COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — This season for Ohio State has been anything but normal, beginning with its celebrated coach suspended for three games.
There have been spotty performances and troubling trends on both sides of the ball. There has been constant speculation and questions about Urban Meyer’s health and future.
After all that, it was business as usual against Michigan, and now the Buckeyes are right where they always expected to be.
Dwayne Haskins threw six touchdown passes , freshman Chris Olave had a breakout performance and No. 10 Ohio State continued its mastery over No. 4 Michigan with a record-setting 62-39 victory Saturday (Nov. 24) that sends the Buckeyes to the Big Ten championship game.
“I think we definitely showed the country the Ohio State Buckeyes are still here,” offensive tackle Isaiah Prince said.
The Wolverines were two victories away from their first conference championship since 2004 and a trip to the College Football Playoff, facing an underdog Ohio State team that has looked discombobulated on defense and one-dimensional on offense for much of the season. Looking to snap a six-game losing streak against the Buckeyes (11-1, 8-1, No. 10 CFP) and get coach Jim Harbaugh his first victory in the rivalry known simply as The Game, the Wolverines (10-2, 8-1, No. 4 CFP) wilted.
“Motivated to come back and make darn sure it doesn’t happen again,” Harbaugh said. “Win our next game, that’s our motivation now.”
In the 115th meeting between two of college football’s most storied programs, Ohio State scored more points than it ever had against Michigan — more points than any team has ever scored in regulation against Michigan.
And now, despite all the dysfunction at Ohio State this season — both on and off the field — the Buckeyes will face No. 20 Northwestern next week in Indianapolis with a chance to repeat as Big Ten champs and maybe even make the playoff.
Maybe most satisfying of all, Ohio State has won 14 of the last 15 meetings against the team it loves to beat the most.
“This is not an ordinary game,” Buckeyes defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones said. “This is a game that’s got years and miles behind.”
Olave, who came into the game with five catches and no touchdowns, caught two TD passes in the first half and broke it open on special teams in the third quarter. He looped through a seam in the line and got a chunk of Will Hart’s punt. The ball sailed off high and to the side and landed in the arms of Sevyn Banks, who cruised 33 yards for a touchdown that made it 34-19 and sent the Ohio Stadium crowd into a frenzy.
Haskins and the Buckeyes carved up the top-ranked defense in the country for 567 yards. The Buckeyes had the horseshoe rocking when Haskin found Johnnie Dixon wide open for a 31-yard score to go up 21-6 with 3:18 left in the first half.
Haskins finished with 396 yards and set the Big Ten season record for TD passes with 42.
Shea Patterson passed for 187 yards and three touchdowns for Michigan.
Michigan: Harbaugh is 0-4 against Ohio State and faces another year of critics questioning his ability to win the big game. Harbaugh took ownership of a complete collapse by Michigan, but his players were not letting the coach take all the blame.
“I don’t know why he would take any heat after this loss, he took a lot last year and even this year when we were winning. We have a chance for an (11-win season),” Patterson said. “I know that’s not our ultimate expectation, but we have a chance to win 11 games and I think that’s a successful season.”
Ohio State: Meyer was suspended after a university investigation into his handling of former assistant coach Zach Smith, who has been accused of domestic violence by his ex-wife. A cloud of uncertainty hung over the Buckeyes throughout preseason practice and it has lingered. Meyer has often looked pained and exhausted on the sideline.
But he flashed a satisfied grin when he met Parris Campbell on the sideline after a 78-yard touchdown catch and run that made it 48-25 early in the fourth quarter.
“Extremely proud of our players, the way they fought through it,” Meyer said. “And like someone was saying, nothing’s ever good enough. And obviously some adversity earlier in the year — not some, big-time adversity. And to come back against your rival and play like that, that’s a focused team that loves each other and cares about each other.”
Michigan: The Wolverines will likely still get into a New Year’s Six bowl. Maybe the Rose if Ohio State is in the playoff.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes have won six straight against Northwestern and lost to the Wildcats just once, dating to 1972.
NOTE: An official scoring change was announced Sunday by Ohio State that credited Haskins with an additional touchdown pass on a 78-yard play to Parris Campbell that was originally ruled a rushing attempt.
AP Top 25: Ohio State up to No. 6 after stomping Michigan
Ohio State moved up to No. 6 in The Associated Press college football poll after trouncing rival Michigan.
The Buckeyes jumped four spots and the Wolverines fell four to No. 8 on Sunday, but overall the rankings were relatively stable after the last weekend of the regular season. Going into next week, when each FBS conference will play a championship game, Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame are the top three for the sixth straight poll.
Georgia moved up a spot to No. 4 and Oklahoma is fifth. Unbeaten UCF also moved up a spot to No. 7. No. 9 Texas and Washington round out the top 10.
Washington State and LSU both dropped out of the top 10 and are tied for No. 12.
Alabama has been ranked No. 1 for 14 straight weeks. The Crimson Tide are the first team to have three seasons of 14 straights weeks at No. 1, starting from the preseason. The Tide also accomplished the feat in 2016, when it went 15 polls at No. 1 before losing the College Football Playoff championship game to Clemson, and in 2012, when it lost to Auburn on the Kick Six during the final weekend of the regular season.
Southern California is the only other school to go 14 straight weeks in a season at No. 1, doing it in 2004 and 2005. The Trojans won the national championship, becoming just the second wire-to-wire AP No. 1, and lost the BCS championship game to Texas to end the 2005 season.
No. 22 Texas A&M moved back into the ranking after beating LSU 74-72 in a game that tied the FBS record with seven overtimes and broke the record for total points.
No. 25 Fresno State also moved back into the rankings.
Utah State (10-2) dropped out after losing to Boise State in a game that decided a spot in the Mountain West championship game against Fresno State. The Aggies had reached No. 14.
Pittsburgh is out after losing to Miami. The Panthers had already clinched a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference and will face No. 2 Clemson unranked and with a 7-5 record.
SEC — 7 teams (1, 4, 11, 12t, 16, 20, 22).
Big Ten — 4 (6, 8, 14, 21).
Big 12 — 4 (5, 9, 15, 24).
Pac-12 — 3 (10, 12t, 17).
ACC — 2 (2, 18).
Independent — 2 (3, 23).
Mountain West — 2 (19, 25).
American — 1 (7).
RANKED vs. RANKED
Conference championship weekend.
No. 4 Georgia vs. No. 1 Alabama, SEC championship Saturday in Atlanta. Winner goes to the playoff. Maybe the loser, too.
No. 9 Texas vs. No. 5 Oklahoma, Big 12 championship Saturday in Arlington, Texas. Playoff and Sugar Bowl ramifications.
No. 17 Utah vs. No. 10 Washington, Pac-12 championship Friday in Santa Clara, California. Winner goes to the Rose Bowl.
No. 21 Northwestern vs. No. 6 Ohio State, Big Ten championship Saturday in Indianapolis. Playoff and Rose Bowl ramifications.
No. 25 Fresno State at No. 19 Boise State, Mountain West championship Saturday. Winner could end up in New Year’s Six bowl.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://www.podcastone.com/AP-Top-25-College-Football-Podcast
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