Ohio State might not compete for a Big Ten championship, but the Buckeyes put themselves in position for a spot in the College Football Playoff on Saturday.
Curtis Samuel scampered into the end zone from 15 yards out in double overtime to send Ohio State to a walk-off 30-27 win over rival Michigan in Saturday's epic edition of The Game at Ohio Stadium.
The second-ranked Buckeyes trailed the third-ranked Wolverines nearing the end of regulation, tying the game at 17 on Tyler Durbin's 23-yard field goal after Durbin had missed an earlier pair of field-goal tries.
Ohio State got the ball first in the initial overtime period, J.T. Barrett following a Curtis Samuel rush with a seven-yard touchdown run. Michigan answered, scoring on a five-yard pass from Wilton Speight to Amara Darboh for a game-evening touchdown.
In the second overtime, the Wolverines were held to a field goal, and it looked like they might have had the game won when Barrett's fourth-down rush from the 16-yard line was hair-splittingly close to the first-down line. But after a review, Barrett and the Buckeyes were awarded the first down, with Samuel scoring on the following play.
It was a thrilling ending to a tightly contested game. After a scoreless first quarter featuring Durbin's first missed kick, Michigan struck first with a field goal. Ohio State was the first to hit the end zone, fittingly getting a defensive touchdown via a Wilton Speight interception. Malik Hooker picked off Speight — who surprisingly played despite week-old reports that he might miss the remainder of the season — and returned the ball 16 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.
The Wolverines quickly answered, though, with do-everything star Jabrill Peppers returning the ensuing kick 44 yards to set up a 55-yard touchdown drive that ended with Khalid Hill's one-yard touchdown run. Michigan took a 10-7 lead into halftime.
The second half started with what seemed like disaster for Ohio State, Peppers intercepting Barrett and setting up Michigan in plus territory, and the Wolverines found themselves inside the 10-yard line after a 16-yard De'Veon Smith rush. But Speight fumbled on the one-yard line, turning the ball over and blowing a golden scoring chance.
The Buckeyes followed, however, with their own screw up, Urban Meyer drawing up a fake punt on fourth down from his own 19-yard line. Ohio State punter Cameron Johnston was short on the rush, giving the ball right back to Michigan. The Wolverines cashed in this time, taking a 17-7 lead on a Speight pass to Hill.
Again it was the Ohio State secondary breathing life into the home side, Jerome Baker picking off Speight later in the third quarter to set the Buckeyes up inside the Wolverines' 30-yard line. A few plays later, the Buckeyes were in the end zone, scoring on Mike Weber's short touchdown rush to make it 17-14.
In the fourth, Ohio State drove all the way down to the Michigan two-yard line but was stopped on third down. Durbin came out for a game-tying field-goal try and pushed it to the left, stunningly missing a chip shot that would've tied the game. But the Buckeyes' defense stood tall and forced the Wolverines to an immediate three and out. Barrett marched Ohio State down the field, hitting Samuel, Noah Brown and Marcus Baugh for big pickups — and benefiting from a Michigan pass-interference penalty — to set up Durbin's last-second kick that sent the game to overtime, where the Buckeyes emerged victorious.
This battle between two of the best defenses in college football sure lived up to the hype. Neither team eclipsed 330 total yards, and there were four total turnovers in the game, three forced by Ohio State. Michigan was also the more penalized team, committing seven infractions for 59 yards compared to just two flags for six yards for Ohio State.
Barrett was the game's biggest offensive playmaker, rushing 30 times for 125 yards and a touchdown and adding 124 passing yards. Samuel and Weber combined for 80 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Speight had 219 passing yards and two touchdowns but also threw a pair of costly interceptions. The Wolverines mustered just 91 rushing yards as a team. Darboh caught eight passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.
The win sent the Buckeyes to 11-1 on the season and likely sets them up for a spot in the College Football Playoff. While the outcome of the Penn State-Michigan State game will determine whether Ohio State gets an opportunity to compete for a Big Ten title, even without that opportunity, the Buckeyes have a sterling resume that includes three wins over top-10 teams (Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin).
The loss almost surely dropped Michigan out of Playoff contention. The Wolverines sit at 10-2 overall, 7-2 in the Big Ten, and have suffered two losses in their last three games after winning the first nine. Michigan would perhaps still have a shot at making the final four should Penn State lose and Ohio State win the Big Ten title, making the Wolverines the highest-ranked two-loss team from the selection committee's strongest conference. But no longer is Jim Harbaugh's team's destiny in its own hands.