Jake’s Takes: Reviewing “The Game” Between Ohio State and Michigan

December 1, 2023

Jake’s Takes: Reviewing “The Game” Between Ohio State and Michigan

Jake Moszkowski is back this week with his latest "Jake's Takes".

For the first time since 1997, Michigan has captured three straight victories over their arch-rival Ohio State Buckeyes. Coincidentally, 1997 is the last time that the Michigan Wolverines found themselves national champions at the seasons’ end. The #3 Wolverines beat the #2 Buckeyes to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive, while the loss all but eliminates the Buckeyes from playoff contention.

It was a very different affair than the past two meetings between the longtime rivals, as the Wolverines won by only a single score this time around. The lead-up to “The Game” was dominated by headlines about the Michigan sign-stealing scandal and the suspension that was being served by Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines ignored the outside noise to prevail in perhaps the most consequential version of the rivalry, as the Big Ten is set to expand with the additions of USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington starting next year.

For me, this game was a reflection of two things: Michigan’s ability to enforce their will (offensively and defensively) when it mattered, and Ryan Day’s inexplicable decision-making against Ohio State’s biggest rival. After Michigan kicked a field goal (to extend its lead from 3 to 6 points) with 1:05 remaining, Ohio State began a lengthy drive with no timeouts. QB Kyle McCord completed two deep passes to Marvin Harrison Jr. and Julian Fleming to get within striking distance of a possible game-tying field goal. 

However, McCord threw an ill-advised pass over the middle that was intercepted by Michigan defensive back Rod Moore, effectively ending the game. McCord’s first interception, in Ohio State territory in the first quarter, broke the early stalemate, but I’m not necessarily inclined to pin the blame on the first-year starter. Yes, his interceptions were very costly, but Ryan Day did nothing to help his young signal caller. 

Michigan did what was needed offensively when they needed guys to step up. RB Blake Corum had 88 rushing yards and 2 scores. J.J. McCarthy didn’t turn the ball over and finished with 148 passing yards while also moving the chains with his legs. Michigan went 3/3 on 4th down conversions, while Ohio State never attempted one (more on this in a little). 

Ohio State had two very questionable fourth down calls that our trading team wanted to call out. The first was early in the game, during Ohio State’s second offensive possession. With a 0-0 ballgame and the 9:37 remaining in the first quarter, Ohio State elected to punt on a 4th and 1 at their own 46-yard line. Despite being early in the game, this decision cost Ohio State 2% in terms of win probability. More egregiously, Ohio State had a 4th and 2 with 45 seconds remaining in the 2nd quarter on the Michigan 34-yard line. Rather than try to gain a few more yards to make the field goal attempt more manageable, or even try to score a touchdown, Ryan Day opted to run the clock down to 3 seconds before sending out his kicker to attempt a 52-yard field goal.

Buckeyes fans were understandably livid at this uber-conservative playcalling. The idea of burning up 40+ seconds of game-clock to set up a missed field goal that would’ve turned a one-score game into a… one-score game was mystifying. What will haunt Day is that Michigan won on the back of three 4th down conversions (and gutsy play-calls) by fill-in coach Sherrone Moore. Getting outcoached by an acting head coach is a tough look. Moore, to his credit, made the most of his aggressive decision-making, from the aforementioned fourth down conversions to putting in backup QB Alex Orji for a designed run play that picked up 20-yards. We could even talk about the trick play schemed up by Moore, which involved a 34-yard pass from RB Donovan Edward to TE Colston Loveland. 

In a six-point defeat, the coach, more willing to take calculated risks, won out. Unfortunately, that coach wasn’t Ryan Day. 

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