Instant Analysis: Ohio State-Michigan

Staff Columnist
Posted Nov 17, 2007

In the era of Woody and Bo, the following statement never could have been written, but in the BCS age, it's true: barring an improbable turn of events, Jim Tressel--owner of four Big Ten championships--will head to Pasadena on New Year's Day for the very first time in his Ohio State career.

Offering a classic display of Tressel Ball, Ohio State manhandled Michigan in a bad-weather brawl to capture the Big Ten crown for the third straight season and for the fourth time in era of Mr. Sweater Vest. Using pure power on offense and overwhelming speed on defense, the Buckeyes proved to be too much for the wounded Wolverines, whose quarterback and running back were far too hurt to be effective. Ohio State's solid and steady style succeeded in a soggy slugfest, and as a result, the Rose Bowl beckons as the likely reward for a team that clearly overachieved in 2007.

The difference in this game was as simple as two players: Vernon Gholston and Chris Wells. Gholston's speed-based pass rushing obliterated his counterpart, Michigan offensive lineman Steve Schilling. Routinely able to explode around the edges, Gholston prevented Michigan quarterback Chad Henne from developing any kind of rhythm. Teammate James Laurinaitis usually receives the lion's share of notoriety for the Scarlet and Gray's defense, but on this afternoon in Ann Arbor, it was Gholston who proved to be the one-man wrecking crew who flatly intimidated Michigan's offense.

On the other side of the ball, Ohio State's offense began, continued and ended with Wells, who rolled up 229 yards--62 of them on a game-defining touchdown romp just after halftime--in the kind of performance that earns a treasured place in the history of this storied rivalry. The Buckeyes' offense didn't destroy Michigan's defense, but the running of Wells scored enough points while draining clock in the game's later stages to minimize Michigan's chances of mounting a comeback. The supremely effective performance from Wells, combined with the ruthlessly dominant effort of Gholston, produced a classic Jim Tressel masterpiece built on the twin foundations of a low-risk, ball-control offense and a smothering, swarming defense. Once Michigan failed to capitalize on Ohio State turnovers and tremendous field position in the first half, the Buckeyes made sure the Wolverines weren't allowed to breathe in the second half. Lloyd Carr's ballclub didn't just lose by eleven points; the Maize and Blue never came close to pulling within one possession of the Buckeyes after Wells scored early in the third quarter.

Jim Tressel has won the Big Ten before, but only now can the Ohio State coach expect the ultimate Rosy scenario. Yes, the Buckeyes could still reach New Orleans if every domino falls their way, but in all likelihood, the kids from Columbus--by winning the mother of all rivalry games--have just earned a trip to the Granddaddy.

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