Backfield play, not defense, allows Ohio State to keep pace
Ohio State still has a chance for a spot in the national championship game, even if Michigan did everything it could (in regulation) to end those hopes.
A game that began with a bit of nastiness — a fracas early in the second quarter that resulted in three ejections and two obscene gestures for the Ann Arbor crowd — ended in fireworks.
After battling back from a 14-point deficit to start the fourth quarter, Michigan elected to go for a two-point conversion after the final touchdown. Rather than playing for overtime, Michigan rode the momentum of a back-and-forth game with its rival to go for the win.
The result was an Ohio State interception to keep the Buckeyes unbeaten and in championship game contention. The 42-41 Ohio State win was the second one-point win in the history of the rivalry and the first since Michigan won 17-16 in 1926. The rivalry has ended in a tie four times.
With Florida State throttling Florida 37-7 in Gainesville, Ohio State likely remains a spot behind the Seminoles in the BCS standings. All eyes in Columbus, though, will remain on Alabama and Auburn today before the Buckeyes prepare for Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Three Things We Learned From Ohio State 42, Michigan 41
Ohio State’s backfield is something special. This isn’t a new revelation, but it took nearly the entire season for a high-profile performance like this out of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde as a tandem. Blame the Big Ten schedule. Blame the early season injury (Miller) and suspension (Hyde). The duo gashed Michigan’s defense up the middle all day with Hyde rushing for 226 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries and Miller rushing for 153 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. Michigan kept coming back against the Ohio State defense, but anytime the Buckeyes needed to move the ball, Hyde and Miller delivered. After a slow start, Miller still finished 6 of 15 passing for 133 yards with two touchdowns and interceptions. Given the way the Heisman race has self-destructed in recent weeks, one has to wonder how Miller or Hyde would have fared if both played all season. The duo that averaged 379 rushing yards and 8.8 yards per carry will face a Michigan State defense that’s allowed 100 rushing yards in a game only two times this season.
Ohio State’s defense came up when it mattered ... and that’s about it. When the Buckeyes make a case for the BCS Championship Game, they won’t point to Saturday’s defense. Ohio State entered the game ranked fourth in a lackluster Big Ten in total defense before allowing 603 yards to Michigan. Devin Gardner and his supporting cast have shown this potential, but what makes for exciting rivalry week football didn’t make for a resounding statement for the Buckeyes. Ohio State opened a 35-21 lead entering the fourth quarter before three Michigan scoring drives in the fourth quarter set up the potential go-ahead two-point attempt. Stops where hard to find as Ohio State allowed Michigan to score on touchdown drives of 99, 83 and 84 yards.
Michigan finally took some chances ... and failed. The Wolverines have not been the most risky team in the Big Ten this season, but that changed against Ohio State. The most prominent example was the decision to go for a two-point conversion to take a lead in the final 32 seconds rather than going for a game-tying extra point. Brady Hoke and Al Borges called for a pass play to Devin Gardner’s right with three receivers stacked in the formation. Top receivers Devin Funchess and Jeremy Gallon were covered when Gardner went for Drew Dileo. The window was tight, and freshman Tyvis Powell jumped in front of Dileo for the interception. Earlier in the game, Hoke also elected to go with his offense on a fourth-and-2 from the Ohio State 14. The conversion failed, and Ohio State scored on the ensuing drive. Michigan is only two weeks removed from kicking two sub-30-yard field goals in regulation against Northwestern, so it will be interesting to see what happens next time Hoke is in risky or conservative play call situation.