Football The Rivalry

Michigan, Ohio State Separated by Much More Than Just a State Line

Ohio State Football Buckeyes Michigan


Urban Meyer has had a three-year head start on Jim Harbaugh and it showed on Saturday.

But Harbaugh has still had three years to put something together that would have been better than what we saw in Ohio State’s 31-20 win on Saturday.

A win that ended with a 31-6 OSU run after a 14-0 start by the Wolverines.

Sure, you can blame the loss on Michigan quarterback John O’Korn, but his performance wasn’t all that different than the UM quarterbacks in the previous two losses.

Michigan’s passer rating on Saturday was 108.38. Their rating in 2016 was 122.21 with twice as many interceptions, including a pick six (and a fumble at OSU’s 1-yard line), and in 2015 it was 110.82.

This wasn’t a John O’Korn loss, this was a Michigan loss.

It was the Wolverine defense that allowed 147 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter.

It was the Wolverine defense that gave up a 66-yard touchdown drive on three rushes after O’Korn’s terrible interception in the fourth quarter. At the time of the interception, the Buckeyes were only leading 24-20. The game was still in doubt. Most of all, the game was still in the hands of the Michigan defense.

At least until the Ohio State offensive line and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber took it from them.

The Buckeyes won this game as a team and the Wolverines lost it as a team.

Let’s not forget that it was Ohio State who was losing when starting quarterback J.T. Barrett went down.

Michigan was leading 20-14 at that point, and as Barrett limped off the sideline and into the tunnel leading to the locker room, Ohio State’s chances in this game could have limped off with him as well.

But they didn’t.

In came Ohio State’s backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins — a redshirt freshman who may have been OSU’s third-string quarterback this season had redshirt sophomore Joe Burrow not broken his hand in fall camp.

What did Haskins do?

On his first drive, he led the Buckeyes 69 yards for a touchdown to take the lead. He completed both of his passes for 31 of those yards, and ran twice for 24 more. He never looked out of place, even under pressure.

And that was only his first of two touchdown drives in this game. He led the Buckeyes to 17 points on three of his four drives, and the fourth ended in a missed field goal.

Haskins finished 6-of-7 passing for 94 yards and rushed three times for 24 yards. It was the best performance of his career, in an environment that is not conducive to such things.

Michigan had the momentum, but Haskins took it, kept it, and now it resides in Columbus for yet another year.

This was not a John O’Korn loss. This was a program loss for Michigan.

This is three years of Jim Harbaugh, for better or worse.

The quarterback situation continues to hold this program back, and that was supposed to be Harbaugh’s golden touch.

Look at Ohio State as a comparison.

Cardale Jones enrolled about six weeks after Urban Meyer got the Ohio State job. Four-and-a-half months after Meyer was hired, he landed a commitment from J.T. Barrett. Together, Jones and Barrett were able to help the Buckeyes overcome the loss of Braxton Miller in 2014. And on Saturday, a redshirt freshman with just five games of middling Big Ten experience went up and down the field on Michigan’s defense because they didn’t have the depth to really do anything about it.

And that’s on Jim Harbaugh too.

The last two weeks, the Michigan defense fought and fought and kept the Wolverines in games against better opponents, but they eventually crumbled after three quarters of getting pounded.

They were simply exhausted.

Or at least Michigan fans better hope it was due to exhaustion, because if it was due to anything else — such as frustration with the lack of offense, then they’ve got an entirely different kind of problem.

I can see why some will want to pin this loss on John O’Korn, but he gave the kind of performance that everyone expected. Actually, it was probably better than most Michigan fans expected.

Jim Harbaugh had no other options this week. O’Korn was his healthiest quarterback and best chance at winning, which is why this wasn’t a John O’Korn loss, it was a Jim Harbaugh loss.

Ohio State had three better options than O’Korn ready to go when Barrett went down on Saturday. And they always have.

But maybe we should stop expecting Urban Meyer things from Jim Harbaugh.

And maybe we should stop expecting Ohio State things from Michigan.

These two programs are separated by much more than just a border, and on Saturday that separation proved to be the difference in Ohio State’s sixth-consecutive win over that team up north.


19 Responses

  1. It was obvious after the game that o’korn bleeds for his teammates and um. But there is no disparity between the teams. A competent qb-like peters, and um wins that game, not a great, nor average qb, just competent.

  2. Only team in the country going into Saturday in the top 10 on offense and defense.

    1. And just for the haters, J.T. Barrett is 7th in the nation in passing efficiency.

      1. Passing efficiency does not measure opportunities lost because the defense does not respect JT’s ability to get the ball downfield. The reason we started to run the ball so successfully in the third and fourth quarters was UM had to back off after Haskins threw a couple missles right on time and right on target.
        P.S. I’m not at all a hater but the fact is JT’s lack of throwing on time, arm strength and accuracy put terrible pressure on our running game. His running makes up for part of it but not so much against really good defenses.

  3. I’m baffled as to why the Bucks don’t do many shoulder tackles, way too much standing & grabbing. Wisc. runners will go right through that pansy technique. That, penalties & stymied play calling could lead to a poor outcome. Feed, you’re the Best, no, you’re the GOAT for outstanding articles. Been a Big reader of your analysis forever!

  4. This article appears to be a rebuttal to the free press article in yesterday’s paper right after the game which was titled “only a quarterback away from dethroning the buckeyes”. Appears they are a helluva lot further away than a quarterback.

    1. Tim- yes, if you want to read articles that reek of desperation and a longing for football back in the 1920s, read the Free Press stuff on UM. Excuses, digs at OSU and MSU, falsely reverent comments about 100 year old titles- the whole kitchen sink. This is what I urgently try NOT to be.

  5. Gerd, outstanding article. Nail on the head.

  6. This is a great rebuttal to the fans of that team up north and their team’s beat writers who want to pin this loss on having to start a third string QB against us. JH has been coach there for three years. He has had a chance to get some players who have the basic skills to contribute, and to get them to the point that they actually can produce. He specifically went after O’Korn and Rudock, asking them to transfer to shore up a weak QB situation. He could not beat tOSU with either of these QB’s. Rudock managed to lead a team that got blown out 42-13 in 2015. O’Korn never meaningfully contributed to a win against any competent team in his career.

    Further, JH only started Peters out of sheer desperation late in the season. Peters did look competent in his play, but he had an adjusted QBR of 28.4 against the only team with an actual defense, Wisconsin, prior to being knocked out of the contest. It should be noted as well that a continuing lack of talent in their offensive line is also partly responsible for Peters being unavailable, again something three years in that falls in JH’s lap. I do believe Peters would likely have hit some of those open receivers that were missed yesterday in what were multiple instances of our players being out of position on passing plays. I am not convinced that the end result would have been any different, however.

    Last point: the other excuse offered for their lack of success is the youth of their team. They did lose a huge amount of players last year, but there was not a huge loss of talent associated with that loss. The majority of those players were wallflowers who never saw the field, leftovers from poorly executed recruiting by Hoke et. al. tOSU was the youngest team in D1 last year, went 11-2 with a playoff appearance. Regular season games included wins over Oklahoma away, #8 WIscy, #9 Nebby, and #3 TTUN. By contrast, TTUN and 8-4 this year (4th in B10 East), with one win over a “ranked” opponent, Florida (17), that ended up 4-7 with their coach being fired mid-season. Yes, youth can be a challenge, but if recruiting is well executed and those players are developed, teams can succeed. For example, Alabama was the youngest team in the SEC last year, Clemson was the youngest in the ACC, and tOSU was the youngest overall as previously mentioned. These teams all recruited well and developed their players, and all three made it to the CFP, and of course Clemson won the title. Now, what was that excuse about youth again???

  7. weren’t Tressel teams among the most penalized in B10 as well? Not sure.

  8. I love the Buckeyes, but they have two major problems. One is the offensive coaching/play calling. It is horrendous! The second problem is also related to the overall coaching, and that is the lack of team discipline. They are the most penalized team in the Big Ten!!! How can that be with three head coaches on the staff? This is totally unacceptable and needs to be fixed before next season or they will be another two loss team hoping for others to help them make the playoffs.

    1. Problems (or fixable things) I’ll buy. “Major problems” is a bit of a stretch. More than a bit. 11-15 win seasons with New Years bowls EVERY YEAR (when not probationed, only undefeated 12 wins then) isn’t indicative of “major problems”. It is indicative of consistent EXCELLENCE. Go Bucks!!

      1. I agree with Dave R that the offense is a major problem, especially against good teams…and sometimes against mediocre ones, e.g., Iowa. This has become a 3-year pattern now and desperately needs fixing.

    2. Dave R, thoughtful and well written. I totally agree. For the 3rd season now, I’m still left wondering when we fans won’t have to feel that knot-in-the-stomach tension and frustration for an entire half of football and, in many cases, an entire game of it on offense. Just maddening. The one and only knock I have on Meyer is that he can be his own worst enemy.

      1. Play calling is a major problem . . . how many times did we run essentially the same play on first down for no gain or an actual loss? But JT’s hesitancy to make a decision to throw, a LESS THAN QUICK release, and inaccuracy also hinder our efforts . . .ESPECIALLY AGAINST GOOD DEFENSES. .

  9. I’ve found it odd that Harbaugh could sway Donovan P-J and Rashan Gary but can’t seem to land even 1 decent QB

  10. Well written analysis. Succinct, accurate and stabs right into the heart of the disparity between the two programs.

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