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They always say “there’s a reason you play the games,” and it’s not to insinuate that you’re doing so just because it appears on the schedule and it’d be a logistics nightmare to not do so.
Mostly it refers to a player or group of players being completely out-manned but still bringing their rag-tag group within enough of a striking distance to be legendary. But the reason you play and the reason we watch is because sometimes, stuff happens — sad, great, indifferent, or otherwise.
Ohio State beat Michigan in a game that was significantly less lopsided than the score would indicate. #GameControl, or whatever. The story goes like this: Ohio State won something; Ohio State lost something possibly greater; Michigan lost something; Michigan probably lost something greater.
First, the Buckeyes scuttle on to the Big Ten Championship Game in some sort of shock after losing quarterback J.T. Barrett, the replacement for Heisman Trophy contending senior Braxton Miller, to a lower leg injury. Ohio State was left in a 7-point game (though leading) with third-string quarterback Cardale Jones left to man the offense despite a lack of playing time. Urban Meyer deftly placed offensive athlete Jalin Marshall behind center a few times, if only to mess with Michigan’s minds.
Barrett lay oddly resolute on the turf after his injury, emotionless and knowing the gravity of his injury immediately but unwilling to show the slightest of pain. Barrett and the fate of the playoff-potentially bound Bucks took a sharp turn when he was rolled up into the pile on a mostly innocuous second-down play in the fourth quarter, trying to fight for extra yards. After that, you saw what makes Ohio State great this year.
Michigan got the ball and got on a little bit of a roll. Wide receiver/running back/hybrid back Dennis Norfleet missed a hole and Michigan’s drive stalled. Moments later, Meyer faced a choice: boot the ball back to Michigan at midfield or go for it on fourth and one.
Either would have been acceptable. Michigan’s offense had stalled badly since tying the game at 21 when running back Drake Johnson went down with a knee injury on the score. Pinning Michigan deep would have been forgivable, but Meyer decided to go for the throat, and it ended in a chasm of a hole that Ezekiel Elliott ran through to pay dirt.
Michigan started being Michigan again, bumbling around giving the ball to the guys in the wrong colors, and that was all she wrote.
It’ll be interesting to see how the playoff committee views these Buckeyes now, mostly scuffling about the joint like a guy in the bar with a stiff buzz trying to find out where the bathroom is on defense through three quarters against Michigan’s. previously impotent offense. After Barrett’s injury, the Bucks seemed galvanized. Whether that means they understood the urgency of the moment or if that can carry forward next week and beyond bears wondering.
We know this about elite injuries with the committee thus far this year: the committee doesn’t seem to care much. Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell suffered a brutal injury against Auburn, and it seemingly will take the disbanding of Ole Miss football to get the Rebels out of the top 25.
Either way, you win The Game, you feel good — this is true whether it’s to play for something more or just haggle on about bragging rights for another year. Still, part of Ohio State maybe lost today somewhere other than the scoreboard.
For Michigan, there’s not much to say. The Wolverines came out again a game bunch in spite of being severely overmatched, both on the field and especially on the sidelines. There’s an old saying though about water finding its level, and that means when you’re struggling at something, keep plugging … or it means that if someone’s playing out of their backside, it won’t last forever.
Surely for Michigan, “forever” came pretty abruptly.
What Michigan lost more than The Game was whatever added sense of stability the Wolverines were still stashing under the cushions of the couch in the event payday is still a few days away and they still need a 12 pack.
Michigan will be moving on from Brady Hoke, and there’s a lasting image for those who stuck around long enough to watch the bitter end: interim athletic director Jim Hackett stared at his cell phone texting someone and then wryly smiled at someone standing above.
Once a staple of program stability … Michigan … the guy that if nothing else, the girl can bring home to her parents on the holidays and say, “Well, he has a good job and a Honda Accord” — as if to say, “Well, it’s not exciting, but it could be worse” — is now the fellow with dyed-blue hair, ear gauges the size of quarters, skinny jeans, and is pushing 30 with a part-time job bartending at an Applebee’s so it doesn’t interfere with his heavy metal garage band stuff.
This staff is on the way out, and it should have known it for awhile. Players haven’t improved, and NFL scouts don’t even show up to watch Michigan players anymore. This is a program in total disarray from talent development and on-field success standpoints.
Another weekly example of this coaching staff ineptness came in the first half, late, up 14-7 with a running clock with just under two minutes left. Michigan punted to OSU with 15 seconds left on the dial, 15 seconds that could have cost the club at least four points. The coaching staff never fixed the mind numbing in-game gaffes, and the players always follow the culture the staff creates.
You always wanted better for a guy like Devin Gardner, the portrait of class for five years at Michigan, but at some point he had to want it, too … not content with constant turnovers and glaring misreads in execution.
Two programs came into The Game on opposite ends of the spectrum. One leaves feeling good, but still a little wanting with its future still ahead of it. The other leaves to go home and lick endless open wounds, headed for another fork in the road and no promise of a right decision, one that will profoundly affect its future.