After an ugly loss to Sparty, Ohio State came back in a big way against Michigan. FoS breaks down the Buckeyes’ fourth straight win in The Game for the Buckeyes and what lies ahead.
Nov 28, 2015; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) runs the ball in the third quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Rapid Reaction: First Half
Ohio State was able to take a 14-10 first half lead into the locker room on the strength of their ground game. After getting stuffed by Michigan State, the Buckeyes racked up 171 yards on the ground in the first half, which is more than Michigan allows on a per game basis and far more than their ugly performance last week. OSU running back Ezekiel Elliott busted off a 66 yard run en route to a 99 yard first half.
The success on the ground has come because of much improved blocking on the edge, notable by offensive lineman Chase Farris and tight end Nick Vannett, as well as far better reads from quarterback J.T. Barrett. Their second touchdown drive was by far the best example of this as the Wolverines’ defense looked confused and off balance by the Buckeyes’ read option attack. In fact, Ohio State attempted only six passes the entire first half.
On the flip side, Ohio State’s run defense, a black eye for much of the year and all of last week, actually held Jabril Peppers, who plays many positions on both sides of the ball and is a returner and running back De’Veon Smith in check. But Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock has really played well against the Buckeyes secondary. He threw for 174 yards by hitting wide receiver Jehu Chesson and tight end Jake Butt in the soft spots between the safety and linebacker positions.
That 12-15 yard zone is where the Buckeyes zone coverage can be attacked and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh pushed his offense to drive right at it, averaging seven yards per pass. Ohio State will need to make some kind of adjustment to take that away, but may have to give up a run defender to do so.
Michigan was able to recover with a late touchdown because of their success on third down. The Wolverines went 8-11 on third down, an excellent rate that allowed them to keep their playbook wide open. This also let the Wolverines chew up 18:32 in game clock. The best way to keep an offense like Ohio State’s from hurting you is to keep them off of the field. If Ohio State cannot find ways to pressure Rudock and get Michigan off the field, the time of possession disparity will come back to bite them, much like last week.
Next: Rapid Reaction: Second Half