Have you had time to digest it?
The No. 3 Michigan football team fell, 30-27, in a crushing double-overtime loss to No. 2 Ohio State. At 10-2, the Wolverines are likely bound for the New Year’s Six, and yet they are still reeling after a hard-fought game that will go down in history.
Here are five things we learned from “The Game”:
1. Michigan couldn’t close it out.
The Wolverines dominated Ohio State for two and a half quarters. They led 17-7 at one point, and that lead would have been larger if not for an untimely pick-six thrown by redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight. But behind a fourth quarter in which Michigan gained just five yards, the Buckeyes came all the way back.
First, a Jerome Baker interception late in the third quarter gave the Buckeyes great field position in the red zone. Then, a pair of penalties backed the Michigan defense up to its own 4-yard line. It is noteworthy to understand that the Wolverines were stellar on defense nearly all day. There is a very real chance they could have forced a field goal. But they didn’t, and the comeback was on.
In the fourth quarter, Michigan’s offense just didn’t do enough to secure the win. Even after Ohio State’s Tyler Durbin missed a 21-yard field goal, it couldn’t put together a clock-killing drive. It had its chances, it just couldn’t convert.
2. Wilton Speight is a warrior, even in a loss.
Yes, he made a handful of mistakes. His two interceptions and fumbled snap on the Buckeyes’ 1-yard line proved costly, and there’s no ignoring that.
But man, Michigan’s quarterback sure came up big by playing at all. He wouldn’t say what his injury was or what percentage he was playing at, but he couldn’t have been feeling completely healthy. So yes, the interceptions were damning, but the level at which he played was still enough to give the Wolverines a chance.
He finished 23-of-36 passing for 219 yards and two touchdowns, even without throwing deep. He kept relatively cool in an exceptionally difficult place to play. You certainly can’t ask for much more out of a player whose status was totally uncertain coming in.
3. J.T. Barrett still has Michigan’s number.
Barrett had been held in check all day, but in the fourth quarter and overtime, he surged. Even if his final carry, a play that will live forever, appeared to be just short (both in person and on video), it stood, and it counts as part of another strong game for Barrett rushing.
His 135 yards on the ground came exactly when his team needed them, and though he was sacked eight times, he never seemed rattled. It wasn’t his finest game, but it was just enough to win.
4. The two best teams in the conference aren’t heading to Indy.
It’s a weird reality, but it’s true. After what happened at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, it’s tough to argue anything else.
Michigan and Ohio State both beat Wisconsin, and the Wolverines beat Penn State by 39. The Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes, but they didn’t beat an Ohio State team that looked like the one that showed up Saturday.
And yet, Penn State and the Badgers are playing for the conference title this weekend. The winner will have a trophy saying it’s the best in the Big Ten. But anyone watching Saturday’s game could tell you that’s probably not enough to overcome the eye test. Michigan and Ohio State are the Big Ten’s best, and conference commissioner Jim Delaney is probably none too happy that neither is going to have a chance to make that official.
5. Bold Prediction: Jabrill Peppers will not get invited to New York.
There was a time when Peppers looked like a lock to be at least a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, but his candidacy has thinned since.
He has a punt return touchdown against Colorado, two rushing touchdowns against Rutgers and one against Michigan State. He’s one of the best players in the country, and no one is questioning that, but without a signature game against Ohio State, it will be tough to garner an invite.
Peppers still had seven tackles and an interception, but he was stymied on offense. He should still be an All-American. But he probably will not get that coveted trip to New York.