For over 100 years, these two college football powerhouses have been facing off, whether for the number one ranking or just good old pride. It has truly become the cream of the crop of rivalries and one of the most anticipated games every season.
With all due respect to its past history, the latest chapter of this storied rivalry proved itself to be the best of them all because it had everything you look for in a classic story: Heroes, Villains, a timeless plot, and most importantly, high and intense drama and suspense.
Not only was this game important because of its past, but also for the future ramifications that was on the line for each team. With Michigan ranked second and Ohio State ranked third in the college football playoff rankings, this was a fight that would ultimately determine who would have a coveted spot in the playoff for the right to play and win the National Championship.
These were clearly the two best teams in the Big Ten conference and this day, they truly showed why.
Michigan got off to a great start as they used the ground and pound game to physically dominate the Buckeyes at the line of scrimmage, racking up yards on the ground, moving the chains and using it to set up easy pass and catches for starter Wilton Speight, who had been coming off a shoulder injury.
The Wolverines were ahead 17-7 by the middle of the third quarter off the strength of a Khalid Hill rushing touchdown at the goal line and an eight-yard receiving touchdown by Hill from Speight.
By this point in the game, the Buckeyes had been stifled offensively as their veteran Quarterback J.T. Barrett could barely complete a pass 8 yards down field and had no running lanes at all. With the designed QB run being a huge part of their offense this season, this was a huge problem for Ohio-State.
It wasn’t until late in the third, with 1:06 remaining, that the Buckeyes finally found pay dirt on the offensive side of the ball with Mike Weber cashing in at the goal line for a one yard score to cut the lead to 17-14. Despite this, Michigan still seemed to have complete control of the ball game heading into the fourth, but the Buckeyes had gained a little momentum.
The fourth quarter was a hard fought battle from the beginning to the end in typical Ohio State-Michigan fashion with jarring hits, shoulder pads cracking and tensions flaring up. Despite neither team scoring for the majority of the quarter, it was good, old-fashioned football that any fan would appreciate. On Ohio States final drive at the end of the quarter, they were able to find some holes in the secondary and Barrett was able to complete some clutch passes and finally get some running room, converting key third downs with his legs just enough to get into field goal position. With one second left, Senior kicker Tyler Durbin, who had missed a key chip shot earlier in the quarter, squeezed a kick just inside the left upright to tie the game as time expired.
And then came overtime… this is where the story reaches its climax.
This game went to two overtimes and each proved to be some of the best and most exciting football that we have seen all season.
Ohio State won the toss and elected to take the ball for the first possession of overtime. Despite their struggles all game offensively, they quickly and easily gained yardage against a gassed Wolverines defense and ran right through them. The drive was capped off by a seven yard Barrett touchdown run thanks to a huge hole created by the offensive line that Barrett could have walked through and scored. With the touchdown, and due to the overtime rules, Michigan had to score a touchdown to stay alive in the game and they delivered.
Michigan regained some of its offensive success it started the game with and grinded out a drive that ended with a spectacular throw and catch from Speight to wide receiver Amara Darboh who has been Michigan’s go-to-guy all season long. Speight threaded the needle with a low throw that was fit perfectly into a tight window in the secondary, and Darboh finished the job by diving down to catch it in traffic to tie the game.
With that score, the game went into a second overtime where the rules change a little. In the second overtime, it’s the first team to score a touchdown who wins the game. If a team kicks and makes a field goal, the opponent is awarded another opportunity to score themselves. If a touchdown is scored, the game is over.
Michigan started off with the ball and due to a quick three and out, had to settle for a field goal and rely on a defense that has done the job all season.
The one thing about this game though, is that that it usually never matters what each team has done all season because this is a completely different animal, and Ohio State proved that.
The Buckeyes took the field with the ball on Michigan’s 25-yard line, looking for one thing: Six points.
The drive started off with a J.T. Barrett five-yard run bringing it to second and five. On second down, Michigan got instant pressure on Barrett and sacked him for a four-yard loss, bringing it to third and nine yards and put Ohio State in the pressure cooker. On third down, Barrett completed a clutch pass to Curtis Samuel for eight yards to bring up the most important fourth down and most important call of the season.
Do you kick the field goal and live to see another play or do you go for it all?
In a game full of risky decisions by coach Urban Meyer, he continued the trend and went for the win by going for it.
In a controversial play, J.T. Barrett took the ball on a designed run and collided with a Michigan defender right at the first down line. With the referee’s spot at the 15- yard line, the Buckeyes were awarded a first down much to the disgust of Coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines who thought they had stopped them and won the game.
The very next play, Curtis Samuel took the ball on a sweep to the left side of the line, turned the corner and walked into the end zone, causing over 100,000 Ohio-State fans to roar in chorus and cementing their place in the college football playoff.
What an ending. What a game.
Where do you rank this game among the list of all time games in this rivalry? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3.