2018 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Michigan
That’s all you simply need to say. The famous quote that a picture is worth a thousand words, the phrase “The Game” brings up countless stories, memories, emotions, plays, victories, and defeats. This is where the Ohio State and Michigan rivalry transcends every other rivalry. It is more than the 10 year war with Woody and Bo, the Toledo War, Archie, Eddie, Woodson, and Howard. Its about the people, the fans, the universities, and sometimes, bragging rights. It’s about everything because it means everything, and for day each year, these two teams have met up, and the world watches. This year will be no different.
College GameDay will be in Columbus for this one, as the winner of this game will face Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship. Both teams enter the game with a 10-1 record. There are a lot of parallels between this season and 2016, where the game decided who would put their best foot forward to represent the Big Ten in the playoff picture. Fox will have the television rights, so for those at home, you will get to enjoy Gus Johnson for another week.
Both teams are also coming off of closer than comfort wins against Maryland and Indiana, but last weeks game is over. The previous weeks mean nothing. All that matters now for both teams is this one game. One game to decide who controls their post season journey. As fans, we wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Ohio State. Michigan. Noon. Just as it was meant to be.
Saturday can’t come soon enough.
Ohio State Preview: Ohio State won in a close match-up against a Maryland team who has been carrying the weight of the University on their back all season. They wanted to send off their seniors with a win, and did all they could except complete a 2-point conversion. Ohio State did not do themselves any favors with the turnovers, the bad defensive coverage, and the penalties that almost killed any drive or momentum on offense. If they show up this week with the same type of performance, Ohio State will be sitting at home next week, while Michigan and Northwestern play in a rematch game for the title.
Dwayne Haskins broke some records in his home state last week, breaking a 20 year record from Joe Germaine for passing yards in a season. He can continue to build on that record, and has a chance to break 4,000 yards this season. He also broke JT Barrett’s passing touchdown record in a season, now with 36 passing touchdowns. With his 3865, he will be best quarterback Michigan will have faced all season, and if he wants any chance at a Heisman, or make a mark if there are any thoughts of leaving after this season, this is the game he needs to do it in. Last season, he came in to lead Ohio State past Michigan 31-20 after Barrett went out. This year, it will be all him going against the same defense. He needs to be accurate against the Michigan defense who on average gives up 123.2 passing yards a game. He might need to show his running game threat to have the Wolverine defense respect the run, and maybe open up the passing game a little more.
Ohio State will need both running backs to be healthy when they go against the Michigan defensive front, who could be missing their senior leader. JK Dobbins carried the load for the team last week against Maryland with 37 carries, 203 yards, and a touchdown run. Weber did not see any action last week, and hopefully he is recovering from his quad injury and will be ready to go this week. He came up big against Michigan at home two years ago, and based on how he has ran this season, Ohio State fans know he is going to run as hard as he can each time he gets the ball. Again, the running game task wont be easy against a team that is only giving up 111,6 yards a game on the ground. If the Buckeyes have learned anything, with the lack of pressure they are getting up front from the line, setting up outside the tackle runs or sweeps might be the best way to attack the Wolverine defensive line. Dobbins is now only 85 yards shy of breaking 1000 yards for the season.
This will be an emotional game for Zone 6, as Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, and Johnnie Dixon are all playing their last home game as Buckeye. This season, Zone 6 has been a huge factor in several games, including last week against Maryland, Michigan State and Penn State. KJ Hill had a quite game, with the exception of the touchdown that helped Ohio State force the overtime, but he still leads all receivers with 772 yards, Parris Campbell is not far behind with 711 yards and 9 touchdowns. McLaurin also has 9 touchdowns to go along with 579 receiving yards. They will need to get open against this secondary, who were exposed a little bit by Indiana last week, and be consistent with their blocking to help the screen and running game.
The defense might be what it is, and that is unfortunate because it means Ohio State will be in close games, but sometimes they pull through when they are needed to. This week is a tougher challenge with a mobile threat at quarterback with Shea Patterson, who is finally merging into Harbaugh’s offense. Karan Higdon is also someone who the Buckeyes will need to focus on because he has 1106 yards on the ground for the year and having a great second half of the season. The defense let Maryland run all over them last week, so there is a good chance that will be the emphasis at practice. They need to play their best game of the season this week. Otherwise, it will become a shoot out, and as good as Ohio State’s offense is, Michigan’s defense is their strength, so both units need to help each other out.
Michigan Preview: Since losing to Notre Dame at South Bend 24-17, Michigan has won every game since, and have slowly been building momentum, and looked like one of the top teams in the country. A lot of their seniors, including vocal capital Chase Winovich are embracing the “Revenge Tour” mantra that this team has been feeding since that loss. They came out of their toughest stretch with Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan State unscathed, and have looked dominate against lesser opponents. As a Buckeye fan, this is how you would have wanted your team to look in a lot of ways at this point in the season. There is a respect for what Michigan is doing, but regardless, both teams have the same record, and the same opportunities on the line.
Transfer quarterback Shea Patterson is embracing Harbaugh’s offense, and has put up respectable numbers. He hasn’t put up the same numbers that other quarterbacks have, but he is finding ways to win through the air, and on his feet, and has only thrown 4 interceptions to his 18 passing touchdowns, and 2177 yards through the air. He is not the same skill as Andrew Luck was, but he has helped his team to get to a position to win the game.
Karan Higdon has led the Wolverines with the rushing attack, with 1106 yards on the ground, and 10 touchdowns on 209 carries. He has shown to be a breakaway threat if he gets to the second level, and has a 67 yard long touchdown run on the season. Behind him is Chris Evans, not Captain America, who has 370 yards on the ground with 66 carries and 4 touchdowns. Look for Higdon to get the bulk of the carries, but with the pro-style offense Michigan runs, both running backs could be on the field.
The Wolverine wide receiver corp. is led by Donovan Peoples-Jones, who averages around 15 yards a catch, and has 477 yards on 32 catches and 7 touchdowns. Behind him is Zach Gentry, who has 475 yards on 30 catches and 2 touchdowns. The third receiving threat is Nico Collins, who has 461 yards on 29 catches and 4 touchdowns. The secondary will have their hands full with the receivers, who have been consistent for Michigan so far this season.
The biggest strength for the Wolverine team is their defense, who is led by Don Brown, known for smiling as much as Mark Dantonio, and with the same defensive mind. Their front 7 are a strong group, led by potential first rounder Rashan Gary and senior Chase Winovich, who was injured during the Indiana game, and could be potentially out in the match up against Ohio State. This defensive groups ranks tops in the country, and on average five up 13.5 points a game. It will be a contest of strength vs strength when these two teams collide in Columbus.
Buckeye Spotlight: Dwayne Haskins. The offense flows though Haskins, and even though the Buckeyes have shown they have a running game these last three weeks since the bye week, the are still a pass strong team, and will need to get chunks of yardage against a discipline Wolverine defense. Haskins had his emotional game for his homecoming, now it is his business trip at home, and lead this Buckeye team to a victory.
Wolverine Spotlight: Shea Patterson. Michigan’s success is in large part due to Patterson gelling with the offense, and make plays with his feet when needed. He has a good running back behind him in Higdon, and some quality receivers on the perimeter, but this pro-style offense is still based on how well he can move the ball. If he is able to connect on the deep ball or in the middle of the field, that could cause some issues for the Ohio State back 7.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 1-0. Throw out the record books for this game. Both teams have similar records, and both teams have the same stakes on the line. This game is a one game season for both teams. Who ever wins controls their destiny.
Prediction: Michigan is favored to win this game, and is the higher ranked team, despite both teams posting similar records. Both teams will be focused for this game, with all of the stakes on the line for each team, this year’s Game will mean a little more. Urban Meyer has had Harbaugh’s number since arriving and has yet to lose to Michigan. If there is a year Michigan could win, this is it based on the performances both teams are putting on the field. But the Urban factor means something still, and he always has his team ready for the rivalry games. This will be close, this won’t be pretty, but Ohio State finds a way to win in the end. Get ready for a 4 hour dogfight.