Michigan’s regular season concludes with a 31-20 loss at home to their rival Ohio State. Their record this season is 8-4, good for 4th place in the Big Ten East. All they have next is to see what bowl game they are placed it.
What looked promising early on quickly turned south as the Wolverines watched an early 14-point lead slip away. With all that went on in the Big House, these three things were the most evident.
STRONG START, CAN’T FINISH
Michigan appeared in control early on. They jumped out to a 14 point lead early in the second quarter and forced Ohio State to punt on their first three possessions. After that, it was like a switch was flipped.
Ohio State tied it up on two efficient drives before halftime. After the half, Michigan took the lead back (sans a point-after try). But once the Buckeyes took their first lead of the game, engineered by Ohio State backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins after starter J.T. Barrett left the game due to injury, the Wolverines struggled to respond.
Maybe it was John O’Korn, maybe the defense slipped up, or maybe Ohio State just figured Michigan out, but there was a definite swing in momentum that sunk Michigan.
DEFENSE WORE DOWN
Like the first point, they started strong but couldn’t finish. The Michigan defense held Ohio State’s offense scoreless in their first three drives.
After that they only forced three punts in Ohio State’s next ten drives. Part of this might have been a product of the Michigan offense slowing down after their first two touchdowns. After taking an early 14-0 advantage, the Michigan offense had a hard time extending drives, forcing the defense to take the field more frequently.
In fact, the Wolverines offense mustered just 181 yards and six points after going up two scores to begin the second period. And over that span of those nine drives, eight were three minutes or fewer. Conversely, Ohio State broke out for over 360 yards yards of offense after the early deficit, even amidst the injury to J.T. Barrett in the third quarter, and turned in four drive of 4+ minutes
Whether it’s the offense extending drives or the defense giving up fewer third downs and big plays, the defense can’t be that worn out if Michigan’s going to win these big games.
STILL A QUARTERBACK QUESTION?
It isn’t clear who the quarterback will be next year for Michigan, but the early assumption is that it will be Brandon Peters. With a long offseason waiting after their bowl game, there will always be the possibility that Jim Harbaugh grabs a transfer and makes multiple quarterbacks compete for the starting job.
Whatever happens, the quarterback spot has to get better. John O’Korn started the majority of games this season and was a clear weakness to the team. Today, O’Korn was 17/32 for 195 yards, one touchdown and one pick — actually decent numbers for his standards, considering how he was this season overall.
Although Peters showed flashes in his short stretch of games before getting injured, he hasn’t been tested nearly enough yet against more big-time opponents.
With another rivalry loss to end the regular season, Michigan will have a lot to think about this offseason and changes will have to be made. This loss moves the maize and blue to 1-5 against their rivals under Jim Harbaugh and a 4th place finish in the division this year.
For the time being, the goal for Michigan will be to win their bowl game to end 2017 with a win.