Michigan vs. Ohio State: 10 Things We Learned from Buckeyes' Win over Wolverines
The Ohio State Buckeyes beat the No. 19 Michigan Wolverines 26-21 in Columbus Saturday afternoon, reclaiming the edge in the rivalry and securing the sixth undefeated season in school history.
12 and oh so good.
Braxton Miller and the offense kept things close in the first half while the defense shut Michigan down in the second to lift the Buckeyes past the Wolverines.
Because of Ohio State's postseason ban, the victory over Michigan will be the Buckeyes' final act in 2012. The coaching staff will now turn its attention to recruiting in preparation for a title run in 2013.
Before the book is closed on this year's campaign, though, here are 10 things we learned from Ohio State's 26-21 victory over Michigan.
1. The Buckeyes' will to win is bigger than their flaws.
Ohio State has struggled in a multitude of ways this year—from poor tackling on defense to finding playmakers outside of Braxton—but none of the weaknesses displayed throughout the season prevented the Buckeyes from achieving perfection.
Ohio State won big at times this year and ugly at others, but the undeniable fact about this team is that it was just a winner. Their undefeated season was in serious jeopardy multiple times, especially against Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan, but the Buckeyes made enough plays to claim a victory every single time.
2. Michigan's defense did all it could to keep the Wolverines in the game.
Put in bad positions almost every possession in the second half, Michigan's defense did a terrific job limiting Ohio State's offense to just six second-half points.
Five of Ohio State's seven second-half possessions started in Michigan territory, including two drives that started inside the Wolverines' 30-yard line, but the Buckeyes were only able to put up six points in the final two quarters of play.
After giving up 20 points in the first half, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison deserves a ton of credit for shutting Braxton Miller and the offense down in the second half.
3. Ohio State's defense was just a little bit better than Michigan's.
The Wolverines came into the game with the better defense, statistically speaking, but the Buckeyes proved they had the better defense on Saturday with their amazing second-half performance.
After giving up 219 yards and 21 points to Michigan in the first half, Ohio State's defense came out and stifled the Wolverines' attack in the second. Michigan gained just 60 yards and scored zero points in the second half. The Wolverines also turned the ball over three times (two fumbles, one interception) and failed to convert a fourth down attempt near midfield.
4. Michigan missed Fitzgerald Toussaint greatly against the Buckeyes.
After losing Toussaint to a season-ending ankle injury last week against Iowa, Michigan was challenged with facing the Buckeyes without its leading rusher.
Michigan's true running backs combined for just 14 yards on 10 carries against the Buckeyes. Toussaint rushed for 120 yards on just 20 carries against Ohio State in last year's 40-34 victory over the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor, and his playmaking ability was greatly missed by the Wolverines on Saturday.
5. Ohio State's defense adjusted to Denard Robinson in the second half.
Through 30 minutes of game action, it looked like Denard was going to torch the Buckeyes' defense for the second consecutive year.
The senior quarterback filled a new role in Michigan's offense after suffering an elbow injury against Nebraska. Denard lined up as a hybrid quarterback/halfback for the Wolverines, and he gave the Buckeyes fits to start the game.
Denard finished the half with 124 yards rushing on just six carries, including this ridiculous 67-yard touchdown run with less than a minute to play in the second quarter:
But in the second half, Robinson was completely shut down. The senior quarterback rushed for minus-two yards on four second-half carries, including a lost fumble in the third quarter.
6. Ohio State's offense isn't just The Braxton Miller Show anymore.
Through much of the season, Braxton Miller carried the Ohio State offense. Too much of the load was placed on his shoulders, and despite the perfect record, Urban Meyer desperately needed some playmakers to step up.
Running back Carlos Hyde and receiver Corey Brown answered the call. Those two were probably Ohio State's best players on offense last week, and they put together fantastic performances against the Wolverines this week.
Hyde rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, and Corey Brown caught eight passes for 95 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. Combined, Hyde and Brown accounted for 61 percent of Ohio State's offense against Michigan, including both touchdowns.
7. Some of the top recruits in the country got a show in the 'Shoe.
More than 40 of the top 2013 and 2014 recruits were on the sideline for the Michigan—Ohio State game Saturday, and it's safe to say they took in an incredible atmosphere.
Ohio State's victory over Michigan might be the gift that keeps on giving for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes, as some of those recruits were reportedly blown away on their visit:
Givler (@MarcGivlerBG) November 24, 2012
With no championship game or bowl to prepare for, Meyer and his coaching staff will turn their attention toward closing out the 2013 class while getting started on 2014.
8. Jim Tressel's presence was felt on and off the field during the game.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel joined other members of the 2002 Ohio State football team and was honored on the 10 year anniversary of their National Championship season.
The crowd exploded in applause when the team took the field, and Tressel got emotional when his former players hoisted him up on their shoulders:
His appearance got the crowd fired up, but it was the players Tressel recruited—namely the seniors on the team—that led the Buckeyes to a victory over Michigan.
9. Michigan took a step back this year.
After winning 11 games last year, including a 23-20 overtime victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, the Wolverines came into the season ranked No. 8 in the country and the favorites to win the Big Ten.
Michigan only managed eight wins against four losses during the regular season, failing to make the championship game for the second straight year.
Of course, three of their four losses came to teams that will likely finish the season ranked in the AP Top Five this year, and their other loss came to No. 14 Nebraska on the road. But none of Michigan's eight victories came against teams that are currently ranked in the Top 25, something that will have to change next year if Michigan wants to join college football's elite programs once again.
10. Braxton Miller deserves an invitation to the Heisman Ceremony this year.
Postseason ban or not, Braxton Miller deserves a trip to New York City as one of the three finalists for the Heisman Trophy.
All Miller did this year was throw for 2,039 yards and run for 1,271 more with 28 total touchdowns in leading the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 record.
If quarterback A.J. McCarron was considered a Heisman favorite with lesser numbers when Alabama was undefeated, there's no reason the same logic can't apply to Miller, who has been much more impressive this year.
It will be a shame if Miller is overlooked, because he is without a doubt one of the three best players in the country.
Follow David on Twitter @davidreg412
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