Michigan 42, Ohio State 27

Michigan 42, Ohio State 27

November 28, 2021
Jim Harbaugh and Juwan Howard (image via NY Post)

Please use the Amazon links here to make your holiday purchases (LINK):

Holy Mary, Mother of God. I don’t think I have been that anxious about a Michigan victory since the Wolverines beat Washington State following the 1997 season. I predicted an Ohio State win (shame on me), but I thought Michigan had a chance. What I did not expect is, well, an ass-whooping. When I say an ass-whooping, I don’t mean on the scoreboard or really physically (although there was some of that). I just mean it was like Michigan did whatever they wanted to do the whole game. Run the ball? Yes. Trick plays? Yes. Get after the QB? Yes. Stop the run? Yes. Prevent big plays? Yes. This wasn’t a fluke victory whatsoever. Michigan looked like the better team from start to finish.

Aidan Hutchinson is the MVP! Before the game, I thought Michigan’s best player had to be the team’s best player on Saturday in order to win. Michigan couldn’t afford to get a dud of a game from Hutchinson. His effort doesn’t allow for many duds, but if a team pays enough attention to him, they can slow him down with double- and triple-teams. Unfortunately for Ohio State, they didn’t seem to respect Hutchinson’s ability to affect the game, and he responded with 7 tackles, 3 sacks, and 1 quarterback hurry. As the game wore on, you could also see that he (and the other pass rushers) sped up Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud’s internal clock, and he started to rush throws. Nick Petit-Frere, Dawand Jones, and Thayer Munford all really struggled with Hutchinson.

Hassan Haskins is the MVP! Before the game, I thought Michigan would have to run the ball very well to keep OSU’s tempo offense off the field. I didn’t think they would run it that well. Haskins ended up running 28 times for 169 yards and 5 touchdowns. Five touchdowns. Five of them. Five. Five touchdowns. Who scores 5 touchdowns in one game? That’s ridiculous. He had zero negative yardage plays, and he just kept busting out for chunk run after chunk run. That was an incredible performance.

What was Ohio State doing? I really have no clue what Ohio State was doing defensively. I guess Kerry Coombs gave up the defensive play calling because he sucked, and then the play calling still sucked. Down the stretch everyone knew Michigan was going to run the ball to try to ice the game. Michigan lined up with one or two tight ends, and Ohio State just . . . kept . . . like . . . not matching Michigan’s numbers. It wasn’t even that they weren’t respecting the quarterback run. They were leaving themselves light in the box and didn’t adjust to Michigan’s personnel, and this was at the most critical time (Michigan’s last full drive) when the Buckeyes absolutely needed to get a stop. I absolutely expect Ohio State to have a new defensive coordinator in 2022.

QB talk. Cade McNamara finished 13/19 for 159 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. It was not a game-winning performance, but McNamara did what he needed to do by moving the ball down the field. With the way Michigan was running, McNamara just needed to distribute the ball and keep the offense moving. I thought he took whatever was there except the interception. That wasn’t him. I could tell as soon as he caught the snap that he was rushing into something, because he sped up his footwork and delivery; sure enough, he failed to see the backside safety cheating over and threw into double coverage. If he had slowed down his read, he probably could have hit Donovan Edwards on a wheel route for a touchdown. Luckily, he seemed to realize that he needed to revert back to his game manager role, and he did a nice job from there on out. I thought J.J. McCarthy (1/1 for 31 yards; 2 carries for 12 yards) did well in a somewhat limited role, and the coaching staff did a good job of sprinkling him in.

Kudos to Josh Gattis. I’ve been harsh on Gattis over the past couple years, so I feel it’s necessary to single him out for praise in this one. Gattis seemed to hit his stride the last couple weeks of the season. Michigan broke a bunch of tendencies and expectations, using some plays they’ve only flirted with. I think things really opened up for the team this season when Gattis started using running backs in the passing game, whether splitting them out wide, motioning them, or simply running them out of the backfield. It’s not easy to defend five receivers, and I’ve practically been begging Harbaugh – not just Gattis, but his predecessors, too – to use guys like Blake Corum, Donovan Edwards, Chris Evans, Ty Isaac, etc. as receivers. Edwards and Haskins each had 2 receptions and totaled just 17 yards through the air, but their presence out wide opened up some things for the other receivers.

Kudos to Mike Macdonald. Macdonald still made some maddening mistakes in this one. Michigan still doesn’t handle tempo well, and they had trouble numerous times getting lined up, getting the signals, etc. But every defense has a weakness, and Macdonald did enough variation between zone and man to keep Ohio State guessing. He also kept the pressure on Stroud to make plays while not allowing Ohio State’s receivers to get over the top for huge plays. The defense kept almost everything in front of them, and the longest play of the day – a 39-yard fade to Chris Olave – simply beat almost perfect coverage by D.J. Turner II. I kept waiting for OSU’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Garrett Wilson to break tackles and create a huge play, but Michigan did a great job of rallying to the football.

How were the refs? There was a lot of consternation going into the game that official Kevin Schwarzel – a noted OSU fan – was going to give Michigan the raw end of the deal. It seems that concern was somewhat unfounded. Michigan was only penalized 2 times for 20 yards, while Ohio State got 10 penalties for 66 yards. There were some questionable calls on completions/incompletions, but the terrible production crew at Fox Sports rarely showed replays of any controversial calls. Michigan did get away with a couple uncalled pass interference plays, too. While the officiating was far from perfect, at least for once, it didn’t seem to go against the Wolverines.

I’m happy for Jim Harbaugh. I’ve been a Jim Harbaugh defender for the most part, but his record against Michigan State and Ohio State isn’t where it should be. Nobody was satisfied or happy about being winless against OSU and basically trading wins with Michigan State. But as a Michigan and Jim Harbaugh fan, it would have been very disappointing to see him go his whole career at Michigan and get canned for not beating Ohio State. Maybe it’s because I’m a coach or maybe it’s just because I’m a Michigan alum/fan, but watching the game on television, I just really enjoyed the smile on Harbaugh’s face and the celebration on the field after the game.

Beat Iowa. With Minnesota knocking off Wisconsin, the Wolverines will now play the Hawkeyes in Indianapolis next Saturday at 8:00 p.m. EST. A Michigan win would almost certainly secure a spot in the College Football Playoff. A Michigan loss would almost certainly leave them out. Win or go home (or, well, to a bowl game).

You must belogged in to post a comment.