Ohio State crushes Michigan — again — to show how wide gap has grown in Big Ten

first_imgANN ARBOR, Mich. — For seven plays, No. 2 Ohio State might have felt a sense of uneasiness against rival Michigan.Then Justin Fields returned from a left knee injury and left no doubt. Fields side-stepped left and uncorked a perfect pass to Garrett Wilson, who slipped behind Michigan safety Josh Metellus for a 30-yard touchdown. That gave the Buckeyes a 42-16 lead — with 3:46 left in the third quarter. MORE: Ohio State-Michigan highlightsOhio State rolled to 56-27 victory against No. 10 Michigan on Saturday at Michigan Stadium in another top-10 showdown that turned into a one-sided beatdown. The Game is now the same-old story. The same old column. Ever since “The Spot” in the 30-27 double-overtime thriller in 2016, Ohio State has widened the gap with Michigan (and everyone else in the Big Ten) with a three-year run that is more impressive than what Clemson is doing in the ACC. The competition in the Big Ten is better.The Wolverines, however, have taken the brunt of that. Fields and J.K. Dobbins, who had 31 carries for 211 yards and four touchdowns, took turns answering why Ohio State has enjoyed that dominance against their rivals.”I just think we take it more seriously than they do,” Fields said. “Like (strength coach Mickey Marotti) said, ‘We’re preparing for them next year right now.’ It just means more at Ohio State. That’s pretty much the big reason.””I agree,” Dobbins added. “I agree with him.”Who can dispute that? First-year coach Ryan Day has taken Urban Meyer’s model and blown the best of the Big Ten out of commission. There’s nothing No. 8 Minnesota or No. 12 Wisconsin can do about it in the Big Ten championship game either.”The Game” is no longer the referendum for Ohio State’s success. Michigan has lost eight in a row. The last three games have been decided by an average of 24.3 points per game. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is now 0-5 against the Buckeyes, and the prospects for the next five years look just as bad. Michigan reshuffled its entire offensive philosophy with Josh Gattis this season. Is defensive coordinator Don Brown next? The Wolverines were the preseason favorites to win the Big Ten.This week’s Heisman candidate du jour was Dobbins. Or maybe it was Fields, who finished 14 of 25 for 302 yards and four touchdowns.Or it could be defensive end Chase Young, whom Michigan game-planned around well enough, but could easily repeat a dominant performance in Indianapolis next week. How many teams have three Heisman Trophy candidates?”All three of them deserve to be in New York,” Day said of his players. “I’ll let everybody make the decision who they think.”A game like this comes down to players, not plays,” he added. “These guys willed themselves to make plays.”MORE: Jim Harbaugh in bad mood after latest loss to Ohio StateOhio State has better players. Wilson, a freshman, added three catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. The talent gap is significant, and nobody in the Big Ten can answer that. Not even Michigan. Not with Shea Patterson hitting 18 of 43 passes for 305 yards, a touchdown and an interception.The Wolverines have been powerless to curb Ohio State’s across-the-board momentum as a program that has turned college football’s biggest rivalry into a foregone conclusion. That, despite the fact the Wolverines could have four 10-win seasons in five years if they win a second-tier bowl game.The only debate was whether Ohio State would go for two a la Woody Hayes when the Buckeyes took a 48-27 lead on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Fields to Austin Mack with 10:11 remaining. Day opted for the extra point, but the Buckeyes made their point with the “O-H-I-O” chant that consumed The Big House.The ready-made tweets about the one-sided dominance are increasingly eye-popping now, too. Ohio State has outscored Michigan 118-66 the last two seasons and outgained the Wolverines 1,144-797.The Buckeyes won back-to-back Big Ten championships under Urban Meyer in 2017 and ‘18. Ohio State is 18-2 against Big Ten teams in that stretch, and beat opponents by an average margin of 26.5 points, and that includes inexplicable losses to Iowa and Purdue in 2017 and ‘18, respectively.This season had no Big Ten blemishes. Ohio State won nine regular-season games by an average margin of 35.5 points per game. Day didn’t just maintain the gap in his first year as head coach; he widened it to what could be at least a decade-long project for every other program to catch up to.”Coach Day, he knows,” Fields said. “He takes it one game at a time. In past years, we’ve always had one slip-up. The main thing is taking it like that. We just focus on the moment.”The Buckeyes beat Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan by an average of 23.8 points — more than a three-touchdown difference. It wouldn’t be a surprise if those schools all won their bowl games, but those are consolation prizes now.Ohio State is one win away from playing in the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2016, and that is the upper-crust college football conversation that includes unbeaten LSU and Clemson. Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma and Utah might join the party, but there is a clear separation among the top three teamsNobody else in the Big Ten is good enough to be talked about like that, and nobody will until Ohio State yields ground in that race. Seven plays didn’t change that fact, not when Dobbins provided the final margin with a 33-yard touchdown run with 6:30 remaining and emptied the stadium. It might take seven years for everyone else to catch up. Again, Michigan will take the brunt of that more than the rest. Fields, Dobbins and all those players have no trouble rubbing that in either. Fields was not afraid to double down.”I know a few players on their team, and I just know the things we do in terms of workout and know how we take it at Ohio State,” Fields said. “Just talking to those guys — I just see we take it more seriously.”After this latest blowout, who can disagree with him?last_img