Phil Callihan and Clint Derringer discuss Michigan’s 56-27 loss to Ohio State, what Michigan needs to do to beat the Buckeyes, the apparent departure of Tarik Black, and discuss what a Michigan victory over Alabama would mean for the program.
Final Score: 56-27, Ohio State by 29 over Michigan SP+ Projection: Ohio State by 11.0 (-18.0) CD Projection: Michigan by 3 (-32)
WEEK 14 RECAP vs. Ohio State
This became another version of The Game that looked a lot like Michigan-Ohio State games of this generation. The Wolverines came out strong and scored on their first drive. They stood toe-to-toe through the first quarter at 14-13. But, as the 2nd quarter and 3rd quarter wore on, Ohio State continued to execute and make big plays. Michigan ran out of steam and looked hapless as the Buckeyes pulled away.
The offensive game plan provided a solid foundation for Michigan on the day. However, the Buckeyes’ #1 defense gave the Wolverines a dose of their own medicine by choking them out after halftime. The Wolverines could only muster 111 total yards against the smothering OSU defense in the 3rd and 4th quarters combined. Plays were available to be made, especially in the 3rd quarter, but too many of Shea Patterson’s passes hit the wide receivers and then hit the turf. As the clock turned to the 4th quarter, Michigan had completed just one pass in the 3rd frame. While Michigan’s 39% success rate is only slightly below average, looking at it by quarter is more telling: 53% (1st) 47% (2nd) 29% (3rd) 30% (4th).
While Michigan sputtered in the second half, Ohio State kept rolling. The Buckeyes scored 14 points in each quarter by staying true to their identity. JK Dobbins was explosive running the ball, and Justin Fields repeatedly hit deep shots through the air. OSU matched Michigan’s hot start with a 57% success rate and 8.4 yards per play in the 1st quarter. Unlike the Wolverines offense, Ryan Day and his staff had the next round of answers for their opponents’ in game adjustments. The Buckeyes’ 7.5 yards per play will likely send Jim Harbaugh’s staff back to the drawing board. That is the most Michigan allowed per play all season, including the early season blow out in Madison (6.9 YPP).
This puts the final stamp onto a frustrating season for Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines football program. With the experience and talent returning from 2018, this team had their eyes set on much loftier goals. The goals are the correct ones. To achieve those championship goals, this program needs to execute in big games. There is nothing to do at this point but get back to work.
Michigan finished up the road portion of their regular season schedule with an impressive 39-14 disassembly of the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington.
NEXT UP: vs. Ohio State: 1st, 36.2
PREGAME SP+: Ohio State by 11.0, Michigan Win Probability 26% The Buckeyes’ SP+ rating score (36.2) is 59% higher than #10 Michigan’s (22.7). On the other hand, Michigan has beaten the SP+ projected margin in 8 consecutive games. The Wolverines have outperformed the projected margin by an average of 14.5 points since Week 4 @ Wisconsin, and by an average of 21.4 since Week 8 @ Penn State.
Michigan Offense (26th) vs. Ohio State Defense (1st) With just under 5:00 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Ohio State’s Sevyn Banks returned a blocked punt for a touchdown to increase the 2018 Buckeyes’ lead over Michigan to 15 points 34-19. This is the moment the wind left the sails for the Wolverines and for the fan base. With 19+ minutes remaining in game time, I did not believe the Michigan offense would be able to change gears to the hurry-up passing attack necessary to come from behind. That need to be able to change gears on offense, I believe, led to the January 10th hiring of Josh Gattis as offensive coordinator. The early season transition costs were steeper than I predicted, and a Big Ten Championship berth is not possible. However, those transition costs were absorbed to buy the chance for success in this game vs. Ohio State. In that regard, Gattis and Jim Harbaugh have this unit peaking at the right time with added flexibility to exploit scoring opportunities against the Buckeyes.
Michigan Defense (5th) vs. Ohio State Offense (5th) Like Harbaugh and Gattis, Don Brown and his staff designed a sharp transition triggered by the 2018 Ohio State game. The defensive evolution also came with significant cost. Wisconsin exploited major mistakes in the run game in Week 4, and Penn State did so through the air in Week 8. But, as October turned into November the Michigan defense re-emerged as a top-tier unit. The Wolverines drowned Notre Dame in a first-half rain storm and the Irish could only muster 180 total yards. Indiana’s passing attack leads the Big Ten in 2019, but barely crept over 200 yards passing last week versus Michigan. Don Brown does not have to be perfect in this game, but he will have to utilize every tool in his belt to bottle up JK Dobbins and Justin Fields on standard downs. If Michigan can force the Buckeyes into passing downs (2nd & 8+ or 3rd/4th & 5+), the Wolverines’ speed personnel can attack Ohio State from all angles.
PREDICTION: The Wolverines and Buckeyes share 3 SP+ top-25 opponents: Wisconsin, Penn State, and Indiana. Michigan’s resume also includes victories over 2 more: Iowa and Notre Dame. I believe this particular version of The Game sets up much more evenly than most analysts. The Wolverines are averaging 26.8 points in 5 games against current SP+ top-25 defenses. The 4 top-25 offenses have scored an average of 22.8 points against Michigan’s defense. Ohio State is better than those other teams, but this isn’t the same Michigan team either. Michigan 30 Ohio State 27 (PRESEASON Michigan 37 Ohio State 33)
Final Score: 39-14, Michigan by 25 over Indiana SP+ Projection: Michigan by 2.4 (+22.6) CD Projection: Michigan by 14 (+11)
WEEK 13 RECAP @ Indiana
Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines maintained focus through the week. Many folks had this game circled on the schedule because it was: 1) on the road 2) against an Indiana team who gives Michigan trouble annually and 3) squeezed in between two rivalry games versus Michigan State and Ohio State. Kudos to the coaching staff for keeping the players on task. The players really executed at a high level in varying weather conditions on the road against the Hoosiers.
Finally, Nico Collins had his day. The junior wide receiver hauled in 6 passes for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns. When the ball went in Collins’ direction and he didn’t catch it, there was likely a pass interference call on the defender. He is a dominant weapon for Josh Gattis, and it seems like everyone has finally discovered that fact. Shea Patterson followed up his first 300+ yard passing game with a second one a week later. Patterson had 366 yards and 5 touchdowns to Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Ronnie Bell. Michigan’s 7.8 yards per play is their most explosive mark of 2019, and the most since Week 2 of 2018 vs. WMU.
The Indiana Hoosiers have continually given Michigan problems, and their 2018 game plan was the kindling for Ohio State’s bonfire in The Game last season. The 2019 game in Bloomington started in the same mold with Indiana scoring touchdowns on 2 of their first 3 drives. Then, the defensive staff made their adjustments and forced 5 consecutive punts and forced a fumble over the next 6 drives. During garbage time, the Hoosiers were able to eclipse 300 total yards, and also managed 4.8 yards per play on the day. There may be a few issues to work out in the defensive film room this week, but it feels like there are plenty of tricks left in Don Brown’s bag for the Buckeyes next week.
Ohio State clinched the Big Ten East with their 28-17 victory over Penn State in Columbus earlier today. On Tuesday night, the Bucks may be consensus #1 in the country in the AP poll, the Coaches’ poll, and the College Football Playoff rankings. Ryan Day will lead OSU to Indianapolis to compete for a Big Ten title regardless of what happens in Ann Arbor. Jim Harbaugh has led an impressive bounce back after an awful start to the Big Ten season. In terms of Big Ten titles, this team’s slow building improvement is too little too late. However, in terms of 2019 season success and Harbaugh era legacy, the Wolverines have everything to play for. The 2019 version of The Game will come down to which team’s players will rise to the occasion and show they want it more. Big time players make the critical plays in the biggest games. #BeatOhio