One of the most longstanding rivalries in college football, and in fact all of American sports, took place this Saturday, Nov. 26, as the Michigan Wolverines squared off against the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio for the annual matchup of the Big Ten powerhouses. The competitiveness between Michigan and Ohio State runs deep, but this season so much more was on the line than mere bragging rights for both the teams and the players.
Going into “The Game,” as it has been colloquially referred to for generations, the number 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines, under Coach Jim Harbaugh, and the number 2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, under Coach Ryan Day, were both undefeated at 11-0. Only the defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs were ranked above them. This particular game was crucial for both teams to win, since the victor would go on to the Big Ten Championship. And though the Buckeyes were an 8-point favorite to win on Saturday, the Wolverines would once again win – and advance to the conference championship for the second straight year.
In the first quarter, both teams looked rather stagnant. Ohio State began the scoring with a 12 play drive that resulted in a touchdown pass from Heisman contender C.J. Stroud. Indeed, the Buckeyes defense managed to slow down any early gains that Michigan could make in the first quarter – which ended with a 10-3 score, in which Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy was limited to just 48 yards passing. But halfway through the second quarter, a significant momentum shift occurred. It was a third down at their own 31 yard line, and the Wolverines had already had trouble converting all game. After the snap, McCarthy dropped back and was in trouble throwing what looked like a desperation fade away pass to wide receiver Cornelius Johnson. Johnson could have been stopped short of getting the first down, but with one swift juke, he evaded the defender and took the ball all the way to the end zone to tie the game at 10-10. If this wasn’t enough to leave the home team in Columbus shocked, the very next offensive outing for Michigan was a one-play, 75 yard bomb from McCarthy to Johnson for a touchdown once again, to which announcer Gus Johnson remarked: “They said the kid couldn’t throw the deep ball.” While deep passing was an obstacle for McCarthy early in the season, he would put that behind him on Saturday by throwing for 263 yards and three touchdowns, and even running for a touchdown himself. Though the half ended with Ohio State in the lead 20-17, after Stroud connected with Marvin Harrison Jr. in the end zone, the game was set to be an even match up.
At the end of halftime, the Wolverines were energized to retake the lead – which they would never give back. Michigan would dominate time of possession in the 3rd quarter, scoring one touchdown, and their defense would force punts from the Buckeyes both times the home team was on offense. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Ohio State cut the lead to one score, at 31-23, with a field goal by Noah Ruggles. In the hopes of keeping Ohio State on their toes, the QB-led shootout between the two teams was cut short, as Michigan started relying more on the running game in the final quarter. After Ohio scored, Michigan had yet another one play drive, as running back Donovan Edwards took an inside handoff, permeated the Ohio State offensive line, and took the rock all the way to the end zone to make the score 38-23.
Time was running out in the game, but Ohio State had one last chance to pull something off as they reached the red zone on the next drive. But the pressure from the defense got to Stroud, who scrambled on third down, and blindly tossed the ball right into the hands of Wolverine edge rusher Taylor Upshaw. After this turnover, Donovan Edwards sealed Ohio State’s fate, by once again breaking free on third down for an 85 yard rush for a touchdown. After yet another pick by Stroud, whose running for the Heisman Trophy arguably ended this game, the Wolverines knelt out the clock to win 45-23. What should have been a close game between two undefeated Goliaths, turned into an embarrassing rout of Ohio State – with the Michigan players waving goodbye triumphantly to the disheartened Buckeyes fans.
The reaction of UCSB football fans to the game was one of general surprise and commendation. Third year theater major, Holden Overbeck stated: “Going into the game, I was sure Ohio State would win, it was almost a sure thing.” But Overbeck stated that by the second half, when Michigan really started to roll, he couldn’t believe how the game turned out. Fourth year film major Troy Cochrane, who grew up in Michigan, was complimentary of the “depth” on the Wolverines bench. Although the typical starter for the position is Blake Corum, the standout star of Saturday’s game was clearly running back Donovan Edwards — who ran for two touchdowns, and 216 yards from 22 carries. Cochrane said Edwards’s performance was “impressive,” and that he is “excited to see this player shine in only his second year.”
The aftermath of the Michigan-Ohio State game has left a lot of questions leading up to the College Football Playoff, with some wondering if the once titanic Buckeyes will even make it to the series. And now it seems that the team with the best shot to beat the Georgia Bulldogs can be none other than Michigan. All of these questions will be answered on Selection Day, December 4, when the official rankings for all of college football will be released.