Big Ten: wolverines-buckeyes-112412

Buckeyes' win bittersweet, still tasty

November, 24, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- First there was a Gatorade bath to survive.

Then came a massive bear hug from senior fullback-turned-linebacker Zach Boren, who gave so much more than Ohio State ever could have asked for during his final season with the program.

A mass of humanity ready to celebrate the simultaneous capture of a perfect season and rivalry bragging rights pressed in after that, making finding family members for the next hugs a tall order.

After knocking those steps out and belting out a few more celebratory songs in the south end zone over a wild, raucous few minutes on the field at Ohio Stadium, Urban Meyer finally emerged from the crowd and had a moment to himself.

It didn't last long as the Buckeyes coach sneaked under the scarlet awning and up the ramp to the locker room, flanked by three security guards who had watched him cap a perfect season with a 26-21 victory over Michigan on Saturday. But for about 30 seconds, Meyer was alone with his thoughts before a fan wearing a Braxton Miller jersey spoiled it with an unwelcome sprint into what was supposed to be a private tunnel, and that almost certainly wasn't enough time to process what has happened in his first year with the Buckeyes.

"The nut-job students won't let you find anybody," Meyer joked during his 12th victorious news conference of the season. "But to be out on that field was something special.

"Very emotional time, and obviously this is the state I grew up in, the state that I made comment in last November that our objective was to make the great state of Ohio proud. I imagine tonight there are a lot of people in this great state very proud of their football team. ... But to be 12-0, it really hasn't sunk in yet."

Story continues in BuckeyeNation.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State fans streamed onto the field, celebrating a perfect season. All Michigan could do was watch.

Some of the Wolverines moved fast and were gone before the throng began to envelop the Ohio Stadium field. Others were caught in the mass, Elliott Mealer and J.T. Floyd walking slowly, heads down, as Ohio State fans celebrated around them.

Michigan entered Saturday thinking it could end a perfect season, could put itself in position for a potential BCS bowl berth and win back-to-back games against its archrival for the first time since 1999-2000.

Then predictability happened. Turnovers showed up. It was the same old, same old Michigan football team away from home against an opponent with any quality, and the Wolverines were deemed not quite good enough again.

It was another road game against a top opponent and another letdown for Michigan, another chance to take a step forward as a program and to establish themselves as an emerging power in the Big Ten washed away with the same predictable problems in a 26-21 loss to Ohio State.

Turnovers, which doomed Michigan against Notre Dame, showed up against Ohio State in the form of three fumbles lost and an interception. Offensive predictability, which showed up against Nebraska and even in a victory over Michigan State, was amplified against the Buckeyes.

Story continues in WolverineNation.

Video: Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier

November, 24, 2012

Brian Bennett talks with Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier following the Buckeyes' 26-21 victory over Michigan on Saturday.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Perfection.

Ohio State is ineligible yet unbeaten in 2012 after toppling rival Michigan 26-21 at the Horseshoe. The Buckeyes finished 12-0 in Urban Meyer's first season and now will have to hope the Associated Press Top 25 voters view them as championship-+worthy.

They're not going to a bowl because of NCAA probation, but a win against Michigan in the finale for a perfect season still feels awfully good to the scarlet and gray.

It was over when: C.J. Barnett intercepted Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner with 4:40 left. Thanks to some hard running by Carlos Hyde, Ohio State was able to run out the clock from there, after Michigan had burned two timeouts earlier in the half.

Game ball goes to: Ohio State's defense, which stiffened in the second half after some very poor tackling in the first two quarters, when Michigan had 240 yards and scored all of its 21 points. The Buckeyes also forced four turnovers, including three forced fumbles. Johnathan Hankins used his shoulder pads to pop the ball out of Gardner's hands midway through the fourth quarter, leading to an Ohio State field goal. The Wolverines did not cross the 50-yard line in the second half.

Stat of the game: Michigan had 60 yards of offense and three turnovers in the second half.

Unsung hero of the game: The Michigan defense. Placed under extreme duress in the second half by its own offense, the Wolverines' D limited Ohio State to just a pair of field goals on three drives deep into the red zone. Jake Ryan had his usual terrific game, forcing a fumble from Braxton Miller near midfield at one point. But the offense couldn't carry its share of the load.

Best call: With five seconds left in the first half, Ohio State's Drew Basil was lined up to attempt a 52-yard field goal. Just then, the wind in the stadium whipped up, with the giant American flag in the end zone blowing right toward Basil's face. The Buckeyes smartly called timeout to see if the wind would die down. It did, and Basil drilled the field goal for an important score.

Second-guessing: Michigan's offense was explosive and unpredictable in the first half. In the second half, offensive coordinator Al Borges strangely went away from his team's strengths. Twice near midfield, he called for runs up the middle by tailbacks instead of keeping the ball in the hands of stars Robinson and Gardner. That's exactly where the power of the Ohio State defense is, and the Buckeyes stuffed both plays. Michigan compounded the problem on its opening possession of the second half, going for it on fourth-and-2 from its own 48 and not coming close to getting a first down. That led to the go-ahead field goal by Ohio State and sapped some of Michigan's momentum.

What it means: What a start to the Urban Meyer era in Columbus. Though the bowl ban means the Buckeyes can't play for the national title, they still ripped through the Big Ten and established themselves as a top-five team to start the 2013 season, when there is no ban.

Michigan finished 8-4 and saw its slim chances for an at-large bid to a BCS game get extinguished. The Wolverines will still play in a Jan. 1 bowl, probably the Capitol One Bowl, but they fell short in all their marquee games against ranked teams this season.

Video: Michigan-Ohio State pregame

November, 24, 2012

Brian Bennett and Austin Ward preview Michigan at Ohio State.

Video: Urban Meyer -- seeking greatness

November, 24, 2012

Urban Meyer talks to Gene Wojciechowski about molding this year's Ohio State squad into an undefeated team, and getting ready for Michigan.

Michigan-Ohio State pregame ponderables

November, 24, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Hello from the Horseshoe, where one of the best rivalries in sports is about to kick off with some extra meaning.

Nebraska's win against Iowa took a little bit of drama away from the proceedings, as Michigan now cannot make the Big Ten title game. In another situation, you might wonder how that would affect a team's motivation. But not this one. The records don't really matter in The Game.

But one record does matter to Ohio State: 12-0. The Buckeyes are one win away from perfection, and while they can't go bowling, finishing up the season with a victory against the Wolverines would be better than just about any bowl victory.

We've got some perfect Big Ten late November weather here, with temperatures in the low 30s and a light snow. The snow isn't sticking, so it shouldn't have too much impact on the game, except maybe adding some moisture to challenge ball carriers. I still expect Brady Hoke to come out in short sleeves.

It just doesn't get much better than this rivalry. Some Michigan fans already fired the first shot by writing "Beat Ohio" and a giant "M" in chalk on the south stadium wall this morning.

A key question looming over this game is the health of John Simon. Reports surfaced Friday that Ohio State's star defensive end is injured and might not play. We have confirmed that Simon is a game-time decision with a knee issue. It's hard to imagine the senior not trying to go on senior day if there's any way his body can be held together. But if he's missing or at far less than 100 percent, that's a big loss for a Buckeyes defense going against an explosive Michigan attack led by Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson.

Both teams have had some trouble stopping spread offenses and containing the perimeter on defense this season. Both offenses will look to exploit that weakness. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller has been a little more cautious with his running style since suffering an injury against Purdue, trying to stay healthy for the rest of the season. But there is no more season to worry about after today, and the Michigan game is where Buckeyes players build their legacies, so I'd expect the sophomore star to play with abandon this afternoon.

But will Miller be able to throw effectively against a Michigan team that leads the nation in defending the pass? The Wolverines have not allowed anybody to pass for 200 yards this season.

Speaking of passing games, Michigan's has gotten a lot better since Gardner took over the quarterback job. But receivers Jeremy Gallon and Roy Roundtree will face a good challenge today, going up against certain first-team All-Big Ten selection Bradley Roby and teammate Travis Howard. The Buckeyes' cornerbacks have been ball-hawks, and should give Gardner more of a test than Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa did.

There are great matchups all over the field, as you'd expect, and another great one on the sidelines between Hoke and Urban Meyer. Can't wait to get this one started.