Hail to the Victors! For the third season in a row, Michigan proved to be superior to Ohio State. It was a tight game from start to finish, but ultimately, Michigan’s defense sealed the victory with a good pass rush by Jaylen Harrell and an interception by Ohio native Rod Moore. This was perhaps the most satisfying win of the three straight wins vs. the Buckeyes, because all the excuses for Ohio State were stripped away – there was no snow, there was no Connor Stalions, and there wasn’t even a Jim Harbaugh. Both teams were (relatively) healthy. And Michigan came out on top.
Hit the jump for more.
I hate Ryan Day. Ryan Day is a good coach. These two things are not mutually exclusive. I do not like Ryan Day. I think he’s a poser, from his beard and his hair to the way he behaves in front of the press to how he acts with his team. He’s kind of a dork. He went after Lou Holtz following the win against what turned out to be a 9-3 Notre Dame team, because Holtz said OSU wasn’t a tough team. Why is the head coach of Ohio State worried about Lou Holtz says? That’s insecurity. Also, Day coaches for Ohio State, so the hatred is built in. But Day is 39-3 against Big Ten opponents and 56-7 overall. His only three losses in the conference have been to a very good Michigan football team. He trained C.J. Stroud, who’s the best rookie QB in the NFL this season. He trained Marvin Harrison, Jr., who’s the best WR in college football. And if we’re being honest, Day did something very similar to what Jim Harbaugh did. When Harbaugh couldn’t beat Ohio State with Don Brown as defensive coordinator, he made a change defensively and hired Mike Macdonald and then Jesse Minter. Harbaugh committed to the run game and decided to try to “out-tough” Ohio State, and it was successful. Day has tried to meet Harbaugh’s challenge. He hired Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State, and the defense has markedly improved. This Ohio State team hung tough for 60 minutes. Kyle McCord just wasn’t good enough to get the job done at the end of the game, but on the heels of developing Stroud, there’s no shame in sending out a quarterback who’s completing 65.6% of his passes for 9.1 yards per attempt, 24 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. This is a good football team. Michigan is just better. Jim Harbaugh wasn’t a bad coach when he lost his first five games against Ohio State, and Day isn’t a bad coach now. Somebody has to lose The Game.
Poor Zak Zinter. I was reminded of Jake Butt when Zinter went down. Butt decided to play in the bowl game against Florida State, and he ended up tearing his ACL. Zinter decided to come back for his senior season, and he broke his fibula and tibia against Ohio State. You hate to see that happen to anyone, but especially a guy who came back for his senior year, putting off the NFL for a season. Jim Harbaugh addressed the injury afterward, promoting revenue sharing as a way to let players be compensated for putting their bodies at risk.
Alex Orji makes an appearance. I truly enjoy the creativity Michigan has shown over the past few seasons. I feel like creativity was missing from Michigan’s offense for several years, from the Brady Hoke era through the first several years of Harbaugh. Harbaugh did some mildly fun things with short yardage stuff, extra offensive linemen, etc., but it’s hit full speed with the flea flickers, halfback passes, seven offensive linemen, etc. Add in backup quarterback Alex Orji, the modern version of Dan Villari. Orji disappeared for a huge chunk of the season, only to appear in the biggest game of the year for 2 carries and 22 yards. He ran a QB counter play, first for 20 yards and then for 2. After that he disappeared from the field, never to return. This is a guy that Harbaugh said could be the best kick returner in school history, and he gets dusted off for 2 rushing attempts against OSU. Throw in a 34-yard halfback pass from Donovan Edwards to Colston Loveland, and Michigan football is fun to watch. It’s a great mix of good ol’ smashmouth football and offensive wizardry.
Michigan played a so-so game. The athleticism and creativity of J.J. McCarthy really saved the day. If we’re being honest, I think Ohio State had the better athletes. Michigan receivers couldn’t shake loose, and Michigan’s #1 corner Will Johnson couldn’t hold up to Marvin Harrison, Jr. one-on-one. From a pure talent perspective, Ohio State should win this battle – and that’s saying something since Michigan is probably going to have 15-20 players drafted in 2024. But Michigan is just better coached and tougher. If you put winged helmets on Ohio State players’ heads, they’re winning this game, because they’d be coached by Harbaugh, Sherrone Moore, Jesse Minter, etc. The X factor in this one was McCarthy (16/20, 148 yards, 1 TD; 4 carries for 17 yards), who created when the pocket broke down and threaded a perfect pass to Roman Wilson between two defenders for a touchdown.
For the third year in a row, I was wrong. I apologize. You deserve better. In 2021 I didn’t believe Michigan would win because they hadn’t in a long time. Last year I didn’t think they would win because it was at Ohio Stadium. And this year I thought the absence of Jim Harbaugh would be too much to overcome. And I was wrong, wrong, then wrong again. Don’t believe me when it comes to predicting games against OSU. I cannot be trusted.
On to Iowa. Hopefully there’s no hangover from this game going into next weekend, when Michigan will play Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game. Iowa has a great defense, but their offense is horrendous. They’re #124 in scoring offense and #133 in yards per play. Obviously, Michigan should win that game and opened up as a -21.5 point favorite, but I hope the coaches and players remain focused on that instead of thinking about the playoff.
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