There were a couple of standout performers from The Game this past weekend, but for Ohio State as a whole it was, obviously, a week that saw a lot of stocks decline.
Michigan defeated the Buckeyes 30-24 in Ann Arbor with an interim head coach on its sideline, furthering the narratives of the past few years in the rivalry and all but securing a berth in the College Football Playoff, a tournament Ohio State will miss unless some true chaos happens.
The Buckeyes didn’t get the consistency they needed from their offensive line or the second-half stops they needed on defense after falling behind early against the Wolverines. Around the country, a number of instant classics came as a result of the regular season’s final weekend.
Credit where credit is due, Michigan proved that, even without Connor Stalions, it has one of the best teams in college football this year. J.J. McCarthy made some fantastic plays and the Wolverines’ defense held the Buckeyes in check enough times to keep them playing from behind.
One of the few bright spots for Ohio State against Michigan was Trayanum, its backup running back. Entering The Game with an average of just 4.3 yards per carry, Trayanum picked up 37 yards on six attempts against the Wolverines, showing a downhill style that proved productive whenever he spelled TreVeyon Henderson.
Hall quietly had perhaps the best game of his season against Michigan. He provided consistent interior pressure against McCarthy, forcing him into the arms of Jack Sawyer for a sack on one play. He also collected four tackles.
Liberty is making a case to steal the Group of Five New Year’s Six bowl bid from one-loss Tulane as the season winds down. The No. 25 Flames bested UTEP 42-28 to cap an undefeated season, the only non-Power Five school to finish the regular season undefeated. Liberty will take on New Mexico State in the Conference USA Championship Game this Saturday while Tulane gets SMU in the American Athletic Conference Championship. If both win, it will then be up to the CFP selection committee to choose between the two schools.
There were many thrills to be had across college football during rivalry week this year. No. 4 Washington and Washington State came down to a field goal of difference in the Apple Cup, No. 5 Florida State trailed Florida 15-14 entering the fourth quarter before pulling out a 24-15 win and No. 17 Iowa beat Nebraska 13-10 on a last-second field goal in a game that featured two interceptions in the final 31 seconds.
Perhaps none saw a more wild finish than the Iron Bowl between No. 8 Alabama and Auburn. Following a botched snap and an illegal forward pass, the Crimson Tide faced a 4th-and-goal at the 31-yard line with 43 seconds remaining, trailing 24-20. Quarterback Jalen Milroe lobbed one last heave to wide receiver Isaiah Bond, who hauled in a spectacular touchdown catch to pull victory from the jaws of defeat for Alabama.
Ohio State’s standing in the rivalry
For the first time since 1995-97, the Buckeyes have lost three games in a row to Michigan. It feels like an age ago since Ohio State was in the midst of an eight-game winning streak against the Wolverines from 2012-19.
Defense in the second half
Ohio State has been able to take control of games with its defense this year, and one doesn’t have to look much further than the Buckeyes’ effort holding Penn State to 1-of-16 on third down for evidence of that. That wasn’t the case against Michigan, who scored on each of its four possessions of the second half where it wasn’t kneeling out the clock.
The second half highlighted what has been an inconsistent front five all season for Ohio State. On one hand, the Buckeyes smashed through Michigan with eight consecutive runs for their first second-half touchdown. On the other, down six with time dwindling, Donovan Jackson was run over by Michigan defensive end Jaylen Harrell, who hit quarterback Kyle McCord as he threw and created a game-sealing interception for the Wolverines. It was one of several pass protection breakdowns, and OSU averaged a mere 3.1 yards per carry on the ground in the first half.
The Cardinals are going to play for an ACC championship this week, but their performance in the team’s rivalry game against Kentucky didn’t inspire a ton of confidence going into its matchup with No. 4 Florida State, even if the Seminoles don’t have starting quarterback Jordan Travis. Louisville fell 38-31 to the unranked Wildcats, dropping it from No. 9 to No. 15 in the AP Poll.
Feelings around Ohio State’s program for the next year
It’s going to be a long, loud offseason in Columbus that will require a lot of self-reflection unless Ohio State miraculously makes the CFP and rights the wrongs of the past few seasons. Our own Chase Brown broke down the looks in the mirror that will need to be had for the Buckeyes in the coming months.