It’s finally time. “The Game” is here.
Tomorrow, I can reset my “Days Until Ohio State Beats Michigan” countdown clock for next year.
This matchup between the two bitter rivals is the most high profile and impactful since 2006’s epic 1v2 matchup, mostly because Michigan actually decided to show up at most of their games this year. While I’m certainly thrilled for the rivalry to regain the excitement the rivalry had when beating Michigan meant denying them a shot at the national title to send them to the “Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl”, a (large) part of me just got a kick out of beating up on a 4-7 Michigan team that doesn’t have anything to play for.
Not so this year.
Even SEC Pundits are calling this the most important game of the year. It’s been a long wait, but “The Game” is back on top as the can’t miss event of the college football season. I for one, can’t wait.
Why Ohio State Could Win:
The injury to Wilton Speight will be a factor, but not a major one. I think this forces Michigan to run the ball a bit more and I think the Buckeyes will be ready for that. Even with the athletic chameleon that is Jabrill Peppers, the Maize and Blue will struggle running the ball without the threat of pass. If OSU’s defense forces O’Korn to drop back on long 3rd downs, Michigan won’t be able to move the ball down the field. If J.T. gets in a rhythm and his receivers can get a few deep passes, the running game will open up and OSU will run away with this game.
Why Michigan Could Win:
A Michigan victory will come down to 2 factors: One: being able to hold OSU to field goals in the Red Zone, and Two: if a small asteroid lands on the OSU sideline in the first quarter, killing Urban Meyer, J.T. Barrett and wiping out most of their teams in a horrible and tragic conflagration. If these two things happen, the wolverines stand a good chance of coming away with the win.
How does the outcome affect College Football?
If Michigan wins, they are the Big 10 East Champions. A berth in the Big Ten title game, likely against Wisconsin, would determine the Big 10 representative to the College Football Playoff.
Believe it or not, Ohio State could still get in if they lose this game, but they would need some serious help. Clemson and Washington would have to lose, and Wisconsin would have to beat Michigan in the Big 10 Championship. It’s hard to see the committee taking any 2-loss team over the Buckeyes in that situation, except maybe Michigan.
If OSU wins, Penn State will probably play Wisconsin in the Big 10 title game. OSU stands a good chance of getting in the Playoff anyways, as their 11-1 record would edge out other one-loss teams due to strength of schedule. The Big 10, especially the east, is a monster this year and it’s hard to see the committee leaving OSU out even without a conference championship on their resume.
I see this matchup fundamentally as a battle between a young team filled with fire and talent (Ohio State) vs. an older more experienced team (Michigan) that has some solid players on both sides of the ball. More important is how each offensive line reacts to two of the best defenses in the country. Ohio State can be streaky on offense at times, and the only time their defense hasn’t been able to bail them out was their only loss of the year. If Michigan’s backup QB John O’Korn can get in a rhythm and balance out the offense with enough good passes to keep Ohio State from keeping 8 men in the box to stop the run, the Wolverines will have a good chance at putting up some points. Ohio State’s receivers will have to step up this game. If J.T. Barrett can string some deep passes together, and use his legs to convert 3rd downs at a high percentage, the Buckeyes win.
It has been 1,826 days since Ohio State has lost to Michigan. I predict a tight defensive struggle highlighted by a lot of field goals and punts. OSU is able to string some drives together, cover the spread and win a high-energy contest 23-13.
What do you think the score will be?