OSU’s Marvin Harrison Jr. needs a monster performance in The Game

MITCH STACY Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio State receiver went into overdrive and got away from defenders for another touchdown, prompting a surprised broadcaster to tag him “Marv’s Maserati.”

Quarterback CJ Stroud nicknamed him “Route Man Marv” for his accuracy. “Great Marv,” he hears all the time.

It’s what Marvin Harrison Jr. wants. to be known as the Big Ten champion and the national champion. Anything after that – say, winning the Heisman Trophy – would be icing on the cake.

To get there, arguably the best receiver in all of college will have to play a stellar role to help No. 2 Ohio State beat No. 3 Michigan and end a two-game skid in The Game Saturday in Ann Arbor.

In his third year, Harrison, the son of NFL Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison Sr., is the best receiver in the history of an Ohio State program that has produced NFL standouts Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jackson Smith-Njigba, Parris Campbell and Michael Tomás. Harrison is almost certain to leave after this season and become a first-round pick in the spring NFL draft.

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Harrison was not a significant contributor in the Buckeyes’ penultimate regular-season game, which served as an appetite for the main event this week. He had just three catches for 30 yards and a short touchdown before coach Ryan Day pulled most of the starters in the second half of a 37-3 blowout of Minnesota.

That pushed Harrison’s 2023 season totals to 1,093 yards and 13 TDs, an average just short of 100 yards per game. Last year, he had 1,263 yards and 12 TDs. He is the first receiver in Buckeyes history with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

“He reminds me a lot of his dad. A great player,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh on Monday. “Get his cover (on him). Slow is probably the best word.”

The question is whether Harrison’s numbers represent Heisman voters who aren’t watching him play enough, especially when quarterbacks Michael Penix Jr. are having flashy seasons. at Washington, Bo Nix at Oregon and Jayden Daniels at LSU.

What makes Harrison so valuable is often overlooked in the stats. It reshapes the entire nature of the Ohio State offense.

He gets almost anything thrown his way, often in double coverage. At a lanky 6-foot-4 with huge hands, he already looks like an NFL receiver on 50/50 balls. Opposing defenses worry him so much that it allows other receivers to get open and make plays.

“I can’t really quantify how much of an impact he has on this offense,” said Buckeyes quarterback Kyle McCord, who won three state championships playing prep football with Harrison in Philadelphia. “If this is truly the award that goes to the best player, it has to be right there in its contention.”

Hear from Minnesota coach PJ Fleck after last week’s game.

“He’s big, he’s strong, he’s long. He can play short game. He can play long game. He can play any position,” Fleck said. “He’s a very special player, but they have weapons everywhere. So you can take one out, (and) it’s just picking your poison.”

For her part, the soft-spoken Harrison says all the right things. He said he feels blessed to be in the Heisman conversation, but “whatever happens in December, happens in December.”

“Last year I was just kind of an out guy,” he said. “Now this year I think I’m showing more of my ability. I can do a lot of things on the field.”

Harrison’s Heisman stock could spike if he has a monster showing in the Ohio State win that everyone will be watching. Another big game in the Big Ten championship on Dec. 2 could move the needle again. Many who watch him every week are hoping that he will at least get an invite to the ceremony on December 9 in New York.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day needs no more proof. He has seen Harrison wait after practice for the past three years as he receives hundreds of passes from a machine that fires them one after the other.

“The Heisman Trophy goes to the greatest player in the country. I know there’s a lot of great players out there. I see him every day. I think he’s the greatest player in the country, ” said Day. “So, he wants to be great. I know that you can only tell him, and his actions back that up. And, you know, certainly his production speaks for itself on the field and what he’s doing, and it makes everyone on that field better.”

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