Tim May reviews Ohio State's win over Michigan.
25 words or fewer
To second guess is human, to quiet the critics divine. At this moment, Ed Warinner, Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa and OSU are feeling mighty fine.
In the polls and CFP
Ohio State moved back up to No.6 this week in both major polls after Notre Dame and Baylor lost. The important moment comes with the revelation of the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday night as the Buckeyes, No.8 last week and done with the regular season, could slide into "so you're saying there's a chance" company heading into the final weekend of primarily conference title games. In fact, based on how the CFP stood last week, the Nos.4, 5 and 6 teams could be Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State, with the first two heading into the Big Ten championship game on Saturday night.
Ezekiel Elliott, J.T. Barrett and the offensive line, who rebounded from the abysmal performance the week before against Michigan State to romp for a season-high 369 yards rushing against a Michigan defense that had been No.4 in the nation against the run. Elliott ran for 214 yards, his fifth 200-plus game that tied Eddie George's school record. He also leaped over 1995 Heisman Trophy winner George (3,768 yards) to second place on the school's career rushing list (3,812 yards) behind two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin (5,589). Barrett's 139 yards rushing that included three touchdowns would have given him bragging rights in almost any other game.
What's not hot?
The Ohio State punting game, but actually call it hot, chilling and cold, because Cameron Johnston was credited with one punt, for 56 yards. On his second try, he drew a roughing-the-punter penalty, which led to the Buckeyes' first touchdown drive, but also came precariously close to having that one blocked. On his third attempt, in the fourth quarter, the punt was partially blocked.
What went right?
The decision by Urban Meyer to send offensive coordinator and line coach Warinner to the press box. With Warinner and quarterbacks coach Tim Beck sitting side by side instead of communicating by headphones, and with Meyer in the loop, it was like adding synthetic blend motor oil to the play-calling machinery. Things went smoother and faster, all parties said, such as when Barrett was operating the offense in the hurry-up mode, especially on several series that helped turn the game OSU's way. Of course, the question is what took so long (it was game 12) to make the move?
Back to the drawing board
It's more like back to the record books as Meyer became the second coach in OSU history to win his first four games against Michigan. The other was Francis Schmidt, whose 1934-37 teams shut out Michigan four straight seasons. But then, the Wolverines shut out Ohio State in the next three, after which Schmidt had to find employment elsewhere (Idaho).
Nickel back and special-teams performer Damon Webb, playing in his home state, suffered a lower leg injury that knocked him from the game. But he was well enough to celebrate with the team afterward.
Linebacker Raekwon McMillan went down with a lower-leg injury as Michigan moved toward its only touchdown late in the first half. After McMillan was administered to and then helped from the field, a significant number of fans in the Michigan Stadium crowd booed, apparently assuming he was trying to slow the Wolverines' momentum. Like that's exactly what the OSU defense wanted: its Butkus Award finalist middle linebacker off the field at crunch time.
What about the D?
Joey Bosa's fourth-quarter sack, which knocked Jake Rudock from the game, and Bosa's tip and interception of a Wilton Speight pass a little later added the exclamation marks to a major effort by Ohio State's defense. The Buckeyes held Michigan to 57 yards rushing, and though the Wolverines did pass for 307, it turned to be of little consequence.
One week after seeing their bid for an undefeated regular season stepped on by Michigan State, the Buckeyes put their best foot forward in their final shot at swaying the College Football Playoff committee to give them a second look.
At least one upset will have to occur in a couple of conference title games this week (No.1 Clemson vs. North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast, No.2 Alabama vs. Florida in the Southeastern) for the Buckeyes to have a shot at making the final top four, but, hey, stranger things have happened.