Saturday, November 17, 2007

OSU/Michigan liveblogging wrapup

By Rick Morris

On the day that Lloyd Carr probably coached his last game in the OSU/Michigan series, the day had a certain old-school, Woody-and-Bo feel to it.

A year after the two teams met in the most hyped and consequential version of college football's greatest rivalry and exceeded the expectations with one of the greatest games ever, the next edition had a bit less at stake and the game had far less excitement. But the outcome remained the same as Ohio State defeated Michigan 14-3 in what might be Carr's final game at the Big House. If Carr does end up walking off into the sunset, this rivalry will be a tremendous reason why as the nearly unprecedented dominance they achieved over the Buckeyes in the John Cooper era has given way to a 1-6 record against the Scarlet and Gray since Jim Tressel took the helm.

A year ago, the #1 Buckeyes turned back #2 Michigan, 42-39, in an absolute classic to advance to the BCS Title Game and relegate the Wolverines to the Rose Bowl. Today, for two teams on the outside looking in regarding the national title picture, the Rose Bowl was the prize at stake and OSU will play there for the first time since 1997, barring a continuation of the extreme set of dominoes falling at the top of the polls in this crazy year.

Michigan's talented trio on offense of quarterback Chad Henne, running back Mike Hart and offensive tackle Jake Long passed up NFL riches a year ago to return for their senior season and to help the 2007 graduating class to avoid an indignity that Michigan had not suffered in decades: losing four in a row to Ohio State. But they were unsuccessful, owing in large part to Henne and Hart having to play through injuries.

In a game that always features so many playmakers for both teams on both sides of the ball, very few of them stepped up today. The two who did the most were both Buckeyes: Chris Wells with 220 yards and 2 touchdowns on 39 carries and Vernon Gholston serving as a constant presence in the Michigan backfield and coming away with three sacks.

Just as Tressel assumed the head coaching job in Columbus in 2001 in what looked to be a hopeless situation, so too does Carr's likely replacement face a disheartening picture in terms of moving back towards parity in the rivalry. Michigan returned a solid veteran core from 2006, the Buckeyes did not, the game was in Ann Arbor and they blew this chance. Even with some early departures to the NFL, Ohio State will still be more experienced than Michigan next year and the game will be at the Horseshoe, dealing the Wolverines a tough hand in terms of avoiding a half-decade without victory in the series.

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