COLUMBUS — Even if Dwayne Haskins Jr. never plays another down for Ohio State his name will live in Buckeyes lore.
He entered the Michigan game in relief last year as a redshirt freshman when starting quarterback J.T. Barrett went down with a knee injury.
Ohio State trailed 20-14 in the third quarter but Haskins directed a touchdown drive and went on to lead Ohio State to a 31-20 win at Ann Arbor and a sixth straight victory in The Game.
“I was pretty calm going into that situation,” Haskins said as he prepared to face Michigan for the first time as a starter today. “I don’t really recall everything that happened in that game, but just being able to go into that atmosphere and that environment meant well for me going into this season.”
Haskins certainly has displayed plenty of poise since. He’s rewriting the school record book for single-season passing this year and has helped Ohio State rank second nationally in total yards. His 36 touchdown passes are tied for first in the country.
But he didn’t have the starting job in hand until Joe Burrow dropped out of the quarterback derby in the summer and subsequently transferred to LSU.
“I think going into the season there was a lot of uncertainties there, a lot of unknowns,” Ohio State co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Day said.
“Obviously, we saw talent but weren’t sure. This was a sophomore who really hadn’t played much football at all. And I think now he’s battle-tested, he’s been through it, He’s got some experience under his belt. He’s been hit in the mouth.”
Some other things to look for in the 115th edition of The Game:
Plenty at stake
No. 4 Michigan (10-1, 8-0, No. 4 CFP) likely will make its first trip to the College Football Playoff if it beats Ohio State and then takes care of Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship.
“It’s our whole season,” Michigan defensive tackle Carlos Kemp said. “It’s what we wanted, though, for it to be us versus Ohio State in a game to go to the Big Ten championship and keep our playoff hopes alive.”
A win also would complete an undefeated Big Ten season for Michigan for the first time since 1997 when it last won a national championship.
No. 10 Ohio State (10-1, 7-1, No. 10 CFP) comes in more vulnerable than its record shows, having played spotty defense for much of the year. Beating the Wolverines and playing for a conference championship would be a notable achievement this season in which Ohio State suspended coach Urban Meyer for three games for mishandling repeated professional and behavioral problems of an assistant coach.
Michigan is making the final stop on what defensive end Chase Winovich has called a revenge tour. The Wolverines have beaten three of the four teams it lost to last year, leaving Ohio State as the last one. They have been increasingly confident publicly.
Running back Karan Higdon guaranteed a win over Ohio State. Linebacker Devin Bush, wearing a revenge tour hat, said a win would mean everything.
“We haven’t beaten them in a while,” Bush said. “That’s something we want to do, and that’s something we’re going to do.”
Ohio State offensive lineman Thayer Munford (knee), receiver Terry McLaurin (head), running back Mike Weber (thigh bruise), defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones (shoulder) and linebacker Baron Browning (unspecified) all are expected to play.
AP sportswriter Larry Lage contributed from Ann Arbor, Mich.
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