EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Justin Fields threw for two touchdowns and Haskell Garrett scored on an interception to lift No. 3 Ohio State to an easy 52-12 victory over Michigan State on Saturday.
The Buckeyes (5-0, 5-0 Big Ten, No. 4 CFP) were able to take the field after a coronavirus-related cancellation the previous weekend. They were without coach Ryan Day and a few other members of the staff. Ohio State also had a list of 23 unavailable players, but none of that seemed to faze the Buckeyes.
“It was crazy. It kind of felt like I was almost our coach for the offense,” Fields said. “The guys with me, the leaders we have on offense, it made my job easier.”
Fields also ran for two touchdowns, and the Buckeyes led 28-0 at halftime. Now the big question is whether Ohio State’s regular-season finale against Michigan next weekend will be played. The Wolverines did not play this weekend for virus-related reasons.
The concern for the Buckeyes is that they could fall short of the six-game threshold to be eligible for the Big Ten title game.
Michigan State (2-4, 2-4) was coming off a win over another undefeated team — Northwestern — but the Spartans were overmatched Saturday. Rocky Lombardi was shaken up and left the game after being sacked in the second quarter, and by that time, the rout was already on.
It was 21-0 when Michigan State was backed up near its own goal line. Lombardi’s pass was tipped and intercepted in the end zone by Garrett. The Ohio State defensive lineman has been able to play this season after being shot in the face while trying to break up an argument on a street near campus in August.
Among the players who missed the game were offensive linemen Thayer Munford, Josh Myers and Nicholas Petit-Frere. Linebacker Tuf Borland was also out.
Fields scored on two short runs in the first half, sandwiched around a 28-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson. Fields also hustled down the field to throw a late block on Trey Sermon’s 64-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Payton Thorne completed his first 11 passes for Michigan State after relieving Lombardi, and he ran for a 20-yard touchdown in the third that made it 35-7.
Fields threw a 41-yard TD pass to Chris Olave in the fourth, and backup quarterback C.J. Stroud broke free for a 48-yard touchdown run.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes made this win look easy after what was probably a pretty stressful couple of weeks. Whether Ohio State plays for the Big Ten title or not, this performance should only help the Buckeyes impress the playoff committee.
Michigan State: The Spartans didn’t take many of the risks you would expect from a big underdog. They punted on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter — and again on fourth down in Ohio State territory early in the third. Thorne’s play was the one real bright spot for Michigan State in this game.
“Obviously, we have a lot of work to do,” coach Mel Tucker said. “I thought we played hard in spurts, but we need to play smarter and we need to be more consistent.”
There’s no reason to expect Ohio State’s status near the top to change after this routine victory. However, the Buckeyes were just 11 points ahead of Clemson for the No. 3 spot in the AP poll.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to play at Michigan, but at this point that game seems uncertain. Michigan State wraps up the regular season at Penn State.