No. 3 Michigan is a win away from a second straight Big Ten title and College Football Playoff appearance after its offense ripped apart No. 2 Ohio State’s defense in a 45-23 win in Columbus on Saturday.
Michigan scored TDs of 45, 69, 75, and 85 yards on Saturday as Ohio State’s strategy of playing man defense against Michigan receivers backfired at the most inopportune times. That man coverage strategy was even exploited by Michigan’s run game when Donovan Edwards scored on a 75-yard TD run with just over six minutes remaining to put the Wolverines up 15 and essentially put the game away.
Edwards broke through the line on the play and had no Ohio State defender near him after receiver Ronnie Bell ran his defender away from the play. All Edwards had to do after breaking through the hole was get away from a safety with a bad angle and Ohio State’s dreams of an undefeated regular season were over.
The win is a massive one for Jim Harbaugh as he’s now taken down Ryan Day’s Ohio State squad in back-to-back seasons after failing to beat the Buckeyes in each of his first six seasons at Michigan. The win also means Day is 1-2 against Michigan after his predecessor Urban Meyer never lost to the Wolverines.
Michigan’s victory also came without Blake Corum for much of the game. The running back attempted to play after he suffered a knee injury late in Michigan’s win over Illinois a week ago. But Corum was visibly hampered and had just two carries in the first half before he sat the rest of the way.
Edwards picked up the slack. He scored on an 85-yard run on his first offensive play following his 75-yard TD run and had 22 carries for 216 yards.
J.J. McCarthy throws three TDs, runs for another
Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy was 12-of-24 passing for 263 yards and three touchdowns as he took advantage of Ohio State’s coverage issues as the Buckeyes were more worried about Michigan’s run game.
“They were trying to stop our identity,” McCarthy said after the game.
After Ohio State had stuffed the Michigan run game early and kept the Wolverines’ offense in check in the first quarter, Michigan started going deep. And it worked even when passes weren’t completed.
McCarthy hit Cornelius Johnson for a 69-yard catch and run TD in the second quarter. And then Johnson got open deep for a 75-yard TD just two minutes later.
Just look at how open Johnson was on that catch.
Ohio State led at halftime, but Michigan scored just more than three minutes into the third quarter when McCarthy hit Colston Loveland for a 45-yard TD.
Michigan went up by two scores for the first time early in the fourth when McCarthy scored on a 3-yard run. That score was set up by a throw to Bell in the back of the end zone a few plays before. The pass fell incomplete, but Bell drew a pass interference penalty to set up Michigan near the goal line.
Ohio State’s offseason defensive changes don’t show on Saturday
Day made a switch at defensive coordinator after the 2021 season and brought in Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to run the defense in 2022. That coaching change worked out for much of the season. Ohio State’s defense was much better over the course of the season than it was in 2021.
But those improvements weren’t on display on Saturday. While Ohio State started off strong, it had no answer to Michigan’s willingness to attack it. And when it sold out late against the run knowing that Michigan was going to try to run as much time off the clock as it could, Edwards had easy TD runs.
Michigan ended up with 530 yards of offense and averaged 11 yards per pass and seven yards per run. Ohio State had 492 yards of offense itself, but the Buckeyes barely averaged more yards per pass (7.3) than Michigan did per carry (7.2).
The defensive disaster for the Buckeyes may also kick them out of the playoff. Ohio State could drop out of the top four if USC beats Notre Dame on Saturday night and will likely need losses from the Trojans and TCU on conference championship week to have a shot at getting into the playoff.
Otherwise Ohio State may be looking at its third Rose Bowl appearance in four years. Rose Bowl appearances are great. But not when you’re Ohio State and you’re losing to Michigan to miss out on the playoff.