On Saturday, Ohio State went into Ann Arbor and did to Michigan what they have done to every other team this season, which is pretty much whatever they wanted.
The Buckeyes put up over 500 yards of total offense and scored 14 points in each quarter. The winning percentage of those two stats together is probably somewhere around .9997.
Justin Fields threw for 300 yards. JK Dobbins rushed for 200 yards. And Michigan’s offense went into halftime with 285 yards of total offense, but when they came back out, they found an Ohio State defense that had finally caught on.
From there, the punishment truly began.
So what can be learned from a Michigan fan’s Groundhog Day?
The scary thing for the Wolverines is that new things are learned each time the Buckeyes dominate Michigan because it’s never the same beating twice. They’re doing it in different ways. Some of it, they allow Michigan to choose — such as which receiver to throw to. Other times, however, there is no choice given — like when the Buckeyes are running the ball at will.
The fact that Ohio State can do whatever they want, whenever they want, whether Michigan likes it or not, is something that has been brewing and building for nearly two decades.
And the latest rendition took place on Saturday.
So what did we learn? Plenty.
1. Shaun Wade needs to get healthy.
I’m not saying each of Shea Patterson’s 250 first-half passing yards on Saturday were the result of Shaun Wade’s absence, but I am saying at least half of them were. Michigan has tremendous receivers, which put the Buckeyes in a difficult spot as they moved everyone around from snap to snap trying to replace the one guy who was missing. Wade may not be as needed next weekend against Wisconsin, but the Buckeyes aren’t winning it all without him in the lineup come December and January.
2. No moments are too big for JK Dobbins.
Ohio State has played four teams this season that are currently ranked. JK Dobbins has rushed for 141 (Cincinnati), 163 (Wisconsin), 157 (Penn State), and 211 (Michigan) yards against them. Dobbins carried the ball four times on third down against Michigan and picked up the first down each time — including a 6-yard touchdown run on third-and-4. After the game he was asked how he feels after carrying the ball so many times the past two weeks. His answer? “Great.” Dobbins is exactly where he wants to be, doing exactly what he wants to do, and there are no more small moments to come.
3. It takes a village.
Congratulations are in order for the Michigan offense. They held Chase Young to zero sacks. It took constant double teams and an extra hand or two in the on-deck circle as well. Perhaps it even took some holding. The point is, they got the job done. And it didn’t seem to cost them much in the first half because Shea Patterson was still getting time. That time dwindled in the second half, which turned Patterson from a patient quarterback into a nervous quarterback. The game was over from that point. Patterson completed just 4-of-24 passes in the second half.
4. This secondary got better.
The moment may have been a bit too big for inexperienced defensive backs like Sevyn Banks, Cameron Brown, and Amir Riep. There were struggles in the first half, but the second half was a much calmer experience for each of them. They were settled down at the half and they played with more confidence over the game’s final 25 minutes or so. Playing without both Shaun Wade and Damon Arnette at times stretched this secondary past where most teams can go. The Buckeyes, however, came out stronger for it. Even if it did bring about a few bruises along the way.
5. This isn’t difficult.
As Tom and I tried to tell the Michigan faithful, in order to win this game, you have to run the ball. Not too many of their fans wanted to hear it. The Michigan coaches know it, but also knew there was nothing they could do about running the ball, which is a pretty damning thing. Sure, it’s smart that they realized it, but it’s a terrible job of coaching, recruiting, and development to be incapable of running the ball. Even as the passing game improved this season, the running game never became the beneficiary. Remember when Michigan had the best offensive line in the Big Ten? That lasted as long as fall camp.
6. Justin Fields is a tough dude.
Justin Fields played on a sprained MCL and chose to wear a smaller, less-protective knee brace because he didn’t want it to impact his mobility. When he went down in the second half, his only goal was to get into the medical tent to get a larger, sturdier brace. He had finally given in, but it was clear he had not given up. When Fields emerged, he did a bit of jogging, then ran out onto the field to get back into the fray, knowing that there were more hits to come.
7. Field goals don’t beat great offenses.
Here’s a little-known fact, at least in the state of Michigan, if you are playing against a team that is averaging seven touchdowns per game, you would need to make 17 field goals just to have a chance to beat that average. However, given that UM’s two kickers have combined to hit about 68% of their field goals this season, that means Michigan would probably have to attempt at least 25 field goals in order to win. Unfortunately, that’s nearly twice the average number of possessions per game. Also unfortunately for Michigan, Ohio State actually scored eight touchdowns, which means Jim Harbaugh would have needed his team to hit 19 field goals.
8. The Buckeyes have answers.
Don Brown said a few weeks back that the Ohio State offense better be careful because the Michigan defense had been planning all season for them. Well, that’s cool and all, but if the Buckeyes have all of the answers, it doesn’t really matter what the questions are. Do you think Google stays up at night worrying that some weirdo is going to type something into the search bar that’s never been typed before? Of course not. Last year, the Buckeyes beat Michigan’s defense with some east/west stuff. This year it was north/south. Next year, maybe Ryan Day will invent some new directions. “In 2018, it was east and west. Then last year it was north and south. I’ll admit it, I was never expecting Ohio State’s offense to move the ball flern and jorp on us. I didn’t even realize those directions existed.” — Don Brown
9. Same as it ever was.
Ryan Day says players win games, not plays, and not coaches. The fact that Ohio State has waves of defensive linemen has been one of the biggest reasons they continue to dominate Michigan. Michigan wears out on both sides of the line in this game every year because they don’t have what Ohio State has. Michigan plays 2-3 defensive tackles and 2-3 defensive ends because that’s all they have. The Buckeyes played six defensive ends — each of whom has starting experience this season — and four defensive tackles. And they didn’t even play as many as they normally do. But those waves wear down an offensive line. And when you don’t have those waves — like Michigan doesn’t — not only does the offensive line not get worn down, but they get stronger and they wear down the opponent. Michigan needs more talent up front. Their roster has too many occupiers and not enough difference makers.
10. Same as it ever was, Part 2.
And it’s not just on the line of scrimmage where the Buckeyes have the advantages. Ohio State has had difference makers at the skill positions forever, but their advantage over Michigan at those positions continues to grow. Until Jim Harbaugh gets more difference makers, it actually won’t make a difference. I said all season that for Michigan to win this game, they will need help from rivalry ghosts. But this thing has been so lopsided for so long, that most of those ghosts now wear Scarlet and Gray. The Michigan ghosts finally got tired of this crap a few years back and decided to head toward the light.