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Michigan outmuscled and outclassed Ohio State

One team was battered and bruised by the time The Game ended, and it wasn’t Michigan.

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images

Boxing analogies always work when it comes to the game of football.

At some point, a team has to endure some punches and stand tall. That’s exactly what Michigan was able to do in Columbus on Saturday. Ohio State got a few licks in during the first half, taking a 20-17 lead into the locker room. But it was Michigan who showed they were the more physical and well-conditioned team. And from a coaching perspective, Michigan was often a move ahead of Ohio State, landing decisive counters and haymakers.

Body blows, there were many. It was a day that Michigan ultimately dominated in the trenches. The Wolverines didn’t play tentatively, they attacked. In the early going Ohio State was trying to stop the run at all costs, and their gamble didn’t pay off. McCarthy hit on multiple deep balls and the passing game carried Michigan in the first half. Michigan’s rushing attack was neutralized in the first half to the tune of 10 yards, but the passing offense flourished with 204 yards and kept Michigan neck and neck with OSU.

In the second half, it was the rushing attack and the defense that really stepped up. Although Michigan didn’t have success from a yardage standpoint rushing in the first half, head coach Jim Harbaugh says that has a way to wear on a team by the second half. Ohio State looked worn down as the game progressed and inched closer to its conclusion. Michigan had 70 rushing yards in the third quarter and an astounding 172 in the fourth quarter. Donovan Edwards finished the day with 216 yards rushing and two touchdowns, McCarthy had a rushing touchdown of his own and rushed for 27 in all.

Michigan played complementary football on offense that can beat a team by land or by air. It’s clear they have enough weapons on offense, along with a downright tough-as-nails offensive line. The offensive line won the Joe Moore Award last season, which goes to the best o-line in the nation, and there’s every reason to think that award will be staying in Michigan’s weight room another year.

Defensively, there are not enough good things to say about what the unit was able to accomplish in Columbus. Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud, a Heisman frontrunner heading into The Game, did admirable things for his team in the first half and netted two great passing touchdowns to Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. However, Michigan was able to do what they’ve done all season long, be a first-class second half unit. Ohio State had 315 yards on offense in the first half, but just 177 in the second half. Ohio State was just 1-of-7 on third down in the second half, and Stroud threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter.

Michigan’s defense was relentless and multiple players stepped up in major ways. Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter is up for the Broyles Award, which goes to the best assistant in college football — he should win the award after what the defense accomplished in their triumph over Ohio State.

Harbaugh called it a locker room of heroes. It wasn’t just one or two guys who rose to the occasion, it was an entire team and the effort with which they played with. It was the coaches who put their players in the best situation to win from a schematic standpoint. The coaches trusted their players to execute and play with vigor and high energy. They let it rip.

As great as Michigan’s 42-27 win over Ohio State was in 2021 at Michigan Stadium, this is at least every bit as good of a sequel, this time at Ohio Stadium with a 45-23 win. A post-game scene where Michigan planted their flag on the “O” at midfield. What a scene, what a scene.

Legends were made. Just like Wolverines players in years past such as Hassan Haskins, Charles Woodson, Tim Biakabatuka, Jim Harbaugh, and countless others — players like J.J. McCarthy, Donovan Edwards, Cornelius Johnson, and Mike Sainristil will now forever be remembered in Michigan lore.

This isn’t living in the moment, this is calling it what it is — something special.

  • The 45-23 marked the first time since 2000 that the Wolverines have won in Columbus.
  • This is the first time in program history Michigan has won 12 games in back-to-back years.
  • J.J. McCarthy is the first quarterback in program history to win his first 11 career starts.

For years it was Ohio State that had Michigan’s number, now it’s getting to the point where most Michigan players haven’t experienced losing to Ohio State. Life can change in a hurry. The Buckeyes won’t be going away and they’ll always be a huge threat to Michigan — but this time around it was Michigan who outclassed and outmuscled Ohio State and move on to the Big Ten Championship versus Purdue.