Make no mistake about what happened on Saturday. What felt like tremors a year ago ended up truly being a tectonic shift.
Michigan football eviscerated, embarrassed and eliminated Ohio State from everything that matters to that program. The most important things — a Big Ten championship and a College Football Playoff berth — were washed away by the hands of its most-hated nemesis. Excuses from a year ago were laid bare as all of the conditions the Buckeyes required for a win were in place.
Perfect, unseasonably warm weather? Check. Michigan without its key player? Check. No illnesses rampaging throughout the Woody Hayes Athletic Center? Check. Home game, revenge, a defense that could supposedly hamper what the Wolverines like to do? Check, check, and check.
Yet, Ohio State faltered in a big way, getting run off the newly christened Safelite-branded field, a year’s worth of promises made by the Buckeye staff broken to the eponymous nation. Only, it was the entire nation that took notice.
The national media came away astonished by Michigan’s dominance, after months of proclaiming the thing that happened last November in no way could happen again. Here are some of the best reactions by those who write about college football for a living.
Welcome to Jim Harbaugh’s previous life, Ryan Day.
This is the way things go at the top of college football’s food chain. If you can’t win the most important game on your schedule, there will be questions about whether you are the right man for the job.
For the second straight season, Harbaugh’s Michigan team pummeled Day and Ohio State.
Day is 45-5 at Ohio State as Urban Meyer’s replacement, but 1-2 against Michigan.
“We’ll figure out what’s next. I don’t know exactly what’s next right now, but that’s life at Ohio State,” Day told reporters. “When you lose, it all comes back to me as head coach. And that’s probably what hurts the most.”
What probably hurts most for Ohio State fans is The Game played out in a way that was supposed to be to the second-ranked Buckeyes’ advantage, a back-and-forth affair where the quarterbacks needed to be difference-makers.
The beauty of the showdown Saturday between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan is that it was not simply a matchup of playoff contenders in a heated rivalry game, but such a stark contrast in styles.
Ohio State is the sports car, all flash and speed with more skill position talent than the average Big Ten team has in a decade.
Michigan is a Jeep, a rugged machine designed for brute force. The Wolverines win not by sprinting past opponents, but by running over them.
And if that had been the script that played out Saturday — and, for much of the first half, it was — the Buckeyes might be headed to the Big Ten title game.
Instead, Jim Harbaugh’s team showed it’s far from a one-trick pony. On Saturday, Michigan was Meryl Streep, effortlessly slipping into a new role, cast against type and playing the part perfectly.
Saturday was a meltdown. Michigan outgained Ohio State. 530-492, and most of those came on long TDs. The Wolverines scored on plays of 69, 75, 45, 75 and 85 yards. That is what the Buckeyes and their high-powered offense were supposed to do. Ohio State brought in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to stop this Michigan ground-and-pound attack.
It was the same result as 2021, but arguably worse considering the Wolverines did all that without Heisman Trophy candidate Blake Corum, who was limited to one series because of a knee injury. J.J. McCarthy passed for three TDs and rushed for another one in the kind of performance that is required to win at Ohio Stadium. Donovan Edwards added 216 rushing yards.
Who’s your daddy, Buckeyes? A year ago, Harbaugh couldn’t beat Ohio State to save his life. Nine months ago, Harbaugh was interviewing for the Minnesota Vikings job on national signing day and frankly didn’t care what happened next.
On Saturday, his Wolverines were planting their flag on the Ohio Stadium 50-yard line as the coach made another statement.
“Honestly, I don’t even know how to feel right now,” Stroud said after what is likely is final game at The Horseshoe. “It just happened so fast.”
When whatever it is Stroud is feeling wears off, he will realize Michigan just played looser. Both teams went into the game short-handed. Ohio State was missing leading RB TreVeyon Henderson. Michigan’s Heisman candidate, RB Blake Corum, lasted one series before what looked like a lingering knee issue knocked him out.
Harbaugh, McCarthy and company adjusted.
Michigan planted its flag in Columbus on Saturday with a 45-23 thumping of Ohio State. No, literally. The Wolverines brought the “M” to midfield and stuck it through the Buckeyes’ logo. This could be construed as disrespectful. But, I’d like to view it as this: The Wolverines came, they saw and they conquered, winning at The Shoe for the first time since 2000.
This victory went beyond a win. It was ownership. Ohio State controlled this series for so long. Yet this game, on the heels of Michigan’s win last season, signaled a change in both the rivalry and the Big Ten East. No longer are the Wolverines a source of mockery for the rest of the country. Now, they set the tone. That was evident Saturday. Ohio State limited Michigan to 10 yards rushing in the first half. But, Michigan never relented. Instead, an unrelenting river proved to be flowing against a leaky dam. The Wolverines rushed for 242 yards on 10.1 yards per carry in the second half, controlling the pace of the game and imposing their will.
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On paper, this Harbaugh resurgence doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sure, the Wolverines put it all together last year, finally breaking through against Ohio State for the first time. But that was in Ann Arbor on a bad weather day when Michigan had the best player on the field in Aidan Hutchinson. There were rumors that Ohio State was stricken by a team-wide flu bug. Maybe it was a fluke.
Surely things would flip back in 2022. Ohio State was bringing back more offensive talent than any team in the country and overhauled its defense to emphasize the toughness and physicality the Buckeyes lacked in last year’s matchup. Michigan, meanwhile, was still projected to be a good team but had lost other big-time playmakers on defense like Daxton Hill, Josh Ross and David Ojabo in addition to leading rusher Hassan Haskins and two key offensive linemen.
But, surprisingly, there wasn’t a single moment this season in which it looked like Michigan took a step back. Now, we can finally say it: The Wolverines are even better this year.
The beat down in the ‘Bus turns the tables on this great rivalry. Michigan is in charge now. Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh has emphatically taken over after his finest moment yet at his alma mater. His team shrugged off injuries to key players, weathered an early storm, gained confidence and instilled doubt in Ohio State, wore down the opponent and turned a close upset into a second straight rout of the program that once tormented him. The tougher, more resilient, more focused team won.
Now, Day is the one with the losing streak in the series, the one facing hard questions, the one whose shiny overall record (45–5) is tarnished by two ugly blue smudges: a 15-point loss last year followed by this debacle, which might have serious College Football Playoff ramifications. Coach third base is still stranded there, and he better keep his eyes peeled for a pickoff throw.