After an entire season of close wins, under performing, and the feeling that Ohio State was wasting its massive potential, a big win was always going to feel good, regardless of opponent. But to have that big win come in a 62-39 shellacking of Michigan, knocking the Wolverines out of the College Football Playoff contention? That’s what dreams are made of for Ohio State fans.
To describe this game as a dream may be overselling it a bit, because it wasn’t quite the 59-0 demolishing of Wisconsin in 2014, the best Ohio State win I can remember, but it was really close. Ohio State’s offense destroyed the best defense in the country for four quarters, and while the Silver Bullets weren’t back to the form of years past by any means, they were more than enough to win the game for Ohio State.
It was a game of realizing potential for Ohio State, and while we have questions about where exactly it came from, and if this team is here to stay, we’re pretty damn happy about the final score, and will just take some time to enjoy it before looking towards the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis and No. 19 Northwestern.
With that said, let’s get into what will almost certainly be the most positive stock market report since September!
Dwayne Haskins, QB: Stud. After a month and a half of struggling with pressure, forgetting to set his feet, and putting up what could be described as empty numbers, Dwayne Haskins stepped up on Saturday in a huge way. What does stepping up in a huge way in The Game look like? 19-for-30 passing for 318 yards and five score. Oh, and he ran for 34 on seven carries.
The line certainly deserves some credit for this (I’ll get to them), but Dwayne led the team when they needed him for the second-straight year against Michigan. It takes an elite talent to do that.
Malik Harrison, LB: The much maligned linebackers (for good reason) have drawn the ire of Ohio State fans all season long, but on Saturday, at least one of them played possibly the best game of anyone on the defense. While Tuf Borland and Pete Werner weren’t great (they weren’t terrible either, just okay), the third Buckeye linebacker, Malik Harrison, had the game of his life.
Harrison had seven tackles, including two for loss, a sack, and a deflection that he nearly turned into an interception. He was flying all over the field, making plays in both the rushing and passing games, and looking like the leader that Ohio State’s defense has lacked all year.
The offensive line: Like the linebackers, Ohio State’s offensive has been criticized quite a bit this season (again, for good reason). Also like the linebackers, the offensive line stepped up in a huge way on Saturday. Dwayne Haskins had plenty of time all day, and wasn’t sacked once, despite Michigan having one of the best defensive fronts in the country.
Some of their success certainly came from a schematic change that saw J.K. Dobbins, Mike Weber and Luke Farrell all staying back to provide help on the edge, but for the most part, it was just a great showing by the whole group. I couldn’t be more impressed with how they played.
The wide receivers: Probably Ohio State’s most consistent group all season long, it was yet another awesome showing for Brian Hartline’s group on Saturday. Led by Parris Campbell‘s five catches for 114 and a score (he ran for another, but they said post-game that they would look again to see if it should be reconsidered a shovel-pass) and freshman Chris Olave’s two-touchdown game, quite a few receivers saw targets, and pretty much every one of them took advantage. It wasn’t a huge volume day for any of them, but to see a group filled mostly with seniors play so well on Senior Day was a delight.
This group of senior receivers have certainly had rough patches in Columbus, but they’re Buckeyes, through and through. They’ve been a huge part of just about every win this season, and with what they’ve been through over the last four (in some cases five) years, they deserve the success they’re seeing now. Word up to Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and Johnnie Dixon for great careers at Ohio State.
The defensive line: I know I mentioned it earlier, and wrote a whole article about it, but where in the hell was this line all year? The front four were great on Saturday, getting consistent pressure all day and stuffing the run consistently. Michigan’s poor game planning helped, but every Buckeye lineman that saw the field played a great game and really set the tone up front.
Tate package: I’ve talked about this before, and I just don’t have the energy to get too upset about it right now, but the Tate package needs to go. I know he’s theoretically a better runner than Haskins, but it’s just silly to take your quarterback out in the red zone. I know some think that the solution is to let Martell throw occasionally, but there’s no reason for that. If they want to pass, Ohio State has a passing quarterback — arguably the best in program history — and they should just leave him in. He can run the offense just fine when the play calling is good.
Penalties: There were certainly plenty of people upset with the refs during this game, at least until it was out of hand, but I think in general, the zebras were fine on Saturday. They missed on a couple of calls and spots, sure, but that’s football. Ohio State’s lack of discipline got them in trouble a couple times, by either moving its own offense back, or bailing Michigan’s out. Like I said, it’s hard to be too upset about it, but the Buckeyes do need to clean it up, because it’s been a problem all year.
Buy: Ohio State’s game plan. I’ve been the first to criticize Ohio State’s staff for much of this season for their poor decision making, both in play calling and personnel, and I stand by what I’ve said about much of this staff. They’ve done a bad job this year, and one game doesn’t erase that.
(*Stephen A. Smith voice*) HOWEVER. The game plan on Saturday was excellent. The crosses on offense were designed perfectly for what Michigan does poorly, and the defense, while it still struggled at times, was able to cover up for deficiencies with pressure, which is what they’ve needed all year.
Credit to this staff. Michigan’s defense runs pretty similar schemes to Ohio State’s, and I’m not sure how much that helped in the preparation, but either way, they out-coached Michigan on Saturday. It’s been a while since this staff has done that to anyone, and it was good to see.
Sell: Playoff debates. I may be in the minority here, but right now, I don’t care about the playoff talk for Ohio State. Ohio State is coming off of a huge win over a rival, and has one more game between them and back-to-back Big Ten titles.
If they get into the playoff after that, great. I’m not confident that they can keep it close against Alabama, but a playoff berth is a playoff berth. I’m not losing sleep if they miss it either. An Ohio State-Washington Rose Bowl would be fun as hell, and probably much more enjoyable than losing to Alabama by 40. Whatever happens is whatever happens, and that’s fine with me. Just focus on Northwestern.
Sell: The “overcoming adversity” story. You may have noticed, either on Twitter, before the game at ESPN’s “GameDay,” or during the game on FOX, a common trope was used. That trope, of course, is that Ohio State — and more specifically — Urban Meyer “overcame adversity” this season. That’s ridiculous. Urban Meyer kept a bad person on his staff and he got punished for it. He’s lucky to have kept his job, and any adversity he’s overcome in that regard was entirely self-inflicted. He’s not the victim in that situation.
If you want to talk about his health issues, I will give you that, but — as he’s reminded fans, media, and recruits all season — he’s been coaching through the same health issues for years, so that’s not a 2018-specific storyline.