Michigan Finally Beats Ohio State

Hey, when I predicted the game to be 42-24, it was a typo. I meant 42-24 Michigan, not 42-24 Ohio State. I promise I’m not lying.

The first thing that crossed my mind watching Michigan run all over Ohio State is that this game looked exactly like the Ohio State-Oregon game in week 2. Oregon ran all over Ohio State. And then Ohio State made a change at defensive playcaller, thinking it was all Kerry Coombs’ fault. And then Ohio State played a bunch of bad teams, and whooped them all, and everyone thought, “Hey, the Ohio State defense is fixed!”

No, it wasn’t. And Michigan knew it, too.

In my pregame analysis of this game, I thought Ohio State would be able to run against Michigan, and that Michigan wouldn’t be able to run against Ohio State. And the numbers bore that out: Ohio State is a top-10 run defense in the country. Well, they were.

Michigan was not a good run defense coming into this game. Ohio State had the superior run defense, at least statistically.

I consider myself a numbers-based guy when it comes to making predictions and breaking down games.

But the numbers were wrong. I don’t know how else to spin it.

Look, Ohio State is just a soft team. I arrived at that conclusion pretty early into the second quarter. They’re just soft, especially on defense. On offense, I guess you could call them “finesse,” but you cannot be “finesse” on defense. “Finesse” on defense equals soft.

I think Ohio State had a pick and a forced punt in the first half, and those might have been their only stops of the game. Other than those two drives, Michigan was a guaranteed touchdown every single drive. It was never in doubt. They just ran all over Ohio State’s soft defense.

I really have no other analysis for Ohio State other than, they’re soft.

They’re just a soft team.

Have they become the new Oklahoma? A lot of people on Twitter are saying Ohio State has become the new Oklahoma under Ryan Day: they hang 50 points on all the over-matched teams, but as soon as they meet someone physical and even remotely close to them talent-wise, they get stomped.

That’s kind of what this Ohio State team looks like. They’re just soft.

That’s really all I have to say about Ohio State: soft.

SOFT.

I do just want to say, for the record, that this was not a game that you can blame on CJ Stroud. I guess there are people blaming him or something:

Stroud was the only reason the game was actually even somewhat close and not a complete bloodbath.

They just ran all over Ohio State. I mean, it was a complete domination of the line of scrimmage.

I don’t know if it was the snow and the cold that got to all the Florida/California/Texas players on the Ohio State roster or what, but Ohio State, for basically the entire second half, just looked like they did not want to be there.

It just seemed like Michigan wanted it more. A lot more. Michigan’s players just looked so much more fired up and energized anytime the cameras cut to them.

Maybe this will ultimately be a good thing for Ohio State. It can serve as motivation for them. They now know they can no longer take beating Michigan for granted. Maybe they came to believe they were entitled to beating Michigan, and forgot that they have to earn it every single year.

You have to work hard and be hungry all the time. Michigan (and Oregon) exposed some fatal flaws in the Ohio State defense that will have to be addressed. Ohio State will have to rediscover the importance of toughness and physicality.

Whether that means cleaning house on the defensive coaching staff or simply overhauling the system, it’s clear that what Ohio State is doing on defense isn’t working. First it was the Alabama game last year, then it was Oregon, and now Michigan. It can no longer be denied: Ohio State has gone soft on defense. And you cannot win a National Championship with a high-flying, finesse offense alone. Ask Oklahoma. Oklahoma gets blown out every single time they play an elite team, and it’s because Oklahoma is soft as shit on defense. Oklahoma has elite talent, and they’re usually elite on offense, but on defense, they are swiss cheese. And it’s a big part of why they haven’t won a National Championship in 20 years. If Ohio State doesn’t re-commit to toughness and physicality, they will turn into another Oklahoma.

Fortunately for Ohio State, they have the talent to be great on defense. I think they just need to get the right guy in charge of the defense. I mean, we saw how great they were on defense in 2019 under Jeff Hafley, who is now the head coach at Boston College. They were unquestionably elite on defense that year. But their defense has gone to shit since they lost Jeff Hafley, quite frankly. They need to find another Jeff Hafley, and I think they can. It’s Ohio State. They have tons of money, and there aren’t many guys in the country who would say no to that job, and that kind of money.

Hell, just look at what Michigan has done over the past year: they went 2-4 in 2020, and so in the offseason, they brought in Mike MacDonald, who was previously with the Baltimore Ravens for 7 years, to be defensive coordinator. The guy worked wonders with that defense, and he’s a big part of the reason the Wolverines made such a remarkable turnaround this year. He brought an NFL-style scheme to Michigan and has turned Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo into one of the best defensive end duos in recent college football memory. Ohio State has to find their own Mike MacDonald.

I will close the book on this Ohio State season with a quote from the legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes: “There’s nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you.”

What he meant by that is that getting your ass kicked humbles you. It forces you to self-reflect, and re-commit to the grind. It’s a gut-check moment for the Ohio State Buckeyes, and they have to respond.

As for Michigan, I am thoroughly impressed.

For one, they didn’t choke in this game. Michigan always chokes in big games. But they did not choke today. For the whole second half, I was just waiting for that fumble, or that interception, or that muffed punt, or what have you: that classic, soul-crushing Harbaugh blunder that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, and breaks the hearts of the Michigan faithful.

But it never happened.

I think they were finally just sick of losing in big games. They were sick of losing to Ohio State. Sick of hearing about how they were scared of Ohio State last year. Sick of hearing about how they fell off.

I think Michigan finally just said, “Fuck this. We are not losing to Ohio State again.”

I honestly didn’t know if Harbaugh had it in him. I really didn’t. You just look back at all the recent games that Michigan has lost to Ohio State, and it was hard not to conclude that maybe Harbaugh just doesn’t have what it takes. In 2016, Michigan lost on that heartbreaker in overtime, and they have not stopped bitching about that game since, even though they’re wrong, and Barrett was over the line:

In 2017, Barrett got hurt during the game, but backup QB Dwayne Haskins came in and led Ohio State to the victory in Ann Arbor.

In 2018, it was a golden opportunity for Michigan to finally get a win over Ohio State. Michigan was ranked #4, Ohio State was #10, and Michigan had the top-ranked defense in the nation. Rumors were swirling that Urban Meyer was coaching his last game in the rivalry. Ohio State then hung 62 on them.

In 2019, although Ohio State was a juggernaut that year, it was under a new coach, Ryan Day, and a new QB, Justin Fields. Michigan had the game at home. Maybe, with Urban Meyer finally gone, Michigan could finally get a win. Ohio State won by 29.

Last year, Ohio State was favored by 30 points going into the game, and Michigan had to bail due to a Covid outbreak. That might have been the low-point in the rivalry for Michigan. We’ll never know whether they were truly “scared” to play Ohio State last year, but everyone at Ohio State thinks they were.

But Michigan definitely wasn’t scared this year.

Maybe after the cancellation of The Game last year, Ohio State stopped taking Michigan seriously: “HA, they don’t even want to play us anymore! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚”

But maybe that was also the breaking-point for Michigan: the moment they decided they were sick and tired of Ohio State’s arrogance and superiority.

Whatever it was, this is now a rivalry again. And that’s great for college football.

2021 has been a bit of a wacky year in this sport, hasn’t it? Clemson has kind of fallen off. Oklahoma has kind of fallen off. Hell, even Alabama has “fallen off” a bit, at least to their standards. You now have conference realignment happening. The playoff is soon to be expanding. Athletes are now, finally, allowed to profit off of NIL. It has been a wild year for the sport.

It’s fitting that amidst all this change and upheaval in the sport, Michigan finally beats Ohio State.


There are a few stats I want to highlight here that I thought decided the game:

  1. Third down efficiency: Michigan was 5-8 on third down. They could not be stopped. Ohio State was 8-18, and usually the team that wins third down wins the game. But what I noticed was that Michigan wasn’t even getting to third down most of the time, they were just moving the chains on first and second down. When they did get held to a third down, it was usually an easy 3rd and short.
  2. Michigan only passed the ball 20 times in the game, and just 5 times in the second half of the game. That’s it. 5 passing attempts in the second half. And it’s because they were able to run the ball at will. Why pass the ball at all when you know the other team is literally incapable of stopping your run game?
  3. Ohio State had 30 rushing attempts for 64 yards. Now, they also gave up 4 sacks for -30 yards, so it was really more like 94 yards out of the running backs. But still. This is an Ohio State team that has averaged 197 yards rushing all season long. And they just didn’t run the ball anywhere near enough in this game. I thought they looked good running the ball early, but it seemed like they got away from the run game for whatever reason. I thought Ohio State would run more.
  4. Michigan, on the other hand, ran for 297 yards on 41 carries–7.2 yards per carry. They had 6 rushing TDs including 5 from Hassan Haskins alone. That is utter domination. It doesn’t get any more dominant than that. By the second half of the game, it just felt like Ohio State was completely incapable of stopping the run, or even slowing it down at all. I could be wrong, but I thought, at least for the first half of the game, Ohio State was pretty strong against the run at least up the gut, and Michigan was doing a lot of its damage bouncing runs around to the outside. Ohio State’s perimeter defense was not getting to the edge on outside runs. But eventually Michigan started running up the gut as well.
  5. Penalties: I don’t want to be the guy who says “the refs decided the game.” I thought there were a couple missed calls by the refs, but nothing too egregious. It was Ohio State’s fault they just could not figure it out at the line. You see 10 penalties for 66 yards, and what does that tell you? It’s a lot of 5-yarders, meaning pre-snap penalties like false start, illegal formation, offsides, etc. Ohio State kept screwing itself over with the pre-snap penalties. I’m sure a lot of Ohio State fans will point to the penalty disparity and say the refs screwed them over, but the real reason Ohio State had 10 penalties to Michigan’s 2 is because Ohio State simply committed way more penalties. It’s really as simple as that.

As lopsided as the stats were, Ohio State was still in the game late, although I’d say only technically. Even when they were only down one score (28-20, then 35-27), it still felt like the game was out of reach because Ohio State was incapable of getting a stop on defense. Ohio State would score to draw within one score, but then Michigan was guaranteed to score when they got the ball back, meaning anytime Ohio State got the ball it was always a 2-score deficit.

So the question now is this:

Can Michigan actually make some noise in the College Football Playoff?

The answer to that is that it depends: was this game a product of how good Michigan was, or just how unbelievably soft Ohio State was?

Right off the bat, I do not think Michigan has a chance against Georgia. Honestly, no one has a chance against Georgia, imho. Barring something crazy, Georgia will win the National Championship.

But I think after what I saw out of Alabama today, Michigan could probably beat Alabama. Alabama isn’t as soft as Ohio State, but Bama honestly looks pretty soft. Bama was getting manhandled for basically 58 minutes against Auburn, and then that dude on Auburn ran out of bounds and allowed Bama to get the ball back with time at the end. Auburn had that game basically won, and they gave it away.

Bama is not that great.

My power ratings still have them as the best team in the country, however. We’ll see if that’s still the case after this week.

Before we get to the playoff, though, Michigan still has to take care of business against Iowa in the Big Ten Championship. Wisconsin was all set to punch their ticket to Indy, all they had to do was beat Minnesota, but Wisconsin could not get it done, so now Iowa will represent the Big Ten West in the Conference Title game.

I think Michigan should be a heavy favorite in that game, but I also don’t think Iowa will get pushed around like Ohio State did.

In terms of run defense, Iowa ranks right around where Ohio State does–like 10th in the nation-ish.

As we learned with Ohio State, that apparently doesn’t matter at all, because Ohio State looked like the worst run defense in the nation when they played Michigan. So maybe Iowa’s highly-ranked run defense somehow gets bulldozed like Ohio State did.

I think Iowa will play tough but ultimately Michigan will pull away in the 4th quarter. I just don’t think Iowa is good enough to beat Michigan, (although then again I didn’t think Michigan was good enough to beat Ohio State.)

Now, it is entirely possible Michigan has a let-down game. This was a huge, emotional win over a hated rival that they haven’t beaten in a decade.

Assuming Michigan wins the Big Ten, they’re in the playoff. Georgia, I think, is in no matter what happens in the SEC Championship. If Georgia wins, as I expect, then that probably knocks Bama out of the playoff, although you never know. Bama gets preferential treatment like no other program.

It seems now like Cincinnati is win-and-in for the playoff. Cincy just has to beat Houston in the AAC Championship and I think Cincy is in.

The last spot, assuming Georgia, Michigan and Cincy all win next weekend, is where it gets interesting.

As I see it, you have Notre Dame in contention, plus three Big 12 teams: Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma.

Baylor has already won today, meaning they’re now 7-2 in conference play. The Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game is still going on right now (tied 24-24 at halftime) as I write this, and the scenarios are as follows:

  • If Oklahoma State wins, they advance to the Big 12 Championship and will play Baylor, given that Baylor and OU will each have 2 conference losses, and Baylor has the head-to-head win.
  • If Oklahoma wins this game, then it’ll just be a rematch next week in the Big 12 Championship game. Okie State has the head-to-head tiebreaker over Baylor.

If Oklahoma State wins tonight and then wins the Big 12 Championship to finish with just 1 loss, then I think they will get that final playoff spot.

If Oklahoma wins out, meaning they win tonight in Stillwater and then again next week against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship, they should probably get a spot in the playoff.

Baylor, with 2 losses, I don’t think can get into the playoff, even if they win the Big 12. The Committee just doesn’t respect that conference, and there is no way the first-ever 2-loss team to make the playoff is going to be from the Big 12.

I still think a 2-loss Alabama could actually get the nod over a 1-loss Big 12 Champion. If Bama loses close to Georgia, the Committee will justify it to themselves by saying Bama is the better team, and they’re in the business of picking the better team, not rewarding conference Championships. And they won’t exactly be wrong.

What I cannot get on-board with is this idea, that apparently a lot of people think is possible, of Notre Dame somehow making the playoff over an undefeated Cincinnati. That is just a bridge too far given that Cincy went to Notre Dame and won by 11. If that happens, then just burn this whole thing down.

It’s too hard to try to figure out what’s going to happen in the playoff, honestly. I feel like the safest playoff picks right now are Georgia and Michigan, but as much as I want to say Cincy, they are no guarantee at all. The Committee could decide to fuck them over. The final two spots are just major question marks at this point.

I think Michigan might actually be the second-best team in the country, though. I really do believe that.

They’re not better than Georgia, but they might be better than Bama.

Bama is not the typical Bama this year. They got absolutely man-handled for 58 minutes against an Auburn team that didn’t even have Bo Nix. Bama was doing some very atypical Bama stuff: botching a snap on a field goal, fumbling snaps on 4th down, receivers having the ball hit them in the face on crucial 3rd downs. It was not a pretty effort out of Alabama.

The main thing I noticed in that game was that the Bama offensive line could not block for shit. Bryce Young was getting pummeled out there.

But I have to give it to Bryce Young: he had a legitimate Heisman moment at the end of that game, leading that comeback drive and throwing that beautiful game-tying TD pass.

I’ve been very Anti Bryce Young this year in the Heisman discussion because I felt like he was just going to get the award by default. But since Kenneth Walker has fallen off, and now CJ Stroud has fallen off (although Stroud actually had some pretty great numbers against Michigan), who else are you going to give the Heisman to?

I just wanted to see Bryce Young earn it, you know? I think he may have earned it in the Auburn game. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll still be a very anticlimatic and underwhelming Heisman award, but that would’ve been true if CJ Stroud would’ve gotten it, too. I mean, come on: Stroud isn’t even the best player on his offense. Wilson, Olave and JSN are all better players.

I honestly think Garrett Wilson might be the best football player in the country this season, at least on offense, but he hasn’t gained any traction for the Heisman. No way the committee would go two Wide Receivers in a row. That’s like a once every 30 years kinda thing, I think. It’s primarily a QB award now.

Anyway, hats off to Michigan for getting the big win over Ohio State. I did not think they had a chance, and they absolutely skullfucked Ohio State today. Just bent them over a barrel all game long.

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