When it comes to the regular season college football schedule, there is no bigger matchup for the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines than ‘The Game’ between the two historic programs. This year’s version is the 119th meeting between OSU and Michigan, and it lived up to the hype.
A slow start led to a fairly low-scoring game, but that was always expected with the nation’s best and second-best defenses facing off. A first-quarter interception by Ohio State’s Kyle McCord helped Michigan reach paydirt four plays later, but there were mistakes made by both teams in this one. In the end, the Wolverines won 30-24, but it didn’t come without some excellent performances on both sides.
While there can only be one team who emerges victorious, here are the individual winners and losers from ‘The Game’ between Ohio State and Michigan.
Winner: J.J. McCarthy’s leadership ability checks out
Junior QB J.J. McCarthy’s been touted as a potential first-round prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft all season long. On Saturday, he showed why. McCarthy doesn’t have the gaudy numbers like Jayden Daniels or Michael Penix, but he showed he’s plenty capable of making nice throws too.
The Wolverines let the ball touch the FieldTurf just four times all day, with McCarthy completing 16-of-20 passes for 148 yards and the touchdown to Roman Wilson seen above. Most importantly, the Wolverines QB didn’t commit any crucial mistakes, unlike his opponent.
Loser: TreVeyon Henderson stifled by Michigan’s elite defense
Early on, it looked like the All Big Ten running backs would have a long day ahead. Considering Michigan hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, this should have been expected.
While the Buckeyes also have a strong rushing defense, allowing just 109.5 YPG (21st in CFB), Blake Corum was able to find success, even with the Wolverines losing right guard Zak Zinter to a leg injury in the third quarter.
Corum rattled off 88 yards on 22 carries, scoring two touchdowns to help power the Wolverines to victory. Meanwhile, TreVeyon Henderson struggled, averaging just 3.2 YPC against Michigan’s seventh-ranked rushing defense, and had a longest gain of just eight yards. Ultimately, the Buckeyes’ inability to gain chunks of yards on the ground put Kyle McCord in a tough spot all afternoon.
Winner: Top-ranked defenses hold up in ‘The Game’
Michigan’s pass rush made its presence felt all game long, even if they ended with just one sack by Mason Graham. Still, it wasn’t hard to notice the pressure the Wolverines continued generating on McCord, leading to two poor decisions that had a heavy impact on the final score.
The Wolverines did allow McCord to rack up 271 yards and two touchdowns through the air, but one can only keep future NFL star Marvin Harrison Jr. contained for so long. The 2024 first-round receiver managed to record 118 yards and a touchdown on five receptions, making multiple big plays on the day.
Yet, when the Buckeyes weren’t going to Harrison, the Wolverines did a good job keeping the complementary pieces in check, especially on the ground as mentioned above. Julian Fleming and Cade Stover each had plays of 28 yards or more, but none were explosive enough to make a big enough difference on the scoreboard.
As for Ohio State, they did what they could too. The issue is, McCarthy doesn’t make a lot of risky throws, and Corum is one of the best running backs in the nation. Like the Wolverines’ challenges keeping MHJ in check, one can only contain some of the best players in college football for so long. In the end, Corum was going to find some success no matter what.
Loser: Kyle McCord throws game away for Buckeyes, twice
While Michigan’s QB took care of the football. Ohio State’s QB did not. Of course, the situations were a bit different in that the Wolverines were able to establish an early lead, making life easier for McCarthy. Yet, we also can’t forget about why the Buckeyes were in that hole to begin with, which was due to McCord’s poor decision on the first-quarter INT.
Then, later with McCord given one final chance to drive his team to victory, he once again caved to the pressure. With the daunting Michigan pass rush barreling down on him again, McCord made the game-sealing throw, finding another member dressed in maize and blue.
Winner: Sherrone Moore keeps Michigan’s College Football Playoff hopes alive
Sherrone Moore, largely unknown to the public when he took over for coach Jim Harbaugh after the suspension, has massively boosted his profile. The Wolverines’ offensive coordinator is now 4-0 in Harbaugh’s absence. But now, he’ll cede duties back to Coach Harbaugh, who is allowed to return to the sidelines for postseason action.
Now Michigan gets what should be a breezy matchup against the Iowa Hawkeyes next week in the Big Ten championship at Lucas Oil Stadium. After that, their sights will be set on the College Football Playoff.