Michigan dominated the majority of the game in its 42-27 win over Ohio State last season to end OSU’s domination of their football rivalry for at least one year.
But no part of that game explained more why the Buckeyes came up short on a snowy afternoon in Ann Arbor than the first 9 1/2 minutes of the second half.
Some people forget OSU was behind only 14-13 at halftime and got the ball first in the third quarter.
What happened next was a gigantic momentum shift made possible by Michigan making big plays and Ohio State not making any.
OSU’s first three plays of the second half were a 5-yard run by TreVeyon Henderson, a 3-yard gain by Henderson and Henderson being throw down for a 2-yard loss.
After Ohio State punted, Blake Corum ran for 13 yards on Michigan’s first play and 55 yards on its next play. Hassan Haskins scored on a 13-yard run on Michigan’s third play.
OSU got one first down on its next possession. But Aidan Hutchinson sacked C.J. Stroud to force another punt and Michigan scored again to go up 28-13.
Those 9 ½ minutes contained several of the keys to Michigan’s win. Ohio State couldn’t run the ball. Michigan ran all over OSU’s defense. And Michigan’s pass rushers were able to put a lot of pressure on Stroud.
Last year’s loss ended an 8-game Ohio State winning streak against Michigan. It ended the Buckeyes’ streak of four consecutive Big Ten championships. And it meant there would be no trip to the College Football Playoff for them.
Last year’s events alone would make Saturday’s game at Ohio Stadium huge. But the fact No. 2 Ohio State (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) and No. 3 Michigan (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) are both unbeaten makes it even bigger.
This is only the third time both Ohio State and Michigan have come into this rivalry game unbeaten. The most recent time was the No. 1 against No. 2 game in 2006. The other two times were in 1973 and 1970.
A lot will be on the line, not the least of which is pride.
After last week’s 43-30 win over Maryland, Stroud said Ohio State “has been licking our wounds for 365 days” since losing to Michigan.
And the Wolverines presumably are motivated to prove last year was not a fluke, that they can do what they did last season year after year. Another Michigan win would put losing 17 out of 19 to OSU a little farther in the past and make a statement.
Saturday’s winner will advance to the Big Ten championship game. If things go as predicted, Saturday’s winner also should be in the College Football Playoff.
Five things to look for:
1. Which team is healthier? Big games have a way of speeding the healing process. But it is possible both teams could be without some of their top players, including their best running backs, because of injuries.
Ohio State’s leading rusher Miyan Williams did not play at Maryland after being injured in the first half against Indiana two weeks ago. TreVeyon Henderson has played only two quarters in the last three games. Starting guard Matthew Jones was injured late in the game against Maryland. And wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba has missed most of the season.
Michigan’s leading rusher Corum suffered a knee injury late in the first half of the Wolverines’ 19-17 win over Illinois last week and was on the field for only one play in the second half. His back-up, Donovan Edwards, did not play in that game. And neither did Michigan’s best defensive lineman, Mike Morris.
2. Can Ohio State run the ball? The Buckeyes ran for only 64 yards against Michigan last year. They had only two rushing plays that gained 10 yards or more and 17 of the 22 carries by Henderson and Williams produced gains of five yards or fewer.
Stroud’s 35 touchdown passes leads the nation. But OSU needs more balance than it had in its offense last year against Michigan.
Freshman Dallan Hayden ran for 146 yards against Maryland. Can he deliver another big game on the biggest stage of his career if Williams and Henderson aren’t able to play?
3. Can Michigan run the ball? Michigan rushed for 297 yards in last year’s game. Ten days later Ryan Day hired Jim Knowles as OSU’s defensive coordinator.
The change Knowles has brought is obvious. The Buckeyes are giving up fewer points and fewer yards and rank in the top 10 nationally in points allowed and total defense.
Michigan’s running game will be the biggest challenge of the season so far for Ohio State’s defense.
The Wolverines rank fourth nationally in rushing yards per game (243.8). Corum has gained 1,457 yards and has 15 carries of 20 yards or more.
4. Can Ohio State score 30 points or more? Interesting stat from Steve Helwagen of bucknuts.com: Ohio State is 40-0 with Ryan Day as its coach when it scores 30 points or more.
5. Will Ohio Stadium be a home field advantage? Michigan has won three of its last 20 games against Ohio State and all three were in Michigan Stadium – 2021, 2011, 2003.
Michigan’s last win in Ohio Stadium was in 2000. Ohio State has won 29 consecutive Big Ten games at home.
The prediction: Ohio State 42, Michigan 35.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.