The balance of power in the Big Ten East once again resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Third-ranked Michigan defeated No. 2 Ohio State 45-23 in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday.
Coming out of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Jim Harbaugh looked like a lame duck. Now, the Wolverines head coach has two straight victories over Ohio State and might have his team in the College Football Playoff for the second successive season.
Harbaugh also outclassed counterpart Ryan Day, utilizing a new plan of attack to pick apart the OSU defense. Michigan adopted a ground-and-pound approach in 2021, finishing with 297 rushing yards. That wasn't an option Saturday with running back Blake Corum suiting up but clearly limited by his knee injury. Instead, it was quarterback J.J. McCarthy's time to shine.
Tom VanHaaren @TomVH
That drive for Michigan took 7 minutes 51 seconds off the clock. <br><br>JJ McCarthy is now the first player with three passing TDs and one rushing TD against Ohio State since Tajh Boyd did it in 2014 per <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNStatsInfo</a>
The sophomore finished 12-of-24 for 263 yards and three touchdowns and added 27 yards and one score on the ground. He routinely found success with deep throws, identifying a weakness within the Buckeyes secondary.
FOX College Football @CFBONFOX
ANOTHER BIG PLAY FOR THE TOUCHDOWN! 🔥 😤 <a href="https://twitter.com/UMichFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@UMichFootball</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/colstonlovelan1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@colstonlovelan1</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/jjmccarthy09?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@jjmccarthy09</a> <a href="https://t.co/N5nlJ7ejbz">pic.twitter.com/N5nlJ7ejbz</a>
Whatever happens from here, McCarthy wrote his name into program lore with this performance.
McCarthy's influence waned as the game entered its final stages, with Donovan Edwards taking over. Edwards' touchdown runs of 75 and 85 yards in the fourth quarter were an exclamation point on an emphatic result.
It was easy to chalk up Ohio State's loss to Michigan in 2021 as a bit of a one-off and reflective of issues with last year's team. Now, the momentum in this rivalry has clearly shifted back to the Wolverines, and the Buckeyes are the ones with glaring structural flaws.
This version of McCarthy was sorely lacking in Michigan's one-sided semifinal defeat to Georgia a season ago. Assuming Harbaugh's squad captures the Big Ten crown, the outcome could be different if it gets another crack at the Bulldogs.