The No. 3 Michigan Wolverines marched into Columbus to take on the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes in the biggest rivalry in college football, The Game. Both teams entered this matchup with everything on the line as the Wolverines and Buckeyes battled for a spot in the Big Ten Championship game and the College Football Playoffs.
Michigan hosted Ohio State last year, where they earned a 42-27 victory over the Buckeyes. With the victory today, the Wolverines have earned two consecutive wins against Ohio State. The Wolverines improved to 12-0 and have secured a spot in the Big Ten Championship, staying alive in the College Football Playoffs.
After a worrisome start by Michigan, the defense continued to make stops and allowed the offense to catch up and put points on the board. CJ Stroud was expected to have a huge game but instead threw two late interceptions that allowed the Wolverines to score a touchdown and then go into victory formation. Let’s take a look at some winners and losers from The Game.
Winner: Michigan Wolverines’ unbreakable offensive line
Michigan had to lean on JJ McCarthy and the passing game, pressuring the offensive line to protect the quarterback even more and create space for the running game. The line did a fantastic job protecting the quarterback, allowing zero sacks. They gave McCarthy the time he needed in the pocket to keep plays alive and move his offense downfield.
In the second half, the Wolverines’ offensive line was impeccable and created space for the running offense. After struggling most of the game to earn rushing yards, Michigan’s Donovan Edwards came into the game — cast and all — and ran for 216 yards and two touchdowns, including a 75-yard touchdown that gave Michigan a comfortable 38-23 lead in the fourth quarter.
The offensive line blocked extremely well and created massive holes on the line to allow the ground game to come alive and average 8.3 yards per carry in the second half. It was a dominant effort.
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Loser: Ryan Day lets Ohio State Buckeyes fanbase down
Coach Ryan Day had a rough contest against the Wolverines after his team ended the day with nine penalties for 91 yards, including two crucial pass interference calls that put Michigan into scoring position.
After a strong defensive showing in the first quarter, the Buckeyes’ defense seemed to fall asleep, allowing the Wolverines to convert 43.7% of their third downs and 100% of their fourth down conversions.
Day made some questionable and conservative coaching decisions when he opted for a field goal near the end zone instead of giving his team a chance to stay in the game. He also chose to punt on the Michigan 43-yard line when they were 4th and 5, ultimately giving Michigan the ball and allowing them to go 81 yards for a touchdown. Not a great day.
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Loser: Ohio State’s secondary blows it
The Buckeyes’ defense really only needed to contain the Wolverines’ passing game, considering running back Blake Corum left the game early — however — that did not happen. The pass defense applied some pressure in the first quarter, but that quickly changed when McCarthy adjusted to the pressure in the second quarter.
The Buckeyes allowed 156 yards and two touchdowns through the air in the second quarter alone. This included 69-yard and 75-yard touchdown passes to Cornelius Johnson on back-to-back drives. Johnson was able to shed a couple of tackles for the 69-yard reception and was later left wide open for the 75-yard reception.
At the half, Ohio State surrendered 204 yards and two touchdowns through the air. They continued to struggle against McCarthy and the Wolverines’ offense, continuously allowing third-down conversions and failing to cover receivers downfield.
By the end of the game, the Buckeyes conceded 278 passing yards and three touchdowns while failing to force any turnovers. On the ground, they gave up 252 yards and three touchdowns. It was a bad defensive effort all around.
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Winner: JJ McCarthy and the Wolverines’ air attack
Michigan revealed that Corum would play against the Buckeyes despite a knee injury he suffered late in the first half against Illinois last week. Corum carried the ball twice for five yards today but limped over to the sideline and did not return.
Without the Wolverines’ star running back, they had to lean on JJ McCarthy and the air attack, putting them outside their offensive comfort zone in their biggest game of the year.
The Wolverines’ first drive was lackluster, with McCarthy completing 3-of-6 passes for 48 yards while being penalized for intentional grounding after forcing a throw under pressure. Ronnie Bell assisted McCarthy with a 33-yard reception which set up Jake Moody for a 49-yard field goal.
Then McCarthy really stepped up in the second quarter, completing 57.1% of his passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns. Cornelius Johnson had 156 yards and two touchdowns on three receptions. By halftime, Michigan racked up 204 yards and two touchdowns in the air while only rushing for 10 yards.
McCarthy ended with 263 yards and three touchdowns while contributing 27 yards and one touchdown on the ground. The leading receiver was Johnson, with 160 yards and two touchdowns in four receptions. McCarthy’s three passing touchdowns of 45+ yards are the most ever in a game by a Michigan quarterback. In other words, McCarthy was in a world of his own against Ohio State.
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