Things went definitively not as planned for Ohio State this weekend.
The Buckeyes were a win away from yet another Michigan conquest, a place in the Big Ten Championship Game and a potential College Football Playoff berth, but it all came crashing down in a crushing 15-point defeat to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Stocks are down in most categories for Ohio State, and this week’s report must relent that the Wolverines are enjoying sky-high status across the board.
Here’s a look at where things stand around the Big Ten and national landscapes as a whole as conference championship week approaches, even if the Buckeyes won’t be participating.
Perhaps no Wolverine needed the win more than the program’s head coach, who has often been made a college football laughing stock as a result of his 0-5 record against the Buckeyes, among other things. Jim Harbaugh finally got the monkey off his back on Saturday, and took some celebratory parting shots at Ryan Day in the process during his post-game press conference.
Now Michigan is just a win away from its first outright Big Ten title since 2003, which would stamp the Wolverines’ ticket to their first-ever College Football Playoff.
After the Buckeyes neutralized the pass-rushing threat of Purdue’s George Karlaftis a few weeks ago, the possibility that Aidan Hutchinson could make a major impact on The Game wasn't absolute leading into Saturday. But Hutchinson had a career day in the biggest game of the season, sacking C.J. Stroud three times to set Michigan’s all-time single-season sacks record before the end of the game.
The image of the Wolverine edger rusher blowing up and decleating Buckeye offensive lineman Thayer Munford on a bull rush will likely live on for quite some time, and is sure to be a clip that is replayed on loop when NFL Draft season approach.
Time to study the tape of the Hutchinson/Ojabo show pic.twitter.com/JYgC41ryaO— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) November 28, 2021
Kenneth Walker couldn’t run on the Buckeye defense, but Hassan Haskins made it look easy. The fourth-year Wolverine was Michigan’s offensive MVP on Saturday, churning his legs for 169 yards and a rivalry record five touchdowns on the ground. Haskins’ efforts were part of a 297-yard rushing performance from the Michigan run game as a whole, and with numbers like that, it’s no surprise that Ohio State couldn’t notch a ninth straight win against its archrival.
The Bearcats may not actually see their CFP ranking improve this week, as Michigan will likely take the Buckeyes’ spot at No. 2 and jump Fickell and company, but Cincinnati’s chances at making the playoff are looking increasingly realistic as the countdown to Selection Sunday has begun.
Cincinnati must handle business with a conference title win over Houston this week, but if that happens in conjunction with either a Georgia win over Alabama or a Baylor win over Oklahoma State, the Bearcats would likely find themselves competing for a chance to win it all.
Against all odds, it could be the Bearcats, and not the Buckeyes, representing the state of Ohio in the CFP this season.
Remember when Iowa went from No. 2-ranked team in the country to nearly falling out of the rankings after back-to-back losses? Somehow, some way, Kirk Ferentz and company have climbed their way out of that rut and into the Big Ten Championship Game during a roller coaster season in which they now stand just one win away from their first conference title since being co-champions with Michigan in 2004.
After using a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Nebraska on Friday (and with the help of a Wisconsin loss to Minnesota) the Hawkeyes will face the Wolverines for all the Big Ten marbles in Indianapolis next weekend.
Ohio State rivalry win streak
The Buckeyes’ series-high win streak over Michigan has come to an end at eight games, as Ohio State failed to extend that stretch to a ninth game that would’ve tied the longest run of dominance either team has ever possessed over the other during the rivalry. Michigan earned its first win in The Game in a decade, and will now own the bragging rights entering next year’s matchup in Columbus – the first since 2018.
Chaos in the tunnel between Ohio State & Michigan pic.twitter.com/HedljphBq1— Josh Pate (@LateKickJosh) November 27, 2021
Needless to say, anticipation for that contest will be higher than ever given the results of Saturday’s matchup.
Buckeye title hopes
There will be no championship hardware coming back to Columbus this season. At least, none that is particularly meaningful, as Ohio State will (in all likelihood) play in neither a Big Ten title game or a CFP semifinal for the first time since 2015.
A potential Rose Bowl rematch with Oregon would certainly provide the Buckeyes with enough incentive to bring their best effort to the postseason, but Ohio State’s four-year reign over the Big Ten, and its chance to make a third straight playoff, have both come to an end.
Ohio State run defense
For nine of Ohio State’s 12 regular season games this season, its ability to stop the run was the strength of the defense. In the Buckeyes’ two losses this season, its inability to stop the run may have been the chief cause of their demise. Entering Saturday, Ohio State hadn’t given up more than 113 yards on the ground to any team in the country since its loss to Oregon in Week 2. The Wolverines more than doubled that number in Ann Arbor, running it down the Buckeyes’ throat for 7.2 yards a pop.
The effort was so poor that Bryson Shaw called it “embarrassing” after the game, and Haskell Garrett issued a formal apology to fans on Sunday for his performance.
As much of a foregone conclusion as it seemed to many that Ohio State would get past Michigan to play in another Big Ten Championship Game, there may have been even more assumptions that Wisconsin would be the team coming out of the west. But the Badgers failed to clinch a title game berth too, falling to Minnesota, 23-13, to suffer their fourth defeat of the season and miss out on championship glory to cap off an up-and-down regular season run in 2021.
If you’re the misery loves company type, maybe you can take solace in the fact that Ohio State is not the only preseason top-five team to finish with more than one regular season loss this year. Lincoln Riley and the Sooners fell to Bedlam rival Oklahoma State, 37-33, as the Cowboys outscored Oklahoma 13-0 in the fourth quarter this weekend. Like the Buckeyes, the Sooners will not play in their conference title game next weekend, and will miss the CFP as well.