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Ohio State defeats Tulsa 41-20
Much like in The Wizard of Oz, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Pay no attention to the 21 point victory by the Buckeyes. Yes, there were some bright spots. True Freshman RB TreVeyon Henderson looks like a star in the making as he gobbled up 277 yards on only 24 carries. The kid is a versatile back with the ability to accelerate and finish runs. Depending on your expectations, holding the Golden Hurricanes to only 20 points could be counted as progress as well. The defense wasn’t dominating by any stretch, but it did provide enough resistance to keep the Buckeyes in control of the game. Considering where the defense was heading into this game, it was an improvement. Cameron Martinez appeared to be a bright spot in the secondary as the freshman had a few pass breakups and a pick 6 to finish off the game.
The game felt much closer than the 21 point victory. That is mostly due to a lackluster passing game that never really established a rhythm and several simple defensive errors. QB CJ Stroud didn’t look comfortable in the pocket, and while some of that is due to pressure, there looks to be more to it.
The defense showed some signs of life. They played a little zone and brought some pressure, but there are certain fundamentals of defense that the team is not executing on the field. A breakdown in run fits led to some poor technique and execution in the secondary, which then permitted some explosive runs and ultimately some touchdowns. In the final touchdown, the Buckeyes were playing man defense against a 3-receiver bunch set. However, in this situation, the point receiver (the one who is on the line of scrimmage) needs to be pressed and jammed to provide the other 2 DBs the space they need to cover their men. There was no jam on the line, and it led to a touchdown.
There was some improvement, but there are still huge strides that need to be made on defense. The passing regression on offense is likewise very concerning.
Sparty takes down the Hurricanes 38-17
Last season, Michigan State won two games total. This season, they have won three games in as many weeks. On Saturday, battling the south Florida heat, the Spartans were able to seize control of the game and then lean on Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III to salt away the game. Miami had more talent on the perimeter, but Michigan State was able get enough pressure to limit the big plays and frustrate the Miami offense. The Spartans routinely bailed their corners deep, giving up the underneath — which led to nearly 400 passing yards for the Hurricanes — but no deep home run balls. If sophomore QB Payton Thorne can continue his efficiency (4 TDs / 0 INTs), Sparty will have something to say about the Big Ten East title.
Penn State gets a big SEC victory
After Ohio State lost to Oregon in Week 2, questions inevitably arose about the overall strength of the conference. Much of the Big Ten has taken care of business in the non-conference, but a victory over traditional SEC power was needed to legitimize the success. Penn State provided that crucial victory for the conference on Saturday night with an impressive victory over Auburn.
This game was always going to hinge on quarterback performance. Bo Nix of Auburn and Sean Clifford of Penn State both have been streaky throughout their career, and the collective fate of their respective teams have often ridden on their ability to execute. Even though Clifford had an interception on Saturday night, it was more than offset by his two big touchdown passes and several critical completions that kept drives alive. Nix couldn’t revive the same magic he used when he helped the Tigers defeat Oregon two seasons ago. His inability to threaten the Nittany Lions deep allowed them to play heavy against the run and create critical stops. The “White Out” was alive and well in Happy Valley, and the Big Ten East quite possibly could be the toughest division in college football.