The Michigan Problem

Michigan 30, Ohio State 24

Photos: Zoey Holmstrom

Two years ago, it was the snow and cold. CJ Stroud had the flu...

Last year, it was "five fluke plays"...

What will it be this year?

Hint: It won't be anything. Because when you're 11-0 and get beaten by a team 3 years in a row, there are no more excuses. It just is what it is.

I saw a stat the last three years, Michigan has punted once in the second half versus Ohio State. Once. In three years.

One punt, one missed field goal, nine touchdowns, three field goals and three victory formation kneel-downs.


I'm not trying to dismiss Ohio State in any way...they're a great team and this was a great game. This is what this game should be – two major rival programs at the height of their powers playing for a title. It was a clean game too, the refs let them play. Both teams played a very tough football game. In the end, what more could you ask for?

But it was Michigan who just played the better game. It was Michigan who controlled the tempo, dictating how this game was going to go. Never did it seem like Ohio State was going to pull away or impose their will like they used to do under Tressel or Meyer. This Ohio State team isn't built like that anymore.

Michigan used to have an Ohio State problem. Now Ohio State has a Michigan problem.

[Click here to check out our full photo gallery from The Game]

In the weeks leading up to this year's game, the entire college football world has been fixated on sign stealing and Connor Stalions and who knew what and when and how? There's been seemingly no end to the stories and rumors that have swirled around the Michigan program. And just when things were looking up for the Maize & Blue, word came down that Jim Harbaugh would accept his full 3-game suspension levied by the Big Ten, thus missing the Ohio State game.

Enter Sherrone Moore.

The offensive coordinator and offensive line coach would step in to be Michigan's acting head coach for the final three games of the season. The emotional but commanding win over a typically good Penn State team on the road. Another win versus an upstart Maryland squad in a trap-game scenario also on the road. And finally, a win in "The Game".

Not a bad stretch of resume games for a coordinator who might be looking to move up in the world someday – hopefully someday a long time from now ;)

For the third year in a row, Michigan handed a higher ranked Ohio State team their one and only conference loss. With everything on the line for both undefeated programs, again, it was Michigan who found a way to stay one step ahead of the Buckeyes for almost an entire game. When it mattered the most, with eight minutes left in regulation, up by only three, Sherrone Moore led Michigan's offense on a 13-play, 7 minute drive that ended in a field goal to force the Buckeyes to have to drive the entire field and score to pull out a win.

On the ensuing Ohio State possession, Kyle McCord connected with Marvin Harrison Jr for 22 yards and hit Julian Flemming for 21 more to put the Buckeyes within striking distance. On first and 10 from the 37, a rushing Jaylen Harrell hit McCord on his throw to Harrison and Rod Moore was able to intercept the wobbling pass to seal the win for Michigan.

25 seconds of game clock later, this happened... 

Before I get too far, I just have to give a huge hats off to James Turner. In a tight game where every possession matters, Turner hit field goals of 50, 38 and 37 yards (and 3 PATs) to give Michigan 12 points in a game they won by 6. We haven't mentioned his name much this season, but he was Mr. Clutch on Saturday.

There were really two games played. The one you witness live in-person, in the moment, living and dying with every single play. And the other game is the one you watch later that night or the next day on your DVR, to really get a better, or clearer perspective of what really happened.

In my mind from section 18 yesterday, Ohio State was doing most things right...hitting receivers, running the ball, being physical...all the things they needed to do, but it was only really enough to keep it close. It wasn't until I watched the recording later on that I realized it was Michigan who was doing that too...only better and more consistently, with no mental errors or mistakes. And I think that's really Michigan's strength...consistency in doing what works in the moment. 

It was mental toughness that Michigan showed on the first play after Zak Zinter went down with a gruesome injury. On the nest play, Blake Corum breaks loose for a 22 yard touchdown run – the longest TD run OSU had given up all year – and flashed a 6-5 with his fingers to the FOX camera waiting for him in the back of the endzone. I'll watch a lot of football before I witness a moment like that again. 

I won't lie, watching that live, it got me.

The lowest of the lows to the highest of the highs all in two plays. 

Sports, man.

This team lives for these big games...these big challenges, to prove themselves worthy. They also live for keeping their focus amid the swirling noise around the program.

When Jim Harbaugh decided to accept his three game suspension, of course I wasn't happy, but I wasn't worried about this team. At all. Too many seniors, too much experience and too strong of an identity to be shaken by not having their head coach on the sidelines for three games. This team – this program – has proven that they're just too strong. 

In the final evaluation of this game, it should be acknowledged that both teams were well deserving of their #2 and #3 rankings. This was a true battle of elite programs. But for the third year in a row, it was Michigan who not only won the game, but did so in a way that will leave Buckeyes fans with a lot of unanswered questions about the state of their program.

On one hand, Ohio State is one of the best in the country without a doubt. They're 33-5 the last three seasons. Ryan Day is 39-3 versus Big Ten teams as a head coach. But the issue is, those three losses have all been to Michigan. It seems crazy to me that Ohio State fans want him gone, but I also kinda get it. They ran John Cooper, with his .715 winning percentage, out of town and look how that turned out...they ended up with Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer who had a collective 16-1 record versus Michigan – an incredible streak that seems like a million years ago now.

Should Ryan Day be fired?  I don't think so. He's 56-7 at Ohio State. I don't know what the answer is, but I don't think firing him is the way to go. A massive overhaul is more likely with the staff, and maybe Day hands the play-calling duties to someone else. But who else can you hire right now that will probably guarantee you ten plus wins a year and can keep top recruiting classes coming in? With Gene Smith stepping down in June next year and not likely to make this decision, that's a really tough call for a new AD to make.

For Michigan, it's back to work to get ready for scrappy Iowa in Indianapolis. Jim Harbaugh returns to the sideline for what hopes to be a championship run for the Wolverines.

We said it before, but this 2023 team feels similar in so many ways to the Wolverine teams from two years prior. But this squad is definitely the best version when it comes to mental preparation and toughness. Winning is great, but it's the losses that shape you and teach you the most about yourself. The loss to Georgia two years ago helped Michigan see where they needed to get physically. The loss to TCU last year taught Michigan how they needed to grow mentally. 

Now it's time to put all the pieces together. That's how championships teams are made. Michigan is a championship contender. 

Twelve down. Three to go.

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