I’ve got no personal investment in the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry, but I’ve got enough friends and colleagues who do and, more importantly, I respect a good old-fashioned mutual loathing steeped for generations. For many of the seniors who played in and attended today’s 107th installment of this game, they had never known a world where a Maize and Blue team had gone into the Horseshoe, the massive Ohio Stadium in modestly beautiful Columbus, and beaten the Buckeyes. Indeed, Michigan had not won a road game in this century, and prior to last year had lost eight consecutive games to OSU in all.
But this afternoon, before a disbelieving partisan crowd, the #3 Wolverines stunned the #2 Buckeyes 45-23, all but punching their ticket to their second consecutive College Football Playoff semifinals (assuming, of course, they can beat Purdue in next week’s Big Ten championshipn game). And as the AP’s Mitch Stacy reported, they did so convincingly:
Behind career-performance by J.J. McCarthy and Donovan Edwards, the Wolverines (12-0, 9-0, No. 3 CFP) advance to the Big Ten championship next Saturday against Purdue, with hopes for a second straight playoff appearance firmly in their control.
Maybe the biggest hero was McCarthy, who threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score. Edwards busted the game open with two long fourth-quarter TD runs.
McCarthy, the second-year quarterback who won the starting job from incumbent Cade McNamara early in the season, came up huge when Michigan needed it most. McCarthy passed for 263 yards and didn’t commit a turnover.
McCarthy’s previous longest pass completion this season was 42 yards, but against the Buckeyes he threw three touchdown passes of at least 45 yards, the most scoring passes of 45 or more in the history of the 105-game series.
He connected on scoring passes of 69 and 75 yards to Cornelius Johnson in the first half, then hooked up with Colston Loveland in the second half for 45 yards and the freshman tight end’s first career touchdown reception.\
All may not be lost for OSU. As a one-loss team, and still featuring a likely top draft pick in quarterback C.J. Stroud, they could still sneak into the final four depending upon how the conference championships pan out. But for true fans, the fact they lost this one won’t necessarily be assuaged by any action on New Year’s Day. The feelings expressed earlier this morning on College Football Gameday by ESPN’s (and Michigan alum) Desmond Howard may have been a bit extreme, but they essentially channel the emotion attached:
When you put so much effort, so much attention, there’s so much at stake in this game, and you come up short again, especially in the Shoe, that’s when your fan base, they go against you,” Howard said.
Here’s more of what he had to say, via Eleven Warriors:
This media down here, man, they can be treacherous. You got to watch the emphasis you put on a game like this. Because if you stumble and lose… things will get hot. They may go over there to FOX and snatch Urban Meyer.”
Well, for the moment, the disgraced Meyer remains in the FOX family, as Day is still 45-5 in his stint as OSU coach. And, to be sure, Wolverine coach Jim Harbaugh suffered through five consecutive losses, and plenty of clamorings by the likes of Howard, to turn in his clipboard after each painful defeat. The emotion expressed by Harbaugh last year when he finally broke through was dramatic. Today, he is likely feeling vindication, and perhaps just a shred of empathy for Day.
Hail to the victors valiant. Hail to the conquering heroes. Hail, hail to Michigan.