3 reasons why Michigan dominated Ohio State for 2nd straight year
It's the first time since 2000 that Michigan has won two straight games in the series, and the Wolverines clinched the Big Ten East for the second straight year with the victory.
Here are three reasons why the eight-point underdog Wolverines were able to overcome the absence of Blake Corum and stun their rivals yet again.
McCarthy went bananas
After getting steamrolled last season for 297 yards rushing in the loss to the Wolverines, Ohio State committed the last year and $1.9 million annually to new DC Jim Knowles to make sure that didn't happen again. The solution was to load the box and stop the Michigan running game, forcing quarterback J.J. McCarthy to beat them through the air. The former five-star recruit did exactly that, delivering on his massive potential in the biggest test of his career and justifying Harbaugh's decision to start him this season over Cade McNamara.
Michigan entered with the 98th-ranked passing attack in the country, opting to ride Corum and the nation's fifth-ranked run game most weeks. With the Heisman hopeful sidelined due to injury, McCarthy took advantage of man-to-man matchups outside to torch the Ohio State secondary. The talented sophomore connected on touchdown throws of 75 yards, 69 yards, and 43 yards.
The final numbers for McCarthy were 12 completions for 263 yards and three touchdowns through the air, plus another score on the ground. After McCarthy got Michigan the lead, it was time for the ground attack to take over, with Donovan Edwards filling in for Corum. The prized sophomore showed his breakaway speed with touchdown runs of 75 yards and 85 yards to finish with 216 yards on the ground.
Harbaugh took a great deal of heat for opting to go with McCarthy over McNamara after the latter took Michigan to the College Football Playoff last year. But the way McCarthy ran the offense on Saturday showed the decision was absolutely the right one for the Wolverines to reach their ceiling.
Day's Michigan problem
Ryan Day's record as Ohio State head coach against everyone other than Michigan is an incredible 44-3. However, with Saturday's loss, the 43-year-old dropped to 1-2 against Harbaugh and the Wolverines in his career.
After last year's win, Harbaugh dropped an absolutely nuclear quote about Day taking over Urban Meyer's program, rubbing salt in the wound for Michigan's first win in the series since 2011.
"Sometimes people are standing on third base, think they hit a triple, but they didn't," Harbaugh said, per Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com.
Saturday's result won't do anything to dispel Harbaugh's comments, as Ohio State lost by 20-plus points at home to the Wolverines for the first time since 1976.
Day's play-calling was questionable throughout the second half, especially his decision to punt on fourth-and-3 at midfield in the third quarter. The Buckeyes entered with the nation's top-ranked offense, but it was clear that Day didn't trust them throughout the second half. Michigan, on the other hand, went deep into its bag of tricks, including a tailback jump pass for a crucial third-down conversion in the third quarter.
With a winning percentage well over .900, Day is clearly a coach that virtually any program in the country would love to have. Unfortunately, at Ohio State, one is graded as much on their performance against Michigan as anything else. With the contest back at the Big House next year, Day is facing the Buckeyes' first three-game losing streak in the series since 1997.
Michigan defense stood tall when needed
Outside of a wind and rainstorm against Northwestern, only Notre Dame has held Ohio State's top-ranked offense under 40 points this season. That production had C.J. Stroud as the Heisman favorite entering today, but the Wolverines' stout defensive unit changed that narrative by the time the game ended in Columbus.
Stroud finished with 349 yards and two touchdowns, but it took him 48 attempts to reach that number. He was also intercepted twice by the opportunistic Wolverines. Stroud and the Buckeyes moved the ball well in the opening half at over six yards per play but were forced to settle for field goals on multiple occasions.
Michigan's halftime adjustments clearly confused both Day and Stroud, as the Ohio State attack looked like a shell of itself over the final 30 minutes. The Buckeyes punted the ball their first three possessions of the second half and only put three points on the board over the final two quarters. It's the first time this season that the Big Ten East program has failed to score double digits in the second half.
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