COLUMBUS, Ohio – Troy Smith and Ohio State did it all, overwhelming Michigan with offense, winning the Big Ten title and streaking into the national title game.
The Wolverines may have another shot at the Buckeyes though — they, too, can still make it to the BCS title game in Arizona.
Smith and the top-ranked Buckeyes put their dazzling speed on display with a barrage of big plays, and they needed every one of them to beat an inspired Michigan team 42-39 on Saturday. The Game of the Century, the first 1 vs. 2 matchup in this storied rivalry, was played a day after Michigan lost one of its legends in Bo Schembechler.
The feisty and revered former Michigan coach died Friday, and the top two teams in the nation couldn't have honored his memory with a better game — though it wasn't the type of football that Bo and Woody Hayes played when they were coaching.
Two defenses that came in allowing 20 points per game combined were unable to stop each other's attack. It was the highest-scoring game in the 103-game series, which dates to 1897; the most were scored were 86 in 1902, the fourth game in the series — which Michigan won 86-0.
It was surely one of the most entertaining.
Smith played a near-perfect first half and finished 29-for-41 for 316 yards, a third straight magical performance against Michigan that might have just locked up the Heisman Trophy for the senior.
Mike Hart was Michigan's best answer, running for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
Smith and the Buckeyes twice jumped out to 14-point leads, but Hart and the Wolverines wouldn't stay down.
When Smith tossed his fourth touchdown pass, a 13-yarder to Brian Robiske with 5:38 left — on a drive aided by a Michigan roughing the passer — Ohio State was up 42-31, but they still couldn't rest.
Chad Henne connected with Tyler Ecker for a 16-yard TD and with Steve Breaston on a 2-point conversion to make it 42-39 with 2:16 to go.
Michigan's onside kick was caught by Ohio State's Ted Ginn Jr. and all that was left was for Ohio State to run out the clock.
With 22 seconds left the Buckeyes sideline emptied on to the field. Then the fans followed from the stands and joined in for a rousing rendition of the alma mater.
Coach Jim Tressel's blazing Buckeyes will play for the national championship for the second time since the 2002 season in Arizona on Jan. 8. Who they will play will be determined in the next two weeks.
Michigan made quite a good case to be that team.