— Ohio State crushed its rival and cruised home, crossing the border and hoping for the best.
The Buckeyes, No. 8 in the College Football Playoff ranking, had beaten No. 10 Michigan, 42-13. They just needed a little bit of help from Penn State later in the day to get another chance to advance to the Big Ten Conference championship and keep their playoff chances alive.
They didn’t get it.
Michigan State may have ended the national champions’ quest to repeat by beating the Nittany Lions, 55-16, and earning a spot in next week’s league title game against Iowa.
Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State last week took destiny out of its hands because the No. 5 Spartans would win a head-to-head tiebreaker. Ohio State fans at the Big House knew they needed help, and in the second half began chanting: “Go Penn State! Go Penn State!”
The Buckeyes’ season isn’t over, but they have a much tougher road to a playoff spot without an appearance in the conference title game. The selection committee protocol emphasizes conference championships and Ohio State can’t win one.
Ohio State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) needs to root for some major upsets, and even then, would have to hope that the committee is feeling generous.
The Buckeyes did all they could to make their case against Michigan. Elliott ran through, around and past the Wolverines’ defense for 214 yards and two touchdowns a week after running his mouth.
He was held to 12 carries for 33 yards rushing against Michigan State, then publicly criticized the team’s play calling and declared he would skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
“I regret everything I said,” Elliott insisted before being asked a question in a postgame news conference.
Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett had 19 carries for a season-high 139 yards, helping his team run for 369 yards.
Ohio State has won 11 of the last 12 games in what has become a lopsided series with Michigan.
The Wolverines (9-3, 6-2) simply could not stop their rivals from running at will.
“The biggest thing is they were getting tired and they weren’t getting lined up,” Elliott said.
Elliott, who has 3,812 yards rushing in his career, passed Eddie George for No. 2 on the school’s all-time rushing list and trails only two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.
Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer said Elliott should at least be at the ceremony honoring college football’s most outstanding player.
“I think he should be in New York,” Meyer said. “I think he is one of the best players in America. I don’t know if he should win. I don’t know the other players, but I am fortunate to be around him. He’s one of best players that I’ve ever been around.”
Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh, who generated a lot of hype this year for coming back to lead the school where he was the starting quarterback two decades ago, was unable to prevent the Wolverines from falling to 0-4 against Meyer.
“I’m very proud of the team the way they’ve worked and the way they’ve progressed,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve closed a lot of ground. More ground to make up, but knowing our team, we will keep working hard.”