Ohio State shows championship-level heart in wild 2OT win over Michigan

Greg Bartram/Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The outcome on the field rarely matches the hype in sports, but it certainly did Saturday at the Horseshoe. In the game of the year, and one of the best games we’ve seen in college football in many, many years, Ohio State beat Michigan, 30-27, in a double-overtime thriller.

Ultimately, only time (and the Michigan State-Penn State final) will determine whether the game launches Ohio State into the Big Ten title game or the College Football Playoff,  regardless, one point was abundantly clear. Saturday’s win proved that the Buckeyes have the heart of a champion. And betting against them at any point, against an opponent (yes, even Alabama) is foolish.

For Ohio State, this wasn’t a game where everything went right, and it certainly wasn’t like last year, when the Buckeyes dominated their bitter rival from start to finish in the win. It was quite the opposite. It was a game where the Buckeyes remained the significantly younger and more inexperienced team, and for big stretches they played like it. For the first time in years Michigan had the talent to not only match up, but play with and beat the Buckeyes, and it showed early.

The Wolverines actually opened the scoring early with a field goal (after Ohio State missed one on the first drive), and basically the only offense that the Buckeyes had the entire first half came from their defense, a Malik Hooker interception for a touchdown. Michigan actually had the chance to extend a 10-7 lead early in the third quarter before they fumbled the ball in the red zone.

And even then, following the biggest defensive play of the season, Ohio State almost blew it again. There, Meyer tried a fake punt on the Buckeyes’ own 20-yard line, which was immediately snuffed out by Michigan’s special teams. The Wolverines scored shortly thereafter to make the score 17-7.

At the point, there was frankly no reason to believe Ohio State would win. Michigan had not only been the better team, but the more opportunistic one and a group which was making more plays on offense, and dominating the line of scrimmage on defense. Ironically, that fake punt was also the turning point of the game. Because after Michigan scored to go up 17-7, Ohio State was simply the better team the rest of the way.

For the Buckeyes, the credit goes all around for the furious rally that resulted in a win.

It goes to J.T. Barrett — a guy who had little help from his offensive line all day — who managed to lead a touchdown drive late in the third quarter to cut the lead to 17-14, and led a drive that set up a game-tying field. Credit goes to Tyler Durbin, who yes, missed two field goals, but also made a crucial one to send things to overtime. Credit goes to the Ohio State defensive line for getting pressure on Wilton Speight all day, and credit Curtis Samuel, too. Everyone remembers Samuel’s heroic game-winning score. But what few will remember is that he had a wild, eight-yard run that set up a controversial fourth down conversion by Barrett. And it was Barrett’s conversion (following Samuel’s run) that ultimately set up the game-winner.

Yes, there was controversy at the end, the likes of which Michigan fans will hold onto for a long time. But the fact that Ohio State was in position to get the win was remarkable. Remember, this is a team that lost 16 starters off last year’s team (including five who were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft) with most of the players on the field Saturday playing in the biggest games of their careers. And they overcame everything — two missed field goals, a muffed faked punt, struggles from the offensive line, you name it – and still won.

Ohio State proved whatever happens going forward, it does have the heart of a champion.