Ohio State and Michigan.
Michigan and Ohio State.
It’s a rivalry that, generally, screams conference championship implications—and in some years, the aroma of national championship hopes wafts around for both programs.
This year, though, was a little bit different. Ohio State had already punched their ticket to the Big Ten Championship Game, and were on the outside looking in for a College Football Playoff spot. Michigan, on the other hand, was playing for either a Citrus Bowl or an Outback Bowl.
Ohio State got the job done, 31-20, but there was drama surrounding the win. Let’s break it all down, and see what we learned from the Buckeyes’ big time win in The Big House.
CSI: Ann Arbor
After the win, it was revealed that a cameraman hit J.T. Barrett in the leg prior to the start of the game. Barrett described the contact in his post-game interview.
J.T. Barrett demonstrates what happened with camera man pic.twitter.com/9YPxy2kIB1— Bill Bender (@BillBender92) November 25, 2017
In the six years I’ve covered college sports, I’ve never heard of something like this happening—especially in a game like this. Just to summarize: A cameraman tries to squeeze through the team, clips the star player, thus causing an injury.
Just when you thought the rivalry couldn’t add anymore tension, we now have a Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding-esque chapter to add to the folklore. (I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but Kerrigan was attacked in Detroit....it might be worth looking for a camera with a lead pipe attachment, and a getaway car somewhere around Michigan Stadium.)
Was it malicious? Was it not? Barrett didn’t think so, but another account said that it did seem to be intentional.
If you’ve ever seen the sideline at Michigan Stadium, you’ll notice that there’s barely enough space for someone like Flat Stanley. When you put media members, football players, a band or two, and broadcast personnel, there just isn’t enough room for anybody to maneuver.
But in all that, for someone to make contact and actually injure someone is egregious. Barrett ended up playing hurt, and it could’ve been worse if he aggravated the injury even more. He rushed the ball 15 times, and was sacked three times.
Looking at the game—especially in the first quarter—I wondered why Barrett wasn’t taking off with the ball. Now, it makes complete sense.
The kind of shenanigans that happened at the Big House could easily have had more drastic implications. Urban Meyer called for an investigation—which in my opinion is a good call. Someone out there has to have a Zapruder film of the whole thing going down, which would help jump-start the investigation.
Considering that he got Kerrigan’d, Barrett carried the offense in the first half. He rushed for a score, and completed a touchdown pass to Marcus Baugh. It wasn’t his sharpest day in the air as he managed just 30 yards on 3-of-8 passing. But there was good news, though: he became the first starter in Ohio State history to beat Michigan four times.
Expect more to come about this story, and conspiracy theories to begin cropping up. I think once this whole thing gets sorted out, we’ll see new rules and guidelines for how stadiums police their sidelines. The rules basically say “stay behind the dotted line”; but with this being a stadium with incredibly tight sidelines, there could be a limit to who has access that close to the playing field.
It takes just one person to ruin it for everybody.
Mike Weber sends his regards
This is the kind of story I can get behind: A Michigan born athlete goes to Ohio State and roasts the Wolverines in the Big House.
Mike Weber did just that, as the Detroit native broke away from the Maize & Blue in the closing minutes, rushing his way 25 yards for a touchdown.
Mike Weber ices it. pic.twitter.com/UkCzzERcSm— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) November 25, 2017
It wasn’t an explosive afternoon on the field for Weber; he was held to 57 yards on 12 carries. However, he was the one who sealed the victory for Ohio State.
Last season, Weber eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark as a freshman, leading to even higher hopes this season. However, injuries hampered him throughout the year, and ultimately allowed J.K. Dobbins to show off what he could do.
The question that might need to be asked is this: Was this the last time the redshirt sophomore played against Michigan? Dobbins appears to be the guy at RB for Ohio State. Weber already proved he can rush, and in the past few weeks, proved that he has breakaway speed. Both are important if he’s looking to move on to the next level come March.
Running backs are heavily used, and don’t have a long shelf life. If you’re taking 10-15 rushes a game, and are blocking, the amount of stress on the body will eventually take its toll. Personally, if I thought I could get the big money in the big leagues, I would leave the second that I thought I was ready, because you don’t know if that money will be there later.
The opponent used tight ends. It was effective.
If there were a place for concern, it’s in Ohio State’s inability to stop tight ends from making plays.
Zach Gentry only made a couple catches, but one of them sprung loose for 27 yards. But, it’s just not the TEs ability to make the occasional catch, it’s their ability to block and allow plays to develop.
The other catch Gentry made was a short TD. That one came about after Gentry appeared to be a blocker, but after making a successful block on an OSU defender, he sprung out into the endzone—and was the only person there.
On top of that, Michigan was able to work down in the flats to create big plays. For example: Wide out Kekoa Crawford went for a 43-yard gain via the screen.
Eddie McDoom also hauled in a chuck completion—his went 24 yards. While Michigan’s receiving corps wasn’t that great statistically, you have to remember that a third string quarterback in John O’Korn was at the helm. In the first quarter, there were at least three passes that, if a decent QB was under center, would’ve gone for either a big chunk of real estate or a TD.
Pass defense has become suspect again for Ohio State, and it’s coming at an inopportune time. It’s the 11th hour to show what you’re made of, and unless OSU’s defense annihilates Wisconsin, there is still a lot of ground to make up before the playoff semifinal matchups are announced.
A slow start makes things dicey
They’re doing it again...
The Buckeyes, who must be trying to get some sort of tax break on points, spotted the Wolverines a 14-point lead before finally getting on the board. It’s been a theme now for OSU: give the opposition a head start, and see if the comeback can be completed.
In the first quarter, OSU had an astounding -6 yards of total offense. (You read that right: the Buckeyes had negative total yards.) Also, the Scarlet and Gray were 0-for-3 on third downs in the first 15 minutes of the game.
So far, the Bucks are 2-1 when they spot teams a decent size lead in the early going. Against Iowa, a Pick-6 on the first play of the game gave the Hawkeyes momentum, which ultimately helped them to a 55-24 win; against Penn State, the Buckeyes got down 14 points in the first five minutes before waking up and getting on the board.
What will happen next week versus Wisconsin? If Ohio State spots the Badgers a double-digit lead early, they may not have to worry about making the playoffs as a two-loss team, as Wiscy may run away with the Big Ten crown in Indianapolis.
Many have tried, many have failed
Having a third string quarterback on your depth chart that can win you games is tough to come by. Normally, uhh, the third stringers aren’t very good.
Ohio State was the outlier a few seasons ago as Cardale Jones went from being the No. 3 guy to the guy, and ended up stunting on Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in the postseason.
John O’Korn was (technically) the third string quarterback for Michigan. Wilton Speight, who was the main signal caller for UM, broke vertebrae against Purdue; last week, Brandon Peters, arguably the No. 2 guy on the depth chart, got concussed. O’Korn played some throughout the season—and was clearly a work in progress.
When he was thrust back into the starting role against Ohio State, it was thought that he was gonna have a bad time against the Buckeye defense. In actuality, he didn’t have a terrible day against the defense at all; what he did have was a terrible day finding his own, wide open receivers.
In the first quarter, the Wolverines had about three “how are they that wide open” kind of plays. On all of those plays, O’Korn found a way to overthrow his target.
When pressured in the pocket O’Korn took forever and a day to make decisions, culminating in him fumbling the ball once.
At the end of the game, he made, arguably, the most egregious throw of the college football season.
John O’Korn thinking he plays for Ohio State now? pic.twitter.com/VMFf0C0AIb— The Sports Quotient (@SportsQuotient) November 25, 2017
In the eyes of a Buckeye fan, this was about as good of a throw he could’ve made.
After watching the interception, I legitimately thought for about three seconds that O’Korn might’ve been point shaving. That’s how atrocious that throw was.
To make things even more bizarre: he had an open receiver on the play. He didn’t even need to make that throw. Michigan had plenty of time to claw back the lead. Instead they tried to get all of the points on one play, and they paid the price for it.
Watching the postgame presser, O’Korn was devastated about losing to Ohio State. I’m willing to bet that he is a good guy off the field, and that he truly wants to be a great quarterback. The latter, though, didn’t show up on Saturday afternoon, and signified how hard it can be for teams to have depth at the QB position. Look at Florida State. Their QB, Deondre Francois, went down with a season-ending injury in Week 1, and the Seminoles barely had a functioning offense for the rest of the season.
Michigan clearly doesn’t have the depth that OSU had a few seasons ago in the quarterback position. Actually, you could make the case that the OSU offense could’ve functioned with either Haskins or Joe Burrow under center.
That brings me to the final point...
Glimpse into the future
For about the final quarter and a half, the Buckeyes had to rely on backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins. When Haskins made his appearance, the Bucks were down 20-14; on top of that, the first play Haskins was a part of was a third-and-1.
The “next man up” mentality is something that is preached at OSU. Haskins showed that the mantra is true, as he went out and kept Ohio State’s playoff hopes alive. With the Potomac, Md., native in the game, the Buckeyes outscored the Wolverines 17-0.
Of the plays Haskins made, the most memorable (and clutch) came on the first drive he was brought into. It was a third-and-13, and the Buckeyes desperately needed to keep the drive going. Haskins zipped the ball to a streaking Austin Mack. The WR had just enough of a lead—and just enough time—to haul in the catch before being sandwiched by two UM defenders, one of them being Tyree Kinnel. The play kept Ohio State’s drive and scoring ambitions alive.
Two plays later, Haskins took off down the sideline for 22 yards, bringing OSU to the doorstep of scoring a TD. On the next play, Dobbins wrestled his way into the endzone. He ended the afternoon going 6-of-7 in the air for 94 yards, and rushing for 24 yards on three carries.
After today’s game, the redshirt freshman showcased to the masses that he is the future for Ohio State.
What did you learn from the Buckeyes’ win? Let us know in the comments.