Ohio State is one win away from the College Football Playoff after defeating rival Michigan 56-27 on Saturday at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
The Buckeyes, who sit first in the CFP rankings, finished the regular season 12-0 and earned their eighth straight win over the Wolverines. Michigan dominated the rivalry throughout the 1990s but has won just three times since the 2000 season.
Justin Fields briefly left the game in the third quarter after teammate Luke Farrell fell onto his left knee. Fields returned on the same possession and threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson.
Ohio State rolled the Michigan defense to the tune of 577 yards as the Wolverines had no answer for the combination of Fields and J.K. Dobbins.
- Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State: 14-of-25, 302 yards, four touchdowns; six carries 25 yards
- J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State: 31 carries, 211 yards, four touchdowns; two receptions, 49 yards
- Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State: three receptions, 118 yards, one touchdown
- Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State: two receptions, 68 yards, one touchdown
- Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan: 18-of-43, 305 yards, one touchdown, one interception
- Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan: 12 carries, 78 yards, one touchdown; one reception, nine yards
- Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan: three receptions, 69 yards, one touchdown
J.K. Dobbins Runs Over Michigan Defense
Entering Saturday, Michigan was allowing 105.9 yards per game on the ground, 13th-best in FBS. Dobbins nearly matched that total through the first half, having run for 103 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Michigan hadn't allowed three rushing touchdowns to one player in the first half since Vince Young in the 2005 Rose Bowl. The Wolverines tried just about everything to slow him down.
Michigan didn't play that poorly in the first half, yet it was staring at a 12-point deficit in large part because of Dobbins.
That set the stage for Fields to take over in the second half. All three of his passing touchdowns came in the final two quarters as the Buckeyes pulled away.
At this point, the Heisman Trophy may be LSU quarterback Joe Burrow's to lose. The Ohio State transfer is first in ESPN's Heisman Watch, ahead of Chase Young and Fields. Between his final numbers and reentering the game in the third quarter, Fields did his best Saturday to make things interesting.
Michael David Smith @MichaelDavSmith
What a stud Justin Fields is. Crazy QB talent at Ohio State. Joe Burrow transfers to LSU because Dwayne Haskins is ahead of him on the depth chart, Haskins leaves to be a first-round draft pick, now Fields vs. Burrow is the most likely national championship game matchup.
Bonnie Bernstein @BonnieBernstein
Every time Justin Fields does something that defies logic (like coming off the bench after an injury, in a knee brace, and scrambling to his left to throw a TD with pinpoint precision)... ... somewhere, a Georgia fan simulates the smh emoji. 🤦♀️ #OSUvsMICH #Buckeyes
Looking ahead to the playoff, finishing first could carry added significance because it could put off a potential matchup with Clemson until the national championship. Ohio State did nothing Saturday to warrant a drop in the playoff rankings.
Jim Harbaugh Still Looking for 1st Win Against OSU
Ohio State won 158 games and claimed a share of the Big Ten title three times in John Cooper's 13 years as head coach. Ask Buckeyes fans what they remember about Cooper's tenure and two things will likely come up the most: the team's 1997 Rose Bowl win and Cooper's 2-10-1 record against Michigan.
For many, the latter symbolized Cooper's inability to get the program back to a national championship level.
The same thing may be happening for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.
Harbaugh is likely to face questions about his decision to kick a 23-yard field goal on fourth down with 19 seconds left in the first half. After Quinn Nordin split the uprights, Michigan trailed by two scores, 28-16, with Ohio State getting the ball to open the second half. K.J. Hill caught a six-yard touchdown pass to help put the Buckeyes ahead 35-16.
When he took the job, Harbaugh knew how the Wolverines' performance against Ohio State would serve as a barometer for his success or failure on the sidelines. In year five of the Harbaugh era, little has changed from his first season.
Recruiting is often a reliable indicator as to whether a team can mount a serious national championship challenge. Looking ahead to 2020, Ohio State has assembled the fourth-best class in 247Sports' composite team rankings, with Michigan sitting in 12th.
It wouldn't appear the general gulf between the Buckeyes and Wolverines will get any closer this time next season.
Ohio State will play the winner of Wisconsin vs. Minnesota in the Big Ten title game on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis. Michigan awaits its bowl invitation, and the Wolverines still have an opportunity to earn 10 wins for the fourth time in Harbaugh's five seasons as head coach.