Michigan tried its best to play spoiler on Saturday, but a late-game interception doomed the Wolverines’ hopes of upsetting No. 9 Ohio State and shaking up the Big Ten a week before its conference title game.
Michigan got the ball back with 2:47 remaining after Ohio State missed a field goal. Down 24-20, the Wolverines had a chance to pull ahead by a field goal—and eat up much of the remaining clock in the process. Going into the day with a 5-6 record against ranked teams while at Michigan—and a 1-6 mark against those in the top 10—coach Jim Harbaugh had a chance to shift the narrative on his performance in big games. Instead, quarterback John O’Korn threw an interception on an errant pass on the first throw of Michigan’s drive.
With that, Ohio State scored its fourth touchdown of the afternoon en route to a 31-20 win. Harbaugh’s record against top-10 teams fell to 1-7, the only victory coming last year over No. 8 Wisconsin in Ann Arbor. Most importantly, though, Ohio State will now go into next week’s Big Ten title game with a chance at a playoff berth.
Had the Buckeyes been upset, they’d have still played Wisconsin in the championship game. An Ohio State win would have likely kept the Big Ten out of the playoff. Now, the winner next week is almost guaranteed a spot among college football’s final four teams—and the Big Ten will earn a playoff berth for the fourth time.
The game Saturday was close throughout; Michigan went up 14-0, but once Ohio State scored its first touchdown in the second quarter, neither team took more than a one-score lead until that post-interception Buckeyes touchdown in the fourth quarter. With the win, J.T. Barrett became the first Ohio State quarterback to go 4-0 against Michigan, although he left the game in the third quarter when a long-standing meniscus injury flared up. Barrett didn’t put up big numbers before exiting. He completed three of eight passes for 30 yards and a touchdown. His backup, redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins, was the force behind the Buckeyes pulling away. As Ohio State determines Barrett’s status for the Big Ten title game, it should be comforted in knowing that its No. 2 signal-caller has what it takes to win in the highest-pressure scenarios.
In his sixth season at Ohio State, Urban Meyer remains undefeated against Michigan, effectively reducing the longtime rivalry into a one-sided affair. Harbaugh has turned a struggling Michigan program into one that’s consistently ranked, but his performance in meaningful games has left something to be desired for a fan base that expects results like Ohio State’s—playoff berths and New Year’s Six bowls—but hasn’t consistently achieved them.