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Ohio State Makes Its Playoff Case With a Historic Beatdown of Michigan

Ohio State exposed every Michigan flaw possible and reasserted its dominance in the rivalry. Now it'll be down to the selection committee to decide whether these are the real Buckeyes.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Revenge Tour got thrown off stage on its final stop. Instead, the Status Quo hogged the spotlight and played all its biggest hits. Here are three thoughts from Ohio State’s 62–39 thrashing of Michigan on Saturday at the Horseshoe.

1. The Buckeyes own the Wolverines in every conceivable way. Everything your eyes told you this season was that Michigan was the better, more sound team. History suggested otherwise, but an Ohio State team that gave up too many big plays and couldn’t establish the run for most of the season seemed vulnerable. Instead, the Wolverines got conservative while the Buckeyes finally lived up to their massive potential.

Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins torched the Wolverines for 318 yards and five touchdowns on 19-of-30 passing. Meanwhile, freshman receiver Chris Olave—who had caught five passes entering Saturday—caught two touchdown passes and blocked a punt in the third quarter that led to a 33-yard Sevyn Banks touchdown return.

Meanwhile, Michigan only occasionally took advantage of quarterback Shea Patterson’s ability to extend plays and throw deep, choosing instead to spend much of the afternoon trying to establish a run game that the Buckeyes had little trouble stopping.

Michigan has now lost to Ohio State seven consecutive times and 16 of the past 18 meetings. Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer is now 6–0 against the Wolverines, and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is now 0–4 against Meyer’s Buckeyes. With the win, the Buckeyes claimed the Big Ten East title for the second consecutive season and kept their College Football Playoff hopes alive. They’ll face West Division champ Northwestern next week in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title.

2. Haskins picked apart the usually stout Michigan defense. On Ohio State’s first drive, Haskins carved up the Wolverines with a series of shallow crosses, allowing his receivers to catch the ball in space and then gain additional yards. Ohio State freshman Chris Olave, who had caught five passes on the season entering Saturday, caught two first-half touchdown passes. For the half, Haskins completed 13 of 21 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns. On the season, Michigan had allowed an average of 132.2 passing yards per game. The Wolverines had allowed only seven passing touchdowns all season, but Haskins made them look lost at times.

Michigan’s offense finally broke through late in the second quarter when the Wolverines began attacking the Ohio State defense vertically. Shea Patterson capped an eight-play, 79-yard drive with a beautiful 23-yard touchdown pass to Nico Collins in the front left corner of the end zone.

Then things got weird.

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Ohio State back Demario McCall signaled for a fair catch on the ensuing kickoff but dropped the ball as he tried to catch it while drifting back toward the goal line. Michigan receiver Nate Schoenle jumped on the ball at the Ohio State nine-yard line. On the next play, Patterson hit a wide-open Chris Evans for a touchdown to cut Ohio State’s lead to 21–19 with 41 seconds remaining in the half.

The Buckeyes were moving the ball too well to simply run out the clock. After defensive holding, substitution infraction and pass interference penalties on the Wolverines moved the ball to the Michigan 36, Haskins hit McCall on a wheel route for a 33-yard gain. On third-and-goal from the one-yard line, Michigan lined up with 13 players on the field. But Ohio State called timeout before the flag was thrown. After the Buckeyes stalled at the one, Blake Haubeil tacked on a field goal as time expired to give Ohio State a 24–19 halftime lead.

Once the second half began, Michigan abandoned the field-stretching plays that had helped the Wolverines back into the game. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, poured it on. Haskins marched Ohio State into the red zone, and the Buckeyes kicked a field goal after a package for backup quarterback Tate Martell—which usually involves Martell running the read option with either Mike Weber or J.K. Dobbins—failed on three consecutive plays. 

After the Buckeyes forced another stop, Olave blocked Will Hart’s punt. The ball fell directly to Banks, who took it in for a touchdown. A Patterson interception led to a two-play Ohio State touchdown drive. And even when Michigan struck back with a 12-yard Patterson-to-Collins pass to make it 41–25, the Buckeyes answered on their next play from scrimmage with a 78-yard Parris Campbell run.

3. The College Football Playoff selection committee has made its feelings on Ohio State clear. Among the other one-loss teams, it likes Georgia better. It likes Oklahoma better. It likes undefeated UCF better and two-loss LSU better.

But that was the Ohio State that got crushed by Purdue and needed overtime and an extremely bad throw on a wide-open two-point conversion play to survive at Maryland. The Ohio State team that played Saturday looked like something different entirely.

The Buckeyes will almost certainly jump UCF, which lost quarterback McKenzie Milton to a gruesome knee injury Saturday. They probably won’t jump Georgia or Oklahoma, but while they’ll still need help, their path to the playoff doesn’t seem nearly as daunting now.

If Texas beats Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game and Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC title game, the Buckeyes probably could claim a spot in the playoff by beating Northwestern. That, of course, will depend on which Buckeyes show up in Indianapolis. The ones from the first 11 games of the season? The result is anyone’s guess. The ones who hammered Michigan on Saturday? That team could cruise.