The GAME. The best rivalry in sports is finally upon us and should be nothing less than spectacular. Two teams with College Football Playoff hopes square off in a battle for B1G supremacy. Harbaugh vs. Meyer Part II.
Rushing Offense against Ohio
Ohio State comes in with a group of talented and experienced linebackers. The most impressive is probably junior Raekwon McMillan. McMillan is a 6’2’’ junior with tons of game experience. He’s the leader of the defense in the huddle and in the tackling category, with 71. He and his sidekick Jerome Baker are both semifinalist for the Butkus award, given to the nation’s best linebacker. Junior Chris Worley rounds out the group of linebackers that will be responsible for stopping Michigan’s rushing attack.
The Buckeye’s defense is good but Michigan should be able to get a running game going. They’re allowing 120 yards per game to opposing offenses but have only given up four touchdowns. They gave up 236 to Wisconsin and just last week, allowed a struggling Michigan State team to run for 207.
De’Veon Smith was back to his old tricks last week, racking up 158 yards and two touchdowns. Smith had a nice game but has been somewhat inconsistent for the season and career. This would be the perfect game to cement his legacy in the maize & blue. He’s never really had a great game against the Buckeyes but did run for 57 yards in a one-point loss back in 2013. Chris Evans will once again be counted on in his change of pace role to bring a different element to the game.
- Advantage: Push
Michigan relied heavily on the run game last week and if Wilton Speight doesn’t play, the Wolverines could be at a stalemate with the Buckeyes defense all afternoon. Not to mention, this is also a rivalry and something these players really get up for.
Passing Offense against Ohio
Ohio State has some guys in their defensive backfield that were heavily recruited by the Wolverines. Damon Webb from Detroit Cass Tech, former Michigan commitment Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore to name a few. This group is solid and full of above average playmakers, making it difficult to get behind them.
The defensive line also has some tremendous athletes, making it hard for any quarterback to get comfortable. Defensive end Tyquan Lewis will be on the heels of whichever quarterback lines up under center for the Wolverines, including Jabrill Peppers. Possessing a unique blend of size and speed, Lewis leads the Buckeyes with 7.5 sacks. Defensive end Sam Hubbard is a budding star and Nick Bosa (brother of Joey) is a rising freshman.
Michigan threw the ball a season low 16 times last week, and if you watched the game, you know why. John O’Korn started in place of Wilton Speight and looked less than capable of running the offense. There are several reasons O’Korn may have struggled but he’ll need to pull it all together to break the Buckeye defense.
If Speight is able to return this week, it will be a different story. It’s to Michigan’s advantage that Ohio State doesn’t know who to prepare for but Speight would be the better option. Speight struggled in his last outing, a loss to Iowa, but is sure to be prepared if he’s starting a game of this magnitude.
- Advantage: Ohio State
Without the knowledge of who will start the ball game, it’s hard to choose against the Buckeyes. O’Korn looked rusty and lacked confidence last game; he’ll need to fix those things if he wants to go into Columbus and come out alive.
Ohio State has returned six of their league leading 17 interceptions for touchdowns.
Rushing Defense against Ohio State
The Buckeyes have a set of very elusive running backs. One of them is Detroit’s own Mike Weber, the other is Mr. do it all, Curtis Samuel. Both of these backs can lineup with the Ohio State scheme, and both are handful with the ball in their hands.
Samuel catches more passes, as he also lines up in the slot and Weber is more of the lead back. Weber has already passed the 1,000-yard mark, with 1,066. Samuel has about half that with 650 yards, but does have seven touchdowns from the running back position. Quarterback JT Barrett is no slouch either and must be accounted for or he will not hesitate to take off and run.
The Wolverines still have the best defense in the country and they’re not going to lie down just because they’re in Columbus. Expect Don Brown to dial up some creative pressure while keeping the running game between the ends. If OSU is allowed to get outside, that’s where problems will arise.
Michigan linebackers and ends are going to need to stay disciplined to contain the Buckeye attack. Known for running the zone read, OSU will chip away and lull defenses to sleep until the defense gets lazy. And when they get lazy, Barrett and the backs will strike.
- Advantage: Michigan
OSU does have the athletes to make big plays but Michigan has been so good all season. May we see more Devin Bush in this one? Maybe, he possesses a little more foot speed and can run down faster players. Jabrill Peppers should have a plate full
Passing Defense against Ohio State
This will be the best quarterback the Wolverines face all season. It’s no secret that Barrett has caused Michigan defenses fits over the years and he’s only gotten better. Through 10 games, he’s thrown for 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The former B1G offensive player of the year has a few of his favorite targets ready to go Saturday.
The aforementioned Samuel, Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson all have game breaking abilities. Peppers, Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling will more than likely be locked on these three all afternoon.
The difference in this one will come along the lines. Will Michigan be able to pressure Barrett? Can they keep him in the pocket? Who will create the turnovers? The Wolverines have truly put forth a team effort when it comes to getting to the quarterback. Sacking opposing quarterbacks 36 times, no one man is far and away better than the other, stat wise. Taco Charlton leads the charge with six but have a few others right on his tail.
Wolverine fans have to trust that Don Brown will have something special up his sleeve for Barrett. Anything he can do to make the star qb uncomfortable.
- Advantage: Push
Ohio State has only allowed 17 sacks but Don Brown is the best in the business at getting to the quarterback. This one will go back and forth all day with plenty of trash talk. This will be the difference in the game
Prediction: Ohio State 24 – Michigan 17
Both of these teams deserve to win and it’s a shame one has to lose. The only difference is that this game is in Columbus and Michigan’s quarterback situation remains unsettled. If Speight plays, I like Michigan’s chances, if not, I’m going with 24-17 Ohio State.
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Photo Credit: ESPN.com
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