Dienhart: Ohio State extends mastery of rival Michigan

Dienhart: Ohio State extends mastery of rival Michigan

And the beat goes on. And on. And on. And on. And on.

You get the idea. That’s 13 wins over Michigan in the last 14 years for Ohio State, which kept its boot firmly planted on the neck of the Wolverines with a 31-20 win Saturday afternoon. Ohio State has won six in a row vs. Michigan, which last toppled the Buckeyes in 2011 in Ann Arbor.

The misery continues for Jim Harbaugh vs. his chief rival. He has had three cracks at the Buckeyes … and he has lost each time. If that isn’t enough, Harbaugh also is just 1-2 vs. Michigan State and 1-2 vs. Penn State, as Michigan (8-4 overall and 5-4 in the Big Ten) can’t win 10 games for the first time under his stewardship.

But let’s get back to Ohio State, because that’s what Saturday was about. The Buckeyes had already wrapped up the East Division title before the gates were opened. But Ohio State still had a lot on the line: The Buckeyes needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Mission accomplished.

This victory moves Ohio State to 10-2 overall and 8-1 in the Big Ten. No team has yet to make the College Football Playoff with two losses. But it perhaps could happen this year. And that team could be Ohio State.

Ohio State was No. 9 in the most recent College Football Playoff poll. But they figure to move up in next week’s poll. And the Buckeyes will go even higher if they are able to knock off Wisconsin—No. 5 in the most recent poll–in the Big Ten title game next Saturday in Indianapolis.

This triumph keeps Urban Meyer perfect vs. Michigan as Ohio State boss and keeps the Wolverines at three wins over the Buckeyes since 2000 in what, at times, has been a trying season for Ohio State.

The Buckeyes got knocked off its perch in September with a 31-16 loss at home to Oklahoma, casting doubt on this season. But the Buckeyes got back on track with six wins in a row only to get crushed, 55-24, at Iowa, conjuring up some of those early-season doubts.

How good was this Buckeye team?

It’s pretty good.

This one was bittersweet for senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who has beat the Wolverines for the fourth time, the first quarterback to do so in series history. But he had to watch most of the second half after leaving the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. He hit just 3-of-8 passes for 30 yards with a TD and ran 15 times for 67 yards and score before departing. Will he be ready for next week in the Big Ten title game?

Redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins took over for Barrett and kept the Buckeyes on track for big things in 2017, as they battled back from an early 14-0 deficit to score a big triumph. Haskins led a key 11-play, 78-yard drive to push Ohio State to its first lead, 21-20. The Buckeyes never looked back and cruised to victory, as Haskins hit 6-of-7 passes for 94 yards and ran for 24 yards in an heroic effort off the bench during a season in which he had had only mop-up duty.

Ohio State was fueled by its ground game, as J.K. Dobbins had 101 yards on 15 totes with a TD; the Buckeyes had 226 yards rushing compared to 100 for the Wolverines.

There are some eerie similarities between how this regular-season ended and the 2014 campaign for Ohio State. Back in 2014, Barrett got hurt vs. the Wolverines and was lost for the year after OSU lost an early-season home game to a non-league foe. And his backup, Cardale Jones, proceeded to march Ohio State to an improbable national title.

Along the way, Jones led the Buckeyes to a 59-0 win vs. Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.

This is going to be very interesting for Ohio State.

***

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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