That…was unexpected. They got the Bucks last year, too, but that was after eight consecutive victories. Before Saturday, the Buckeyes had won fifteen of the last seventeen matchups against That Team Up North.
Saturday, though…Saturday was a beatdown.
On the all-time rivalry scoreboard, Michigan leads Ohio State 60 games to 51, with six ties thrown in (did anyone else think ties couldn’t happen in college football?). But of course, recent history has looked quite different. Over the past twenty years, you could be forgiven if you thought the Wolverines and the Buckeyes were in an entirely separate class. With the way the Bucks had owned the rivalry since Y2K, Michigan felt like a Division II program.
You can’t say that today - not after Michigan steamrolled the Buckeyes in a savage 45 - 23 throttling that felt significantly worse than the 22-point deficit would suggest.
I still feel shell shocked. What was I even watching?
For the first half, it felt like things were progressing normally. The score was close, sure, and the Bucks didn’t look amazing offensively, but they held a 20 - 17 lead going into halftime. Was that really the same Buckeyes team out there in the second half? Someone might need to phone Dr. Miles Bennell because we might have another Invasion of the Body Snatchers on our hands.
It’s like the Buckeyes forgot how to play football. Offensively, three and outs started popping up at an alarming rate. Defensively, there were free runners in the backfield all day. There was so much space in the Buckeyes secondary that Michigan receivers were straightening up their shoelaces before crossing the endzone.
It was shocking. And yet, there was an explanation: Michigan was a ground-and-pound team. The Buckeyes didn’t want to let the Wolverines line up and ram the ball down their throat in the run game. They had to sacrifice a little on the back end to shore up at the point of attack.
Why then, pray tell, did Michigan run for 254 yards in this one? And with a backup running back, no less? That’s right, after suffering a knee injury the previous week against Illinois, Michigan’s Heisman-contending running back Blake Corum, who had rushed for nearly 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season, was limited to just two carries versus Ohio State.
Sophomore running back Donovan Edwards was responsible for 216 of those rushing yards, as he stepped up with Corum absent. On Michigan’s final two drives, Edwards broke off touchdown runs of 75 and 85 yards. It was backbreaking. But, then again, the Buckeyes had been broken long before those two gallops.
On the day, Michigan scored touchdowns of 45, 69, 75, 75, and 85 yards. There’s one word for that: unacceptable. Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day suggested after the game that the Buckeyes weren’t outmatched in this one. Honestly, what’s the point of positivity after a game like that?
That was likely the season. There won’t be any College Football Playoff bids for the Buckeyes this year. Sure, there are some prognosticators that have crunched the numbers and are promising that there’s a teensy, tiny chance the Bucks sneak in as the fourth seed. Don’t listen to those people.
This Buckeyes team does not deserve that opportunity. No Ohio State team that gets beat like that by Michigan - at home, no less - should be competing on the highest stage. After all, beating Michigan is supposed to be the highest stage. This was supposed to be the pinnacle. That’s the first thing you learn as a new Ohio State student - that a season that ends with a victory over Michigan is a success, post-season results and accolades be damned.
Some are already calling for Day’s firing, and while I don’t think that’s necessarily the solution, I can’t really argue. It was that pathetic of a performance.
Here’s the problem: who do you hire that’s better than Day?
Until this past Saturday, you could argue that Day was one of the best coaches in all of college football. You probably still could make that argument. It wasn’t that long ago that some thought Day might throw his hat in the NFL coaching ring. He has a 45 - 5 record and two conference titles in four years. He’s 2 - 2 against Michigan, even though it feels like it’s now 2 - 200.
At the end of the day, this is the job description. Ohio State fans wait all year to beat Michigan. It’s better than any holiday. And if the Bucks lose…well, it’s like the Grinch stole Christmas - only this Grinch’s heart will never, ever grow. Not even one size.
So, it’s back to the drawing board. For nearly twenty years, it felt like the Buckeyes were on autopilot. Those days are officially over. The era of Ohio State dominating The Game is in the past. It’s time for Day and the Buckeyes to get with the program.