This, finally, was what Ohio State football was supposed to look like in 2018.
That such a dominating performance came against their archrivals, who were riding high and eager to complete what they called their Revenge Tour, made it all the sweeter.
Ohio State 62, Michigan 39.
The No. 10 Buckeyes head to the Big Ten championship game next Saturday in Indianapolis. If they beat Northwestern and are impressive in doing so, a spot in the College Football Playoff isn’t the pipe dream it seemed entering the weekend.
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Urban Meyer is now 7-0 as coach against Michigan, the last four against Jim Harbaugh. This was widely expected to be the year that the Wolverines beat Ohio State for the first time in Columbus since 2000. Instead, the 4½-point underdog Buckeyes (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) scored the most points No. 4 Michigan has ever surrendered in a non-overtime game.
Ohio State laid waste to the No. 1-ranked defense in the country, gaining 567 yards against a unit that had given up only 234.8 per game. The offensive line seldom allowed Michigan (10-2, 8-1) to pressure Dwayne Haskins Jr. Wide receivers continually took advantage of man-to-man coverage to get open, especially on crossing routes.
That’s a deadly combination for a quarterback like Haskins, who threw five touchdown passes in completing 19 of 30 passes for 318 yards. In the process, he set Big Ten records for passing yards in a season (4,003) and touchdown passes (41).
“I don’t know about (scoring) 62, but I knew we were going to come out and put on a show,” Haskins said. “I’m proud of how we played. It started with the O-line, and the playmakers made plays.”
Freshman Chris Olave caught a pair of 24-yard touchdowns for the first two Buckeyes scores and then made perhaps the biggest play of the game with a blocked punt that Sevyn Banks returned 33 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. That gave Ohio State a 34-19 lead. Michigan never got closer.
The Buckeyes’ much-maligned defense also did its part, the point total notwithstanding. Aside from five pass-interference penalties, Ohio State forced Michigan’s offense to earn almost every yard. The Buckeyes didn’t allow a gain longer than 24 yards until the outcome was well in hand.
Linebackers were active and disciplined. Ohio State’s pass rush was disruptive. After Banks’ touchdown, the Buckeyes chased Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson out of the pocket, and he lobbed an ill-advised pass intercepted by Jordan Fuller at the Michigan 22-yard line. The Buckeyes scored in two plays, and the rout was on.
“There’s not a selfish bone in anybody on this defense,” defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones said. “We know we’ve struggled and we understand that. We’re not going to be a perfect defense. But every week, every game, there’s a chance to improve.”
From the start, it looked like a different Buckeyes team than the one that has been so inconsistent throughout this season.
The Buckeyes went 57 yards for a touchdown on their first possession and built a 14-6 lead in the second when Olave made a nifty play to stay inbounds after his catch.
When Haskins connected with a wide open Johnnie Dixon for a 31-yard score with just over 3 minutes left before halftime for a 21-6 lead, the Buckeyes looked like they might make this a rout early.
Instead, Michigan scored two touchdowns in 6 seconds. Patterson capped a 79-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Nico Collins with 47 seconds left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, the ball clanked off Demario McCall and Michigan recovered at the 9. Patterson threw to uncovered running back Chris Evans on the next play for a touchdown.
Such a quick reversal could have doomed some teams. But the Buckeyes are nothing if not resilient, given the adversity they’ve had to face all season beginning with Meyer’s three-game suspension.
Harbaugh elected to go for the tie with a two-point conversion after Evans’ touchdown, but defensive end Jonathon Cooper sacked Patterson. Ohio State then drove to the Michigan 2 before settling for a field goal that made it 24-19 at halftime.
Then the Buckeyes dominated the second half.
“Extremely proud of our players, the way they’ve fought through it,” Meyer said. “Obviously, (we had) big-time adversity. And to come back against your rival and play like that, that’s a focused team that loves each other and cares about each other.”