Saturday was a disappointing one for Michigan Wolverines fans everywhere. After jumping out to a 14-0 lead, the Wolverines eventually fell at home to their arch rival, the Ohio State Buckeyes. The loss marks Michigan’s sixth straight loss to the Buckeyes as well as Ohio State Quarterback J.T. Barrett’s fourth win against the team up north, a first for any quarterback from either team.
Michigan Sticks to the Plan
With Brandon Peters under concussion protocol, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh turned to once-starter John O’Korn under center. Michigan’s only hope to win the game was with stout defensive play and a constant rushing attack to minimize the potential for errors through the air. That plan initially started off well. Michigan’s defense ate up Ohio State’s run game and harassed Barrett at every opportunity. Holding the Buckeyes scoreless through the first twenty minutes of the game seemed to give the team confidence. The Wolverines’ rush-dominate offense scored 14 points.
Ohio State Starts Rolling
However, late in the second quarter, Barrett returned to rare form. The momentum seemed to shift back to the Buckeyes as the Wolverines’ defense gave up a pair of touchdowns on a 21 yard Barrett run and a 25 yard pass from Barrett to wide-receiver Marcus Baugh right before half time.
With Ohio State rolling, Michigan was forced into more passing situations. As he has all season, O’Korn struggled. A number of throws that would have gained critical first downs were off their mark. Including two that likely would have netted touchdowns. Michigan running back Karan Higdon, ran the ball in for the Wolverines’ final points midway through the third quarter. Ohio State blocked Michigan’s PAT attempt. This was particularly devastating for Wolverines fans. Many thought going into the game, if the Buckeyes scored 21 points they would win.
These fears were all for naught, however, because from there, it was all Buckeyes. Despite Barrett leaving the game after aggravating a bizarre knee injury sustained by colliding with a man carrying a camera during warm ups, the Buckeyes managed to exploit big yardage plays given up by a Michigan defense that found itself constantly on the field. The Buckeyes rushed for two additional touchdowns and added a field goal for good measure, bringing the final score to 31-20.
The Buckeyes Playoff Hopes Stay Alive
The win in Ann Arbor keeps hopes alive of a possible return to the College Football Playoffs for the Buckeyes. Next week, Ohio State travels to Indianapolis to face Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. A win there certainly adds credibility to their argument. Undoubtedly, the loss by Miami to Pittsburgh aids their cause as it takes the possibility of two ACC teams in the playoff out of the question. However, Alabama’s loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl may be a roadblock for Ohio State. The Buckeye’s blowout loss to Iowa will always be a blemish on their record. With the ACC and Big-12 Champions likely each getting a spot, some will make the argument that a one-loss Alabama is more deserving of a playoff slot than the Buckeyes. Especially, if Auburn handily beats Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Michigan’s Way Forward
For Michigan, the loss is another disappointment in a disappointing season. With preseason hopes of trips to Indianapolis and even the playoffs, the Wolverines will likely end up in Outback Bowl in Tampa. In the near term, the team will get a much needed rest. This should allow for Peters to return to quarterback and for the backfield to return to full strength. With a fully mended offense to compliment an impressive defense, there is much hope for the Wolverines in whatever bowl they end up in. In the long term, there is much hope for Wolverines fans. Not only will Harbaugh get another off-season to coach up Peters, a whole host of starters will return on both sides of the ball. As Barrett and the Buckeyes can attest to, experience is always a positive thing.