Following Ohio State’s 26-6 win against Michigan State, head coach Urban Meyer was excited about how his team played.
“That was a big win, and we’re very satisfied,” Meyer said. “The other ones, you kind of have people didn’t feel like they won. That was a great locker room. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Enjoy the win and get ready for the next one.”
The two polls released on Sunday saw the win differently.
In the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and Amway Coaches’ Poll, Ohio State dropped one spot to No. 9 and No. 8 respectively.
Though the College Football Playoff committee releases the only ballot that matters, the committee was already lower on the Buckeyes, having them at No. 10 the past two weeks.
Meyer said he understands the conflict being displayed by his team.
“You go on the road and win by 20 points against a ranked team,” Meyer said. “And what happened? What’s the problem? What about this? What about that? I could stand up and say, ‘What are you guys talking about?’ But I get it. I don’t think we played great either at times.”
The Buckeyes traveled to East Lansing, Michigan, and defeated the No. 18 Spartans, that is true. But how they won brings up questions Ohio State has seemingly faced every week since its victory against Penn State.
Redshirt sophomore punter Drue Chrisman was the main reason for the win, pinning Michigan State within its own 5-yard line on a handful of occasions, leading to an intentional safety, a defensive touchdown and a field goal after the Spartans fumbled on their own 15-yard line.
The fumble was recovered by junior defensive end Jonathon Cooper, who said the defense’s game against Michigan State proved what it can do as a unit.
“We have been practicing hard. We’ve been going hard and even though everybody kind of telling us to do this or do that, we just stuck with the plan and it pays off, as you can see,” Cooper said. “We went out there and actually showed that we are the defense. We are Ohio State. We are the bullets.”
Ohio State’s defense looked better, allowing only 54 rushing yards, 47 of which came on one run by redshirt freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi. Through the air, Lombardi and redshirt junior quarterback Brian Lewerke combined to throw 18-for-48 for 220 yards and an interception.
Offensively, redshirt junior running back Mike Weber ran for 104 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.7 yards per carry while redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins threw for 227 yards and a touchdown, some of his lowest totals on the season.
Haskins said the locker room was “electric” after the win.
“It’s the atmosphere we had after to gain a win like that. It meant a lot for a lot of people,” Haskins said. “We didn’t play our best ball, but the good thing is we have another game to play, and we got a lot of potential and we can keep getting better.”
It is still unknown if the College Football Playoff committee will see that potential in Ohio State, but in the past two weeks, it has not seen it from the Buckeyes.
The AP poll and coaches’ poll do not seem to see it either.
“To finish the game we did, against that defense, no one’s done that to them. No one’s done it against a team (like) that,” Meyer said. “You know how much respect I have for that coach, that staff and that place. That was awful. That was a tough environment.”
Ohio State now sits at 9-1, two wins away from finishing atop the Big Ten East. It has wins against four teams that were ranked at the time of defeat, and one loss by 29 to Purdue, a team that lost by 31 to Minnesota this past week.
The resume is debatable and will be debatable until the playoff is decided. Meyer knows this, but said he still wishes his team had more respect for what it has done this season.
“I don’t want to come across saying, ‘Well, we’re 9 and —’ no, we’re not playing great at times,” Meyer said. “But then our defense came out and played the way they did. And our special teams played the way they did. It was a great team win. But we’re not where I would like us to be. Is that fair?”
Fair or not, Ohio State has up to three games to prove itself as a team deserving of a Top-4 finish. The win in East Lansing was a start, but the Buckeyes still have a long way to go and need to get there fast if they want a chance at the playoff this season.