Michigan has legit beef with controversial spot on Ohio State's 4th-down conversion
Did Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett actually get a great spot on this fourth-down play?
Ohio State's 30-27 double-overtime win over Michigan was a defensive struggle for nearly the entire 60 minutes of regulation, but it morphed into college football's heart attack-inducing game of the season in overtime.
No play will be more closely examined and scrutinized than Ohio State's one-yard fourth-down run by quarterback J.T. Barrett in the second overtime that netted the Buckeyes a first down. One play later, halfback Curtis Samuel ran 15 yards for the game-winning score.
Here's the fourth-down call in question. Note that Barrett is awfully close to the first down marker. The call on the field was a first down and referees determined there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the call.
There's a lot going on, so let's unpack this thing one step at a time.
1. The decision to go for it may not have been a decision at all if it hadn't been for Samuel on the previous play. The halfback took a swing pass on a third-and-9 and nearly got a first down on his own when he reversed field. That put the Buckeyes in a position to even think about attempting a fourth down play.
2. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer's decision to go for it down three points was big and of itself. Michigan played outstanding defense the entire game and held the Buckeyes to 3-of-16 on third downs. The Wolverines led the FBS in third-down defense this year and weren't that far behind on opponent fourth-down conversions, either. To go for it was a gutsy move by Meyer. Kicker Tyler Durbin was 1-of-3 for field goal attempts on the day but did make the one to get the game into overtime.
3. We're past the point in college football where we should have sideline cameras. Did Barrett get the first down on the run? The placement of the ball relative to his body being down is important.
There's a good case to be made he was short based on the camera angle of the television broadcast. However, that's for you to decide, and there wasn't sufficient evidence to overturn the call on the field of a first down.
This isn't about Ohio State getting a break or Michigan getting jobbed as much as it is getting the call right on the field. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was infuriated at the officials' call, and he was probably standing right at the line of scrimmage watching the play develop.
Nevertheless, this is a huge win for Ohio State and its playoff hopes. The question of whether the Buckeyes should have won is something that will be debated heavily for a long time.
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