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Five things we learned (or already knew) in Ohio State’s blowout of Michigan

The OSU-TTUN rivalry will always be intense, but it won’t be competitive for quite a while.

Ohio State v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images
Matt Tamanini Matt Tamanini is the co-managing editor of Land-Grant Holy Land having joined the site in 2016.

This one’s going to be short and sweet, because I think that for the most part, the things that we learned from the butt-kicking delivered by the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes to the No. 13 Michigan Wolverines on Saturday were all pretty self-evident.

With the 56-27 victory, the Buckeyes have secured the program’s 11th undefeated regular season, eighth-straight win in the series, and have given first-year head coach Ryan Day his first victory over the hated-rival from the state up north.

So, let’s take a look at some things that we learned (or perhaps already knew, but got confirmed) from Saturday’s victory.

1.) The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry will always be heated, but it will not be a competitive for many years.

For whatever reason, The Game just means more to Ohio State coaches, players, and fans. Perhaps that is because of the inherent self-satisfaction and aggrandizement that Michigan Men achieve when they first done the maize and blue, but for the past two decades, the off-field approach to the greatest rivalry in sports has paid massive dividends on the field for the team that has taken it more seriously.

College Football Hall of Fame coach John Cooper historically tried to approach the final regular season game as if it were just any other game while he was at OSU, and his record in the rivalry showed that.

However, once Jim Tressel took over in Columbus, the program’s focus changed from seeing Michigan as just another game to officially being The Game. Urban Meyer not only continued that tradition, but intensified it.

With Ryan Day now in charge at Ohio State, some were concerned that he — like Cooper — would not truly understand the importance of the rivalry since they had no connection to Ohio State or the state of Ohio before being hired.

But, based on the comments by Justin Fields following the win on Saturday, that does not seem to be a valid concern.

So, with Ohio State maintaining its commitment to focusing on the rivalry year-round, when you combine that with the inherent advantages that Tressel, Meyer, and now Day have built up in terms of recruiting, it is difficult to imagine there being a time in the near future in which Michigan will be able to wrestle control of the series away from OSU.

Obviously at some point (I assume), That Team Up North will get a win against Ohio State, but it would require a substantial swing in terms of recruiting and coaching to imagine that OSU won’t have a decisive edge in the series for the foreseeable future, just as they have since 2001.

I will get into the coaching advantage shortly, but if what we have seen in Day’s first 15 games as a head coach is an accurate indication of what his coaching career is capable of, we are in for another decade (or two) of rivalry dominance.

2.) Ohio State will be in the College Football Playoff no matter what happens in the Big Ten Title Game.

Since Ohio State was reinstalled as the No. 1 team in the country in the last College Football Playoff rankings, it is unlikely that even losing to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game (which isn’t going to happen) would push them outside of the top four.

OSU now has wins over the Nos. 10, 12, 13, and 19 teams in the country according to the last CFP rankings (obviously there will be movement up and down for those teams come Tuesday). But with how dominant Ohio State has been this season, and how the committee clearly views them, that resume should be more than enough to guarantee them a playoff berth no matter what the outcome in Indianapolis.

And, should the Buckeyes beat up Wisconsin for the second time this season, that should confirm their No. 1 ranking, no matter what the No. 2 LSU Tigers do in the SEC Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs.

3.) Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are the best wide receivers on Ohio State.

For the second season in a row, a true freshman wide receiver has come up big for the Buckeyes against Michigan. Last year it was Chris Olave who had a pair of touchdowns and a blocked punt. This year, it was Garrett Wilson who had three receptions for 118 yards and a TD.

For what it’s worth, Olave also had 68 yards and a TD against Michigan on Saturday. But, the interesting thing about the OSU WR room is that there are veterans like K.J. Hill and Austin Mack (both of whom had touchdown receptions in their final trips to Ann Arbor), but the most reliable big-play receivers on the team are the young guys, Olave and Wilson.

Players like Hill, Mack, and Binjimen Victor are very important to the Buckeye passing game, but as OSU has begun playing more teams with competent defenses, it has become clear that the receivers that Fields feels most comfortable with are the young, special athletes.

So, when Ohio State takes on Utah, Oklahoma, Georgia, Clemson, LSU, or whomever in the College Football Playoff, the veteran pass-catchers will certainly be a part of the game plan, but against the best defenses in the country, there is little doubt who Fields will be looking for downfield.

4.) Ohio State’s in-game, defensive adjustments turned this game into a blowout.

Coming into the final regular season game, the OSU defense was giving up 126 passing yards per game. On Saturday, Michigan’s Shea Patterson had 127 yards through the air in the first quarter, and was 14-for-19 for 250 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

But, in the second half, the Ohio State defensive coaching staff made some big changes. Rather than dropping seven into coverage, as they had in the first half, the Buckeyes began bringing more pressure after halftime. While it didn’t result in nearly the type of sack and hurry numbers that we are used to seeing this season — in large part due to Patterson getting rid of the ball really quickly throughout — what it did do was force TTUN’s QB to make more rushed and inaccurate throws.

Therefore, in the second half, Patterson was 4-for-24 for 55 yards and an interception.

Obviously the Buckeyes were hampered by starting slot cornerback Shaun Wade not playing and the relative inability of OSU’s linebackers to cover tight ends and receivers, but the adjustments made by the defensive coaches and players in the second half of the game is what led to Ohio State blowing out their rival for the second year in a row, and should reassure fans that the staff will be able to address issues against quality opponents in the playoff too.

5.) Justin Fields is a perfect mix of Terrelle Pryor Sr. , J.T. Barrett, and Dwayne Haskins.

Terrelle Pryor’s long-striding, deceptive speed:
J.T. Barrett’s toughness and ability to perform while less than 100%:
Dwayne Haskins’ arm and accuracy: maybe not a complete √, because Haskins was insane in that department, but it’s a lot closer to a complete √ than I ever would have expected for the sophomore.

I know that I included this clip earlier, but it is remarkable nonetheless. Day called it a “magic moment,” and it very well might be what secures Fields’ invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

After the game, Fields revealed that he had strained his MCL in the unnecessary sack that he took on the final competitive snap of the game against Penn State, and that he had been playing on Saturday with a brace on his knee.

After he was rolled up on in the third quarter against Michigan, he went to the medical tent, and the trainers put a larger brace on his knee to stabilize it. Then, after missing seven plays, he came back out and on the very first flippin’ play he does that.

We’ve seen his running and passing abilities on display all season, and we’ve heard about how tough he is, but now we have the best example of that fact that we could ever want.

Bonus: J.K. Dobbins is the best running back in the country.

I will let this statement stand on its own, because I will have an article specifically about this coming in the next day, but, rest assured Jonathan Taylor and Chuba Hubbard are nice and all, but J.K. Dobbins is without a doubt the best RB in college football, and (as I have been saying for months) deserves to be a Heisman Trophy finalist.