Sunday, November 25, 2012
3 Up, 3 Down: Ohio State 26, Michigan 21
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A few things Ohio State will feel good about and some issues that could have potentially kept them from finishing off a perfect season with a 26-21 win over rival Michigan on Saturday afternoon:
1. Mission accomplished: The Buckeyes could have let adversity and the lack of a postseason ahead of them affect them any number of times this season, and there was no shortage of potential distractions against the Wolverines, either. But time after time, first-year coach Urban Meyer and Ohio State rallied around each other and found a way to get the job done -- and the perfect campaign they just finished won't be forgotten any time soon. It also provides a pretty good springboard into Meyer's second season, which won't include a postseason ban.
2. Air raid: The combination of Michigan's statistically elite passing defense and Braxton Miller's inconsistent performances through the air this season wasn't supposed to be a good matchup for the Buckeyes. And while the rushing attack still paced Ohio State, Miller turned in perhaps his most efficient outing with his arm all season in completing 14 of his 18 attempts for 189 yards and a touchdown. Miller also showed some maturity in throwing the ball away on a couple occasions, ending his second season as a starter clearly a better quarterback than when it started.
Ohio State's C.J. Barnett (center) celebrates his interception with teammates as Michigan coach Brady Hoke looks on.
3. Clean sheet: The first half against the Wolverines looked just like the first half of the season on the defensive side of the ball. An important starter was banged up, there was a blown coverage in the secondary and a couple missed tackles led to a long touchdown that gave Michigan a lead. But the second half was a reflection of both the in-season and in-game adjustments the Buckeyes have made, getting key contributions off the bench in place of John Simon, bottling up the rushing game and never allowing the Wolverines to string together drives while shutting them out for the last two quarters of the season.
1. Trophy talk: Miller kept his composure and provided one more dynamic outing in a win, though his numbers again weren't all that head-turning. That will likely bring an end once and for all to the discussion about him winning the Heisman Trophy in his sophomore season, though he remains a deserving candidate and worthy of an invitation to New York for the ceremony given his importance and high-level play for an undefeated, unofficial Big Ten champion.
2. Saying goodbye: John Simon poured his usual tireless work ethic into rehabilitation and recovery instead of practice this week, but it wasn't enough to get the senior on the field for one last game with the program. Considering all he's given to the Buckeyes as a two-time captain and a playmaker on the defensive line, it was a shame Simon couldn't put the pads on one last time against the Wolverines -- though he still got to soak in a huge ovation after getting introduced last and limping out on his injured knee just before kickoff.
3. Seeing yellow: The Buckeyes weren't perfectly focused on either side of the ball, which is to be expected when the bad blood is flowing in a rivalry game. And while their nine penalties for 74 yards didn't cost them a perfect season, it could have with flags coming at inopportune times, extending drives and giving the Wolverines three free first downs. There's no need to really address that with the season over now, but Meyer will certainly expect more discipline in big games down the line.