ANN ARBOR, MI – The College Football Playoff just got a bit muddier.
The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines saw their way out of the playoff, and the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes may have made a strong case to get in with a 62-39 beatdown of Michigan on Saturday afternoon.
The 115th meeting between the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines and No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes football teams, simply known as “The Game” had a bit of extra weight added to it.
With the Buckeyes having won the last six, the Wolverines would have to play their best game of the season in order to avoid not just a seventh straight loss, but a potential boot from the College Football Playoff as well.
The first quarter gave a bit of a glimpse as to how Saturday would play out for both teams. It was expected that Michigan’s running game, led by running back Karan Higdon, would lead the way. Ohio State had different plans, however, as they planned to make quarterback Shea Patterson beat them. The strategy paid off early, as Patterson ate an early sack from Malik Harrison for seven yards.
Ohio State’s first possession was golden, with quarterback Dwayne Haskins leading a nine play, 57-yard charge. Wide receiver Chris Olave was the recipient of Haskins’ final pass, a 24-yarder to put the Buckeyes up 7-0. The touchdown was the first of Olave’s career.
Michigan got onto the scoreboard with 6:22 left in the first, courtesy of a 38-yard field goal from Jake Moody. But Ohio State was just beginning, as Haskins and Olave connected again at the 9:08 mark in the second. Less than six minutes later, Haskins tossed up a 31-yard alley-oop to Johnnie Dixon to put the Buckeyes up 21-6.
The last minutes of the first half were not without its own set of drama though. Michigan would score twice within the last three minutes of the second quarter on a Patterson pass to Nico Collins, then a fumble from Ohio State’s Demario McCall on the ensuing kickoff which led to another Patterson touchdown, this time to Chris Evans.
With the Buckeyes’ lead cut to two, kicker Blake Haubell booted in a 19-yard field goal to end the half and give them a 24-19 lead.
In the second half, the Buckeyes decided they were finished playing around and got right down to business. Haubell chipped in a 19-yarder to start the scoring melee, which was followed by a 33-yard touchdown by Sevyn Banks off a blocked punt. Down 34-19, Michigan needed to get their heads back in the game and fast, but the following possession did not help them.
Higdon ran for a loss of two yards, then Patterson threw an incomplete pass on the next play. On 3rd and 12, Patterson threw an interception to Ohio State’s Jordan Fuller, which he ran to the Michigan 22. The Buckeyes capitalized on the turnover, sending Mike Weber into the end zone on a two-yard run to put them up 41-19 to close out the third quarter.
Michigan started their improbable comeback attempt with a 12-yard pass from Patterson to Collins with 14:11 left in the game. The momentum didn’t last long, however, as Ohio State running back Parris Campbell busted out for a 78-yard touchdown run to give the Buckeyes a 48-25 lead. The 78-yard run was their longest ever against the Wolverines.
On the following possession, Michigan ate up as much clock as possible to try and minimize the damage. The Wolverines marched all the way up the field with an 11-play, 91-yard drive which was capped off by a Ben Weber rushing touchdown. With 9:35 left, the Wolverines were staring at a 16-point deficit, which seemed possible to overcome…until it wasn’t.
Within four minutes, Ohio State scored twice to put them up 62-32. Michigan scored once more on a Joe Milton rushing touchdown, which ended up being the final score of the game. Ohio State held on for the last 3:16 to seal their seventh straight win over Michigan and the Big Ten East title.
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a career day, throwing for five touchdowns and setting a Big Ten record for touchdowns in a season with 41.
With the win, Ohio State has secured its spot in the Big Ten title game next weekend in Indianapolis, where they will face the no. 19 Northwestern Wildcats. The Buckeyes will most likely find themselves closer to a playoff position as well when the playoff committee releases its next rankings on Tuesday.
As for Michigan, they have their own set of problems. The loss to Ohio State puts multiple situations in play: not only will the Wolverines find themselves out of the playoff (the other three teams in the playoff – Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame – are all undefeated), but now head coach Jim Harbaugh’s job may be on the line. While he finished 10-3 in his first two seasons with Michigan, he went 8-5 in 2017 and now will finish with either another 10-3 season or an 11-2 season. With almost any other school outside a Power 5 conference, this wouldn’t be a concern. However, Michigan isn’t just any school, and Harbaugh hasn’t been able to beat the one school that he needed to beat in Ohio State.