Marvin Harrison Jr. could be the X-factor for Ohio State against Georgia in CFP semifinal

Marvin Harrison Jr. could be the X-factor for Ohio State against Georgia in CFP semifinal

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Less than an hour after the Biletnikoff Award winner was announced on Dec. 8, Ohio State defensive end Zach Harrison posted on Instagram with a caption: “Y’all just might have just made a monster.” 

The post showed Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. – a 6-foot-3, 202-pound sophomore receiver – loading the Monarc catching machine in a dimly-lit Woody Hayes Athletic Center. That happened the same night Tennessee receiver Jalin Hyatt won the award given to the nation’s top receiver. Harrison, however, said that was not the reason for the workout – even if he was disappointed. 

“After the Biletnikoff wasn’t really on purpose,” Harrison said on Dec. 14. “I do that every night, pretty much.” 

There is a broken Monarc machine in the facility Harrison literally wore out to prove it. Then there is quarterback C.J. Stroud’s blunt assessment that, “If you’re in here, Marvin is probably in here.” The work ethic led to a breakout season in which Harrison finished with 72 catches for 1,157 yards and 12 TDs. 

That potential to be a “monster” is the X-factor when No. 4 Ohio State (11-1) meets No. 1 Georgia (13-0) in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Saturday. Could Harrison take over the CFP like LSU’s Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase did in 2019 or Alabama’s DeVonta Smith did in 2020?

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“That’s a really, really good question,” ESPN analyst Desmond Howard told Sporting News. “That’s what I want to see answered, too, when they line up against Georgia.” 

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In August, Harrison was working into the starting role with the departure of first-round picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave from 2021. The sophomore was projected to be a larger part of the offense, especially after a three-TD performance in the 48-45 victory against Utah in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2022. 

“If you would have told me I was going to be a (Biletnikoff) finalist, I would have told you you were crazy,” Harrison told reporters.  

Top receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba suffered a hamstring injury in the opener, however, and that allowed Harrison to take advantage of the starring role as Stroud’s favorite target. Harrison had six 100-yard games and two games with three TD catches this season. He totaled 17 catches for 305 yards and a TD in the top-10 matchups against Penn State and Michigan. 

“Just the work ethic speaks for itself and pays off,” Stroud said. “He put in that work. He’s special. You can just tell.”

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That creates that opportunity to join some of the stud receivers in the CFP in recent seasons. On Dec. 28, 2019, LSU’s Justin Jefferson set a CFP semifinal record with 227 yards and four TDs. Teammate Ja’Marr Chase nearly matched that with 221 yards in the next game at the CFP championship. Alabama’s DeVonta Smith, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2020, had 215 yards and three TDs against the Buckeyes in the CFP championship next season. 

A wide receiver can absolutely take over in the CFP, and Harrison is the most-talented one in this year’s semifinals. He also is confident the Buckeyes can make the necessary plays in the passing game against the Bulldogs. 

“I trust the coaches, I definitely trust the players and obviously C.J back there, best quarterback in the country, best player in the country, too,” Harrison said. “Obviously the O-line is going to go in there and do their thing. Running backs, receivers, tight ends, everybody. I definitely feel as though we have the firepower to be very dangerous in the College Football Playoffs.” 

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With Georgia, Harrison is guaranteed at least a few reps in a matchup NFL scouts will be monitoring with great interest. Same goes for the college analysts. 

“They have a cornerback – No. 5 (Kelee Ringo) – who is considered one of the best in the country – a shutdown corner,” Howard said. “I want to see good on good. To me, this is when Marvin Harrison Jr. becomes that  guy that we’ve been talking about. It’s not against lesser competition. It’s going to be curious to see how he performs in that situation against one of the better cornerbacks in all of college football. I can’t wait to see that matchup.” 

Ringo is projected to be a top-10 pick in Sporting News 2023 Mock Draft and part of a pass defense that allowed just 11 passing TDs this season. The Bulldogs, however, face some questions of their own after allowing 502 passing yards in the 50-30 victory against LSU at the SEC championship game on Dec. 3. 

Harrison has done his homework on Ringo, too. This is a matchup that could go a long way in determining who makes the College Football Playoff championship game on Jan. 9 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. 

“He’s very athletic,” Harrison said. “He’s probably the most-athletic cornerback going into the draft – 6-2, 210 – probably runs a 4.3. Jumps really high on film. He’s going to definitely be a challenge for me.” 

Yet it is not a matchup Harrison is shying away from either. 

“I’ve kind of always had confidence in myself that I can go out there and perform at a high level against somebody of equal or just as high of a level player as I am,” Harrison said.  

MORE: Ohio State fans expected to travel well for Peach Bowl

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The scary part? No matter what happens in the CFP, Harrison has at least one more year with the Buckeyes. 

That means more awards nominations. Olave, Wilson, David Boston, Terry Glenn and Cris Carter are the list of All-American receivers the school has produced, and among those Glenn is the only Biletnikoff Award winner. 

“It’s such a blessing really. There are so many great receivers that have come through here, and probably some of them got snubbed because they should have been a Unanimous All-American. To be named that, it’s definitely a blessing.” 

Harrison is bound to be linked to those receivers along with his father Marvin at the next level, too. Carter is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Olave, Wilson, Boston and Glenn were first-round picks. Those are conversations for next season, ones that will amplify if Harrison scorches the CFP. 

At least when that’s over, you’ll know where to find Harrison. He will likely be in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on the Monarc catching machine – an NIL opportunity if there ever was one. 

“Maybe one day I’ll get my own,” Harrison joked. 

He might need two – just in case.