Ohio State was apparently saving its best for last. The No. 10 Buckeyes put No. 4 Michigan's Big Ten title -- and College Football Playoff -- hopes to rest on Saturday, thrashing the Wolverines 62-39. It's the seventh straight win for Ohio State over its rival, the longest winning streak it's ever held in the history of "The Game," which has been played since 1897 (technically Ohio State won seven straight from 2004 to 2010, but the 2010 game has since been vacated by the NCAA).
Ohio State entered as the team having the lesser season, even if it had the same record as Michigan. OSU suffered an embarrassing 49-20 loss to Purdue and had spent all year being dogged by miscues on defense. But maybe it was all an act to lure Michigan into a false sense of security because the Buckeyes team that showed up Saturday was the one everyone had been waiting to see all season. It was the Ohio State many expected to compete for a College Football Playoff berth.
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins led the way for the Ohio State offense, throwing for 318 yards and five touchdowns. Haskins also helped out with his legs, rushing for 34 yards. His five TD passes on the day set a new single-season record in the Big Ten for touchdown passes, giving Haskins 41 on the season. That broke Drew Brees' record of 39 set at Purdue back in 1998.
Ohio State receiver Chris Olave had a big day as well. He only caught two passes for 48 yards but made the most of them, hauling both in for touchdowns. Olave also blocked a punt in the third quarter that was returned for a touchdown to give Ohio State a 34-19 lead that would never be relinquished.
Ohio State will now move on to face No. 19 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game next Saturday. Should it win that game, OSU could still find itself playing for the College Football Playoff.
Here are our takeaways from The Game.
1. Ohio State looked like a playoff team today: Now that it's won the Big Ten East and will play for a Big Ten title, the talk will begin about whether or not Ohio State is deserving of a spot in the College Football Playoff. With Washington State losing Friday night, and UCF losing McKenzie Milton for the season, Ohio State's path to the top four is a lot clearer. It looks like it'll be a battle between the Buckeyes, Oklahoma, and Georgia.
There's a problem, though. Neither of those other two teams has a 29-point loss to a 6-6 Purdue team on their resume. Yes, Ohio State looked like a team worthy of a playoff berth on Saturday. It went against the No. 4 team in the country, and didn't just beat it, but clubbed it over the head to the tune of 62 points. It was as thorough a performance as we've seen from any team all season in one of the most prominent spots of the year. But it was one game. Had this Ohio State team played like this all year long, there'd be no question that it was deserving of a spot in the top four.
But this is a team that has mixed wins over Michigan and Penn State with that Purdue loss, as well as close calls against Maryland and Nebraska. The committee has to take everything into account, and it will likely take another week to figure these Buckeyes out. The committee will leave both Oklahoma and Ohio State outside the top four (unless Notre Dame loses Saturday night) and see how they do in their respective title games next week before making a final call. So be ready for a lot of debates about Oklahoma and Ohio State this week.
2. Dwayne Haskins is worthy of your Heisman Trophy consideration: I know it's essentially a two-horse race between Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma's Kyler Murray, but Haskins needs to be in the conversation. He's thrown 41 touchdowns on a team that's 11-1 and in the playoff hunt. Yes, Ohio State has had problems this season, but none of those problems have been Haskins. Besides, it's not like Oklahoma doesn't have plenty of its own flaws, and we sure don't hold them against Murray, who has been nothing but fantastic.
I don't think he'll win the award, but this performance against Michigan and a strong performance in Indianapolis next week could get Haskins to New York.
3. Ohio State's offensive and defensive lines deserve an extra pair of gold pants for this win: If you look in the box score, you'll see that Haskins and plenty of other players had big games, but the real MVPs of Ohio State's win were its linemen. The Ohio State defensive line wreaked havoc on the Michigan offense all day long, as Shea Patterson was scrambling for his life nearly every time he dropped back to pass. Karan Higdon broke free for a 24-yard run in the second half, but on the whole, Michigan was never able to get its run game going.
On the other side of the ball, Dwayne Haskins had days to find open receivers. Michigan came into this game with one of the best defenses in the country and one of the best defensive lines, and it managed only four tackles for loss and no sacks. Michigan wasn't even credited with a hit on Haskins. It was a masterful performance by the Ohio State offensive line, which is typically the case when an offense picks up 567 yards of offense over one of the country's best defenses.
4. This ruins Michigan's season: Sure, it's the definition of "first-world problems," but if you're Michigan, going 10-2 to bounce back from an 8-5 season doesn't mean anything when you finish the season with a loss to Ohio State. And when you don't just lose, but get embarrassed 62-39, it's even worse.
The 62 points the Wolverines allowed on Saturday are the most they've ever allowed in regulation. Illinois scored 65 points against Michigan in 2010, but that was in triple-overtime. The Illini only had 45 points in regulation.
And to have this happen against your most bitter rival? Well, that's a tough pill to swallow, and it's a cloud that will hang over Michigan's head all offseason, no matter what happens in the bowl game. The whole point of this season was not just to restore Michigan to prominence, but to beat Ohio State, and while the Wolverines accomplished the first part, they failed at the second.
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