Ohio State faces the Michigan Wolverines in Columbus for one of the biggest games of the college football season. The winner of this matchup on Saturday will likely win the Big Ten Championship and secure a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines have been hot lately, and the Buckeyes are still trying to make a run at a Playoff spot after their loss at Purdue. The spread has Michigan as the favorite to win by 4.5, but Ohio State will surely give the Wolverines a battle at home.
It seems like there is a fixed script for Ohio State Football during the College Football Playoff era: The team blows out their non-conference opponents, loses to a terrible team by a lot (Iowa, Purdue), wins big games following that loss (Michigan State), and always finds a way to beat Michigan. Ohio State has shown their strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the ball: The passing offense is marvelous while the offensive line has recently been horrendous, and the pass rush has been great while the team has struggled to stop the run game. The linebackers and secondary have especially been terrible lately, allowing Maryland’s running back to have almost 300 yards on the ground last week. The defense has allowed multiple big plays that result in touchdowns, but it has also forced multiple turnovers that help give the offense momentum. Dre’Mont Jones and Chase Young especially have pressured QB’s all year and will be a major factor for the Buckeye defense as they try to get near Shea Patterson as much as possible. Greg Schiano must get this defense focused and ready to stop the Michigan running game if they want to get the electric OSU offense on the field as much as possible.
The major key for the Buckeyes to win at home is for their offense to consistently produce against Michigan’s impressive defense. Dwayne Haskins proved last week that he can run out of the pocket too, getting 3 touchdowns on the ground as well as 3 in the air against Maryland. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber have both had impressive seasons, and it will be important for Urban Meyer and Ryan Day to get them both involved on Saturday. Getting touches to receiver Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill is essential for the Buckeye offense as they are two of the best at making moves in the open field. The offensive line needs to step up against Michigan to limit the amount of times Haskins is pressured so he can make calm, collected passes down the field. There have been times this season where the Buckeyes have struggled to keep their offense balanced. Haskins threw the ball 73 times against Purdue in their only loss of the year, and Dobbins carried the ball 37 times last week against Maryland. Offensive Coordinator Ryan Day needs to balance the Ohio State offense and keep the Wolverines on their feet if they want to way. If the play calls start to get too obvious like they have at times this year, the talented Michigan defense will for sure stop the offensive attack.
People were not impressed with Ohio State’s performance at Maryland, but let’s not forget that Michigan beat Indiana 31-20, a team that Ohio State beat 49-26 earlier this year right after facing Penn State in the infamous White Out. The Playoff Committee was not impressed at all by a 20 point road win against Michigan State, so it was inevitable that they would trash Ohio State for not playing 100% against Maryland. Neither Michigan nor Ohio State put in every single ounce of effort that they could last week because they are looking ahead to the most important game for each team this year. The Purdue loss was bad, but Ohio State has slightly improved every single week since. I expect this matchup to be a score close all the way through, but I expect the Buckeyes to win at home.
Keep in mind that the Wolverines have not beaten Ohio State yet during the Jim Harbaugh era. The chance that Harbaugh’s first win against the Buckeyes will be in Columbus is very low. Michigan lost to the only team they played currently in the Top 10, which was Notre Dame. They barely beat a Northwestern team that is 2-4 at home and beat one of the most overhyped teams of recent history in Wisconsin at the Big House. The Wolverines are good, but I do not think that they are as impressive as most people think they are.
The Buckeyes have been on and off this season, but Urban Meyer knows how to unite his team together in moments like this. Meyer is 6-0 against Michigan as the coach for the Buckeyes, and I do not expect his first loss against them to happen this year. If the offense can execute consistently at home and the defense can stop those big plays that they have allowed all year from happening, the Buckeyes will be victorious in The Game once again.