2021 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Michigan
The Game. That is all you need to say this week and quickly memories of your favorite players and plays flash through your mind. Every year you can say through out the record in this one, as both teams will want to walk away with the win, and claim a victory, and 365 days of bragging rights. This is not like every other year though, and is closer to the 10 year war than it is with the 2000’s. Both teams will be playing for a chance to represent the Big Ten East in the Big Ten Championship Game. This one game will traject the fate of one team’s chances of competing for a National Championship, and anothers for a chance at maybe playing in the Rose Bowl.
Last year, this game was cancelled by Michigan because they were hit with COVID. Because it is a rivalry game, many outside of Ann Arbor say this as Michigan’s way of backing out so they would not get demolished by Justin Fields and the 2020 offense. The threat of Ryan Day still laying 100 points on the Wolverines as a way of revenge for last year. Michigan responded by finally implementing Ohio State in their practices for the past 15 months, and starting to try to make the rivalry mean something again after Harbaugh has gone 0-5 as a coach.
College GameDay will be in Ann Arbor for this clash of two top 5 teams, and the second week in a row they will be in attendance for an Ohio State game. Will this also be the second week in a row Lee Corso puts on the Buckeye head? Time will tell, and 12pm on Saturday can’t get here soon enough.
Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh (7th season)
2021 Record: 10-1
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Conference: Big 10
Ohio State Preview: If the Buckeyes needed any more motivation for this game, they certainly are not sharing that with the media, and maybe that is a good thing. Without The Game playing last year, this group of players will be hungry and will embrace the underdog role despite being 7 point favorites. This week the Buckeyes jumped ahead of Alabama in the CFP rankings thanks in large part to their big win against Michigan State, and shut down Kenneth Walker out of the Spartan game plan.
They will need to control the running backs again this week, and try to keep Michigan’s offense off of the field to limit them from controlling the time of possession. They will have to slow down Haskins and potentially Corum, while making sure McNamara gets pressured any time he steps back to through. If they can mimick their performance on both offense and defense from the last two weeks, this game will not be close.
CJ Stroud is currently the Heisman frontrunner, and has a chance to all but clinch it this week with another big performance. He also was announced as a Davey O’Brien finalist, which is awarded to the nations best quarterback. On the season he has passed for 3468 yards, with 36 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
Running back TreVeyon Henderson has been solid but quiet these past two weeks, as the defenses the Buckeyes faced has been focusing on stopping the run, which has opened up the passing game. He has 1098 rushhing yards for the season on 150 carries and 14 rushing touchdowns. He is 5th on the team in catches with 18 catches for 231 yards and 3 touchdowns. With Teague returning last week, the Buckeyes can rotate in both him and Miyan Williams to support Henderson. Williams now has 470 yards and 3 touchdowns. Teague is third with 348 yards and 4 touchdowns. This is the stretch of the season where the Buckeyes will need everyone to be healthy.
Ohio State might have the best wide receivers in the country, but unfortunately none were a finalist for the nations top award. I am sure though they would rather walk away with the ultimate trophy in a national championship. Jaxon Smith-Njigba still leads in receptions and yardage with 69 catches for 1132 yards. Garrett Wilson is second with 60 catches for 939 yards and 11 touchdowns. Chris Olave is third with 58 catches for 848 yards and 13 touchdowns. If the Buckeyes can get their passing game going, they have a chance to have 3 1000 yard receivers, which would only be the second time ever that has happened.
Michigan Preview: Michigan enters this game as the 5th ranked team in the country, and for the first time since 2018, has a chance to compete for a Big Ten Championship, and a National Championship. Jim Harbaugh though has an 0-5 record against the Buckeyes, and the past two meetings have not been close. They can change the narrative of their program and season with a win at home this weekend. Their lone loss this year was to Michigan State, who Ohio State just beat 56-7, but the spread of 7 points seems to feel like this game could be closer.
Gone is Don Brown who could not slow down Ohio State, and in is new defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald, who has the defense one of the top units in the country. They rank 7th in scoring defense, 31st in rushing, 8th in passing, and 10th in total defense. Michigan has one win against a top 25 team with Wisconsin.
Cade McNamara is the leading quarterback with 2142 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He has done a good job of not turning the ball over, and averages 8.1 yards a completion. Behind him is 5 star quarterback JJ McCarthy, who has subbed in a few times in redzone pacakges. He has 348 yards and 4 touchdowns to 1 interception on the season.
The running backs are the featured players in this years Wolverine offense, as Harbaugh is playing his conservative scheme. Hassan Haskins leads the running backs with 1063 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season. Behind him is Blake Corum, who was injured the last few weeks, but could return for this weeks game. He has 778 yards and 10 touchdowns. This running back duo is as important as the trio of receivers for the Ohio State offense.
McNamara likes to distribute the ball around to a few different receivers. His top target is Cornelius Johnson, who has 34 catches for 539 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tight End Erick All is the second top target with 31 catches for 324 yards and 1 touchdown. Mike Sainristill is third with 19 catches for 267 yards and 2 touchdowns. Be on the lookout too for Andrel Anthony, who is their best deep threat with 9 catches for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Buckeye Spotlight: CJ Stroud. Stroud had a huge game last week, and another big game this week could earn him the Heisman. His closest competition now is Bryce Young from Alabama, but the Buckeyes will face the 5th ranked team in the country this week, which will matter more in the optics than Alabama playing an unranked Auburn team.
Wolverine Spotlight: Aiden Hutchinson. The DE has 9 sacks for the year, and has 47 tackles. If Michigan is to win this game, it will be because the Wolverine offense keeps Ohio State’s offense off the field, and Hutchinson is able to dsiprupt Stroud with the timing of his passes and force him to make bad decisions.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 8. The current win streak against the Wolverines is 8 straight games, and a win for the Buckeyes would tie Michigan’s longest win streak in this series.
Prediction: Michigan does not want to get into a shootout with the Buckeyes, and I expect them to try and control the game with their rushing attack between Haskins and Corum to try to keep the Buckeyes offense off the field. Michigan State started to try and do the same things but quickly found itself down 28-0 and couldn’t keep up. If the Buckeyes defense can do the same thing against Michigan that they did against the Spartans, this will be a long day in Ann Arbor, and we can see the Buckeyes take down their second top 7 team in 2 weeks.
Ohio State 63 – Michigan 17
Photo Credit to SI.com