COLUMBUS — Ohio State is nearly all the way back to full strength ahead of what could be the most physical test of the season so far.
As if the pass rush for the Buckeyes hasn’t been scary enough, now add a healthy Tyreke Smith into the fold.
That dominant offensive line performance last week? Ohio State did that without starting right tackle Branden Bowen, and he’s again ready for action.
Need more leadership and play-making? Depending on how his game-time decision shakes out, the Buckeyes could get more of that as well with captain C.J. Saunders on the brink of getting cleared at wide receiver for the first time this season.
Not everything on the latest availability report counted as positive news for Ohio State on Friday morning. But the program will be about as close as it has been all season to having the full complement of contributors at its disposal, which could be a problem for Michigan State on Saturday night at the Horseshoe.
“You’ve just got to be physical, because I know those guys [for Michigan State] are going to do the same thing,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “They don’t turn the ball over, they control the game, and if we come in and do anything other than what we’ve done in the past, we’re going to be in it up to our eyeballs.
Ohio State right tackle Branden Bowen is cleared to play for the Buckeyes again this week. (Birm/Lettermen Row)
“These guys, they’re not going to be intimidated by Ohio State. Are you kidding me? They’ve been in here plenty of times in the stadium and done a great job. One of the more storied histories in all of college football is at Michigan State. Those guys know the recipe. We’d better come to play, or else we’re going to be in it.”
The Buckeyes were already heavy, double-digit favorites heading into the Big Ten East Division matchup before the availability report was released, and the return of those regulars in the rotation should only strengthen their odds against the Spartans.
Getting Smith back to bolster the Silver Bullets is even more significant since there is uncertainty around the status of fellow defensive end Tyler Friday, who will be a game-time decision. And offensively, Bowen returning from his one-week absence with a back injury completes the usual starting unit up front — though the Buckeyes are certainly comfortable with their depth after Josh Alabi filled in without a hitch at Nebraska.
Here’s the full availability report as announced on Friday by the program, making note that Ohio State doesn’t differentiate between injuries or disciplinary matters:
Ohio State game-time decisions
TE Rashod Berry
DE Tyler Friday
H-B C.J. Saunders
WR Kamryn Babb
DT Noah Donald
WR Elijah Gardiner
DB Ronnie Hickman
LB Teradja Mitchell
DT Taron Vincent