye defense's refusal to let Joel Stave ever get comfortable in the pocket on Saturday
Adolphus Washington, Joey Bosa, and Michael Bennett, DL: These three all played so well on Saturday that it's hard to isolate the performance of a single one. Where do you even begin? Bennett's punch-out strip of Melvin Gordon? Bosa's ensuing scoop-and-score? Washington's bevy of TFL's? The repeated mobbing of Melvin Gordon in the backfield? Ohio State's defensive line was and is a force to be reckoned with.
Doran Grant, CB: The veteran DB reeled in 2 interceptions on Saturday night to keep the Buckeyes' clean sheet alive, including one at the goal line. This is not the same pass defense that got taken advantage of time after time last season -- weakness has turned into strength, as Grant has helped the Buckeyes bedevil opposing QBs all year. Hats off to him for a shutdown performance this week.
None: If I had put any Ohio State player in this category after a game like last night's, I would punch myself in the face.
BUY: Ohio State's rush defense. Beyoncé said it better than I ever could.
SELL: Pac-12 refs sneaking into the Big Ten. The most egregious of Saturday's officiating errors was obviously the ejection of Corey Smith for "targeting," a term so loosely applied in this instance that it loses all meaning. Smith laid the wood on a Wisconsin defender, opening up a running lane for Cardale Jones, leading with his shoulder and back. That somehow justified a 15-yard penalty and Smith's subsequent ejection from the game. SMH. Add that to the multiple missed pass interference calls (fortunately both resulting in touchdowns anyway), and you have a set of circumstances that a weaker team really would have struggled to overcome.
BUY: Jalin Marshall calling for fair catches. After a few more head-scratching, nerve-wracking, heart-palpitating punt return decisions, someone clearly told Marshall that he wasn't going to be taking punts back if there was a defender anywhere near him. I much prefer that option. Granted, Marshall did have the game-changing return against Minnesota, but it doesn't make it any less gasp-inducing when he fields it in traffic and immediately starts trying to spin out of trouble. Pick your battles back there.