Stroud tosses 6 TDs, No. 5 Ohio St blows out No. 7 Mich St

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – C.J. Stroud lit up No. 7 Michigan State early and gave his coach the rare luxury of being able to let his mind wander to next week’s showdown with Michigan.

Stroud tied a school record with six touchdown passes — all in the first half — as No. 5 Ohio State bolted out to a 49-point halftime lead on the way to a startling 56-7 rout Saturday that eliminated the Spartans (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten, No. 7 CFP) from the Big Ten East race.

Next up for the Buckeyes (10-1, 8-0, No. 4 ) is the annual rivalry game and hatefest against No. 8 Michigan that carries even greater meaning this year – the winner will claim the division, advance to the conference championship game on Dec. 4 and stay alive for the College Football Playoff.

“We’ve got everything riding on this thing coming up right around the corner,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “And I got to tell you, the game wasn’t even over yet and I was thinking about it. There’s just so much going on here.”

Day should savor this one for at least a minute.

Stroud, who threw his first collegiate football pass less than three months ago, was 32 for 35 for 432 yards against the Spartans’ sketchy pass defense, which had allowed more yards through the air than any in major college football.

The redshirt freshman completed 17 straight passes, setting an Ohio State record, and positioned himself as maybe the Heisman Trophy favorite heading into the championship stretch of the season.

“My O-line did a great job the whole game,” he said. “I was back there chilling, in a sense.”

This is Stroud’s third 400-yard game in 10 career starts and his fourth game with at least five touchdown passes.

“You can see our capability,” Day said. “We’re playing really good football, clean football. We have a high ceiling.”

The Buckeyes scored on all seven first-half possession before backing off.

“We got blasted,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said. “We were not able to eliminate the explosive plays on defense and were not able to execute on offense.”

Michigan State Heisman hopeful Kenneth Walker III, the nation’s leading rusher, was turned into a nonfactor by the Buckeyes. Walker, who rolled his ankle in last week’s win over Maryland, had just six carries for 25 yards.

“He’s a little banged up right now, so we’re going to use the guys who can go,” Tucker said.

100-YARD TRIO

The Buckeyes’ top three receivers eclipsed the 100-yard mark and caught touchdown passes. Chris Olave had seven catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Garrett Wilson grabbed seven for 126 and a pair of scores, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba had 10 receptions for 105 yards and a TD.

Olave, a senior who played his last game in Ohio Stadium, broke the school record for career touchdowns with 35, one more than David Boston (1996-98).

“I came in a three-star (recruit), the lowest in my class, I think,” Olave said. “I didn’t know it would come to this day, but I just kept my head down and kept working to try and maximize my potential here, and I feel like I’ve done that.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Michigan State: The Spartans, who knocked off top-10 rival Michigan three weeks ago, weren’t just sent tumbling from the Big Ten East playoff picture, they were demoralized. They’ve shown great improvement this season under second-year coach Tucker, but are not yet in Ohio State’s class.

Ohio State: Can anybody slow down the Buckeyes? The offense scored touchdowns on all seven first-half possessions, until Day called off the charge. The defense forced a couple of first-half turnovers that aided the avalanche. The Buckeyes scored 50 points for the sixth time this season.

QUOTABLE

“You always can remember days like this,” Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne said. “I’ll remember the feeling for a long time, coming in here and playing like we did.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The impressive win could bump the Buckeyes up the rankings, with another spotlight game next week in Ann Arbor. Michigan State, with a second loss, will tumble.

UP NEXT

Michigan State: Hosts Penn State in season finale.

Ohio State: Wraps up the season with the annual clash with Michigan.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.