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COLUMBUS — It feels like a lifetime ago.

Last year when the Michigan football team finally broke its decade-long curse against Ohio State, when the Wolverines stormed the snowy streets of Ann Arbor and when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh deemed it just a “beginning.”

It was the Wolverines’ biggest win of the millennium. And on Saturday in Columbus, Michigan did it again.

Whenever they needed to, the third-ranked Wolverines (12-0 overall, 9-0 Big Ten) delivered blow after blow to Ohio State (11-1, 8-1), as they defeated the second-ranked Buckeyes, 45-23.

“It feels great to sing ‘The Victors’ in Columbus,” Harbaugh said Saturday. “Our team really earned it in every way.”

The Game this year was different from the last, and that was obvious from the start. Ohio State’s offense took the field first and immediately got to work. A 12 play, 81-yard drive capped off by receiver Emeka Egbuka’s touchdown sent the Horseshoe into a frenzy. 

Not even five minutes into the game, Michigan was already in an unfamiliar situation: For the first time all season, the Wolverines didn’t score first. The discomfort was obvious.

Sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy was erratic. He dipped out of the pocket before he needed to, he was missing throws — nothing was working.

“In the first half, I was a little amped up because I’ve been waiting to play this game so long,” McCarthy said. “But once the nerves kind of calmed down and everything settled, I knew it was over from there.”

It took a while to get to where McCarthy knew the outcome — his team, at times, looked like they were just trying to survive the first half. The Buckeyes smelled blood, and they were trying to run away from Michigan. Everyone in the packed Horseshoe could sense that Ohio State was thoroughly outplaying the Wolverines in the first quarter, and yet, there was an uneasiness settling in.

Michigan was just hanging around. After giving up the opening drive touchdown, the Wolverines’ defense regrouped — only allowing three points on the next three possessions.

“We felt like any kind of stop was going to be like gold,” Harbaugh said.

Without junior running back Blake Corum able to play through injury, Michigan’s offense didn’t look like its normal self. But somehow that was alright. 

In a wild, back-and-forth second quarter, McCarthy found senior wide receiver Cornelius Johnson for long touchdowns on two consecutive plays. The Game was turned on its head.

Ohio State had its chance to bury Michigan, but it couldn’t, and the Wolverines made the Buckeyes pay for it.

After converting a fourth and one on its own side of the field, Michigan drove down the field and McCarthy found freshman tight end, Colston Loveland, for a 45-yard touchdown. After the Wolverines’ first drive of the second half, the Horseshoe fell silent.

“After that touchdown coming out of the half, we were able to do everything we wanted at that point,” McCarthy said.

Michigan never looked back.

Two drives later, the Wolverines finally found their running game. Their offense slowly leeched the life out of Ohio State’s once ravenous crowd on a nearly eight-minute-long touchdown drive. When McCarthy ran in a three-yard touchdown on third and goal, extending Michigan’s lead to 11 right as the fourth quarter started, the anxiety that hung over the Horseshoe was as nauseating as it was palpable.

“We looked at their sideline and they were over there hanging their heads,” senior defensive back Mike Sainristil said. “We knew… they’re vulnerable right now.”

That was a mindset shared by every Wolverine.

“You can feel when their will breaks,” graduate linebacker Michael Barrett said. “… You can feel it when it goes out of them.”

That’s when the avalanche came.

With only a one-score lead the Wolverines were faced with their biggest offensive possession of the season. On their first play, sophomore running back Donovan Edwards found daylight and burst through to the right for a 75-yard touchdown. 

In one final attempt at victory, Ohio State drove down the field only for a desperate flick from quarterback C.J. Stroud to fall into the hands of graduate edge rusher Taylor Upshaw. To add insult to injury, Edwards subsequently broke an 85-yard touchdown run and hordes of scarlet and gray headed for the exits.

After the clock hit zero, and a familiar feeling of jubilation swept over Michigan, Sainristil hoisted a massive maize and blue Michigan flag. He ran around the field in celebration until finally planting it in the block ‘O’ at midfield; an exclamation point on the Wolverines’ emphatic victory.

Last season, Michigan finally broke through against the Buckeyes, showing that it’s no longer just the second-best team in the Big Ten, sentenced to an eternity of living in its rival’s shadow.

But this year; this year was different. 

In the first undefeated clash of arch-rivals since 2006, the Wolverines came out on top. Not only is it Michigan’s first win in Columbus since 2000, its first back-to-back victories against the Buckeyes and its first 12-0 record since 1997 — it showed that there’s a new team on the top of the Big Ten.

And that team is Michigan — the champions of the east.