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For much of the past two decades, Ohio State has overwhelmed Michigan in The Game. Every time the schools met, regardless of records, broadcast, or any other context, the wait gradually became an Ohio State victory.
Rash, maybe. Close, maybe. One way or another, however, the Buckeyes would celebrate when time expired. After all, they’ve pulled off a pair of at least seven-game winning streaks in this bitter but wildly lopsided streak over the past 20 years.
However, the most balanced rivalries tend to work in cycles.
And the power returns in favor of Michigan.
Perception can change quickly, but it’s certainly not an overnight thing. A win — as Michigan did in 2011, sandwiched between those long slips — breaks a streak, not a trend.
Just two years ago, for example, the showdown was called off due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. As unfair as the reaction was, there was festering anger that Michigan wanted nothing to do with the game in the midst of a generally awful year for the program.
The Wolverines were 2-4 that season and had lost eight straight games to OSU, including all five in Jim Harbaugh’s then-disappointing tenure.
Fast forward 12 months, and Michigan was in a significantly more competitive state. Still, while the 2021 Wolverines had a great offensive line and stellar defense, they hadn’t beaten OSU in ages. They hadn’t played a quarterback of the caliber of CJ Stroud. They hadn’t always excelled in attack, especially in red-zone opportunities.
Sounds like déjà vu, huh?
That result last November – a 42-27 triumph over Michigan – was essentially repeated on Saturday in the Wolverines’ 45-23 demolition of their bitter rivals.
Michigan has that great O line again. The defense replaced a few critical pieces very well. But the passing game regularly bogged down the attack, especially on red-zone opportunities.
Michigan’s calendar strength was considerably weak. Top point guards running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards have been questionable all week due to injuries. Additionally, the Buckeyes had home-court advantage in Columbus, where the Wolverines hadn’t won since 2000.
On paper, Michigan had every reason to lose.
But it’s clear that this isn’t the same program or coaching staff that couldn’t come up with answers for Ohio State and was put to death in 2018. Instead, this conversation was suddenly turned upside down.
Ohio State responded to last season’s loss by opening the checkbook of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, who oversaw a stellar defense for Oklahoma State in 2021. That move was nothing short of magnificent. all year, as evidenced by Ohio State’s rise to the top 10 defense.
But on Saturday, it just didn’t matter.
Michigan didn’t really present an explosive offense. As he entered the nation ninth on Saturday with 39.4 points per game, his offensive outbursts came against the likes of Colorado State, UConn and Hawai’i.
Steady and efficient, absolutely, but a unit averaging 1.8 yardage gains from 30+ yards (71st nationally) is objectively not a group of big players.
So, naturally, the Wolverines largely played without Heisman Trophy contender Blake Corum and had an incredible day despite his absence. They marked five touchdowns of more than 45 yards, matching their season total of such scores.
BFC Bleacher Report @BR_CFB
Michigan Attack DESTROYS Ohio State:
JJ McCarthy: 290 total YD, 4 total TD
Donovan Edwards: 22 rushes, 216 YDs, 2 TDs
Cornelius Johnson: 4 rec, 160 YD, 2 TD
A victory, again, can be an aberration. College football is weird sometimes, and talent doesn’t always win. Rivalries can put another twist on these bizarre results.
Two eruptions, however, send a message. The opinion is clear: We, not youare the team to beat.
Michigan won’t be around forever. This round will eventually come back in favor of Ohio State. Heck, we’re not promising the Wolverines will win in 2023 or dominate the series like Ohio State has for 20 years.
When the teams line up in Ann Arbor next November, the Buckeyes will have more questions to answer. Even though Michigan has a lesser record, Ohio State will be the program with the most to prove. It’s the nature of two emphatic results in a rivalry.
But for the moment, the future is only a hypothesis.
Welcome to your new reality, Ohio State. Michigan has become the Big Ten class.