(Photo courtesy Ohio State Athletic Department, game information courtesy Ohio State Athletic Dept, Cleveland.com, ESPN)  

To no one’s surprise, least of all the gents in Vegas (Ohio State was a 12 1/2 point road favorite) the Buckeyes (10-2, 8-1) extended their consecutive win streak in The Game to six games with a 31-20 win over the Michigan Wolverines (8-4, 5-4). Ohio State overcame themselves and an early stout Michigan defense to get the win and hopefully continue some momentum into this coming Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game against undefeated Wisconsin.

I assume that you all watched/heard or otherwise got the full game experience, so I’ll try to limit this to some post-game impressions.

Offense

I’ll get right to the point. In his storied career at Ohio State, J.T. Barrett has proven to be a “Wolverine Killer”, going a perfect 4-0 vs U-Mich.  He’s the first starting Ohio State QB to do so. He was a Killer, except for the times he was injured. His injury in 2014 set the stage for the emergence of Cardale Jones. His injury in 2017 set the stage for the (potential) emergence of Dwayne Haskins.

 

Barrett went down with a knee injury midway through the 3rd quarter with Ohio State trailing 20-14. The knee may/may not have been injured earlier in the season and/or it may/may not have been injured pre-game/early The Game on sidelines. I hope that clears up the JT Knee Situation…

I think that Ohio State’s offense was better when JT was not in the game. That’s not necessarily a reflection of JT’s play, although the pass offense was pretty bad; 3-8-30 yards, 3 sacks. This was a reflection of OSU’s play calling, to wit;

Until Barrett’s injury, he ran the ball (designed or otherwise) 15 of Ohio State’s 26 running plays for net 67 yards and a TD. J.K. Dobbins had 6 carries for 44 yards and Mike Weber had 4 carries for 16 yards. Parris Campbell had an ill-executed carry for -5 yards. Six of JT’s rushing attempts resulted in lost yardage, obviously including the 3 sacks.

The offense had generated 14 points and 152 yards in 34 plays, 4.5 yards per play.

During Haskins’ play, Ohio State generated 17 points and 198 yards in 29 plays, 6.8 yards per play. During this stretch, Dobbins and Weber combined for 17 carries, 158 yards and 2 rushing TD’s. Dwayne was a very efficient 6-7-94 yards and no sacks.

I just wish that the OSU coaching staff would have let the running backs run the ball while JT was still in the game. Maybe he’d been able to finish it…

Defense

This was an odd game for the defense. They started out “slowly”. After forcing a 3 & out, they looked pretty bad in UM’s subsequent 13-play 77 yard D drive. Wolverine receivers were running around open on that drive, and for most of the afternoon, actually.  On UM’s 2nd touchdown, the defense, in their defense, was victimized by some pretty shabby punt coverage play that allowed the Wolverines to start their “drive” at the 5 yard line.

Once they got past the 1st quarter, the defense played well, but let’s be honest; they were abetted by Michigan’s QB John O’Korn. I’ll just leave at this: for a 5th year player and having spent 3 years under Harbaugh’s tutelage, he’s not too good of a quarterback. An odd situation, I think.

Seldom used defensive tackle Michael Hill got some snaps and played well. Notably, when the OSU pass rush forced O’Korn to flee the pocket, he fled into Hill’s arms for a sack and a 6 yard loss.

The Buckeyes had a a miserable first quarter (I’m including UM’s 2nd TD in the first quarter) of 24 plays, 103 yards, 10:30 time of possession (ToP) and 14 points. They were especially tough in the 2nd and 4th quarters, limiting UM to a little over 11 minutes ToP (almost what they gave up in 1st quarter alone), 28 plays, 83 yards and no points.

Special Teams

As far as I’m concerned, the special teams play was Chris Worley’s block of UM’s extra point attempt after their third TD to give the Wolverines a 6 point lead and not a 7 point lead.

The kickoff team had a pretty good afternoon even with the obligatory kickoff going out-of-bounds. Of the 5 kickoffs in play, the Buckeye coverage team held the Wolverines to an average start position of the 20 yard line. The out-of-bound kick, which came immediately after OSU finally took the lead gave the ball to UM at the 35 yard line; in effect this yanked kickoff had the same result as a 15 yard penalty.

Place kicker Sean Nuernberger continued his conversion perfection by going 4-4 on extra point kicks. He kicked a clutch 44 yard field goal with 10:21 remaining to extend Ohio State’s lead to 24-20, but seven minutes later by pulling a 43 yard attempt to the left. Much to Urban’s consternation.

Punter Drue Chrisman and his mates had a good day once they got past the first quarter. They punter 3 times in the 1st quarter alone, with the third punt returned 42 yards to the 11 yards line. The ball was further moved to the 5 yard line on an OSU holding call.  Michigan scored two plays later to go up 14-0.

Other

Despite their slow start and facing a 14 point deficit within the first 16 minutes, this team showed resilience throughout the game. They didn’t appear to lose heart and the game really came down to Ohio State players made the necessary plays to win and Michigan’s didn’t. At this point in the season, I expect that will carry over in their next game. Speaking of which …

Up Next

Ohio State faces Wisconsin this Saturday in Indianapolis in the Big Ten Championship game. Kickoff is scheduled for 8;17 pm ET and will be broadcast on Fox. You can also listen to it on radio 97.1.