Whether the intended message was that quarterback C.J. Stroud is firmly planted in the Heisman race, that the defense is playing at a championship level or that this team belongs in the College Football Playoff, Ohio State made a statement Saturday.
The No. 4 Buckeyes didn't show any weaknesses in a 56-7 blowout win against Michigan State -- a victory that sent a message to the rest of college football and, perhaps more importantly, Ohio State's next opponent, Michigan, that this team is undoubtedly one of the country's best.
"We knew it was a huge game for us, and I think our big-time players have to show up in big-time games," Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave said after the game. "I feel like we did that, and I just feel like we keep getting better and better each week. We just have to keep getting better and try to win out, and we'll see what happens from there."
It was an emphatic victory over the No. 7-ranked team, viewed before the game as a potential challenger for the Big Ten championship and a spot in the playoff. Both teams boasted potential Heisman candidates in Stroud and Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III, but it was Stroud and the Buckeyes offense that put on a show.
Stroud threw for 432 yards and six touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback to throw for five touchdowns in the first half of a game against Michigan State since Drew Brees in 1999 and first to throw six touchdown passes in one game against the Spartans.
If Stroud wasn't considered a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy prior to this game, he is now.
It's easy to forget that Stroud is only a first-year starter, as he has put up video game-like numbers all season. He has had help, though, with a group of talented receivers who have made defenses look lost frequently.
Olave broke records of his own in this game and has been a consistent target for Stroud all season. Olave caught two touchdown passes in the first half that pushed him past David Boston for the most career receiving touchdowns at Ohio State with 35.
Olave was one of four receivers to catch a touchdown from Stroud in the first half, with Garrett Wilson bringing in two and Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming hauling in a touchdown each.
The offense scored a touchdown on its first five offensive drives for the fourth time this season. No other program has achieved that feat more than once this season.
"We've seen these guys on film jump out on people early, so we knew that we couldn't allow that to happen, because you know they could score quickly. They get up on you and get the crowd into it and all of that, and then it's a wrap," said Michigan State coach Mel Tucker.
There were no questions about how talented the Ohio State offense was coming into this game, though, as most of the concerns surrounded the defense. Any questions were all but erased.
"We have a lot of new faces, we had a lot of new faces, and now those guys have experience and they have experience with older guys and chemistry has been built on the field," defensive lineman Haskell Garrett said. "We know how to communicate with each other, and each week we've gotten better. Just experience. These guys who are new faces are not new faces anymore."
The Buckeyes' defense held Walker to 24 rushing yards on five attempts in the first half and 25 yards for the game. Ohio State also limited quarterback Payton Thorne to 158 yards through the air, as he completed only 14 of 36 passes.
"They outplayed us in all three phases," Tucker said. "It is what is, give them credit. They beat us. They were the much better team today, and that was obvious. We've got some work to do, some things to get corrected, and we'll do that."
With a consequential game against rival Michigan on deck, Ohio State will now travel to Ann Arbor with both teams ranked in the top seven of the College Football Playoff rankings for the first time since 2016, when the No. 2 Buckeyes beat the No. 3 Wolverines 30-27 in double overtime.
"We've got a huge game. We have everything riding on this thing coming up right around the corner," Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. "I gotta tell you, the game wasn't over yet and I was already thinking about it. There was so much going on, we knew this run was going to be real. Very proud of the way our team played today, but all the focus goes to the Wolverines."