COLUMBUS OH - NOVEMBER 27: Head Coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes shakes hands with Head Coach Rich Rodriguez after the Buckeyes defeated the Wolverines 37-7 at Ohio Stadium on November 27 2010 in Columbus Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
That would be the number of consecutive wins Ohio State has posted over arch rival Michigan. It's the longest run the Buckeyes have ever made against their northern nemesis, and the second-longest streak in the 106 year old series (the Wolverines netted 9 victories from 1901 to 1909).
The win also gives the scarlet a share of their sixth consecutive Big Ten title.
Sure, there's plenty to celebrate in East Lansing -- where the Spartans can call themselves Big Ten champions for the first time since 1990, and Madison, where the post game fireworks looked appropriately similar to the confetti that will litter the floor of the Rose Bowl in five short weeks -- but for now you'd be hard pressed to find a group of Midwesterners more pleased than those that reside in Columbus.
It was a simple, time-honored formula for success: a suffocating defense forcing turnovers and giving a simple but effective offense excellent field position. After Denard Robinson and a shifty Michigan offense outgained the Buckeyes 133-13 in the first quarter with no points to show for it, Ohio State turned on the jets, registering a 33 yard field goal and 7 yard touchdown pass to take a 10-0 lead. The Wolverines would answer, only to hemorrhage 14 more points, giving the scarlet a comfortable 24-7 halftime lead.
Although I was impressed with Denard Robinson's speed and footwork, his ability to improvise in the backfield was suffocated by the damning presence of Ohio State's front four -- particularly John Simon and Cameron Heyward. Sure, there were moments where the no-huddle zone-read attack looked dangerous, but ultimately my friends and I left the game underwhelmed with the nation's fifth-best offense. It never really felt like Michigan might take off, and compared to other electric offenses I've seen in person (Oregon) Rodriguez's system felt choppy and out of sync. Again, this was largely a product of a stout defensive showing, but at the end of the day if you're going to put all your eggs in one basket, it better be one giant basket.
More surprising was Michigan's early run defense. Greg Robinson's much maligned unit did a respectable job bottling up Terrelle Pryor and Boom Herron for a quarter and a half before ultimately relapsing into a gaseous state. The Wolverine secondary played with heart, if not experience, yielding 220 yards in the air.
It's hard to be critical of a young unit that did its best to play with fire, even when under the gun. It's easier to second guess the play calling decisions of Rich Rodriguez for whom no fourth down seemed too far to go, and no field position seemed too sacred to risk a turnover on downs. Michigan ended the day 1 for 5 on fourth down -- several times gifting Ohio State the ball in its own territory. I understand you've got to take risks when you're down late, but Rodriguez's ambition looked a lot like hubris to this untrained eye.
As we walked out of the stadium into the smoky West lot Graham and I began a debate which would carry through the better part of the evening -- should Dave Brandon bring Rodriguez back next year? Although I agree with Brian Cook that Rich gives this team with these 20 returning starters the best chance for success in 2010, I don't think it's the answer for Michigan in the long term.
It's not the run-spread. It's the program.
Graham vehemently disagrees, but at the end of the day Jim Harbaugh isn't going to be around forever and if the Wolverines have the chance to get him now, I think they should.
But I digress. Congratulations to Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State on sharing the Big Ten Championship in a remarkably competitive season. More on this soon.