The Game we have all been waiting for has finally arrived. Coming into the year, we thought there was a very legitimate chance that Ohio State and Michigan both came into the season finale sitting at 11-0. The Wolverines played one of the easiest schedules in all of college football, and we felt pretty good about the Buckeyes’ chances of surviving their biggest tests against Notre Dame and Penn State. While it wasn’t pretty for either team in Week 12, both programs indeed come into this final contest of the regular season undefeated, setting up the Game of the Century Pt. II.
For Ohio State, it was a 43-30 win over Maryland on Saturday. The Buckeyes’ defense was tested more than it had been all season, struggling a bit in the secondary but getting it done on that side of the ball when it mattered most at the end with a game-sealing pick-six by Steele Chambers on Zach Harrison’s big hit on Terrapins QB Taulia Tagovailoa. Offensively, an injured and ineffectively TreVeyon Henderson was replaced by freshman Dallan Hayden, who carried Ohio State’s offense to the tune of 146 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. Health is a legitimate concern for this team moving forward in some key areas, but the Buckeyes’ 13-point win over Maryland matched the winning margin by the three other teams in the top four of the CFP combined.
Speaking of other College Football Playoff hopefuls, Michigan narrowly escaped with a win against Illinois at home this weekend, needing a last-second field goal to defeat the Illini in a 19-17 final. The biggest story of this one was the injury to Blake Corum, who left the game after rushing for 108 yards and a TD. Without Corum, the Wolverines’ offense struggled, scoring just one touchdown in the game but still emerging victorious on the strength of three fourth quarter field goals by kicker Jake Moody. On defense, Michigan didn’t have much of an answer for Illini RB Chase Brown, who ran for 140 yards and 2 TDs on 29 carries as he did as much as he could to try and upset Jim Harbaugh’s group.
These two teams have been compared to one another all season long. The Wolverines, of course, won the matchup between these two schools by a score of 42-27 in Ann Arbor. While some looked to blame the weather for Ohio State’s first loss to TTUN since 2011, the real issue was the Buckeyes’ defense. OSU allowed Michigan to rush for nearly 300 yards in the game, with Hasan Haskins accounting for 169 yards and a whopping five touchdowns. This year’s defense for Ohio State looks a lot different under new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, but they are coming off their worst performance of the year after surrendering 30 points to a Maryland team that was shutout by Penn State the week prior.
Offensively, it would appear that it is the Buckeyes who have the edge coming into this one. C.J. Stroud remains the Heisman frontrunner at the helm of the unit, and Marvin Harrison Jr. is one of if not the best wide receiver in the country. The running game has been scrutinized all season, but has looked good when utilizing an actual healthy back, which hopefully Miyan Williams can be this week. If not, look for Hayden to continue his strong start in his first year with the program. On the flip side, J.J. McCarthy has not been great this year, with the Wolverines ranking 99th in FBS in passing offense. Corum is expected to play on Saturday, and he is basically Michigan’s entire offense. If he is not at 100%, Ohio State has the advantage here.
Defensively, Michigan likely has the edge in this one, but not by much. The Wolverines lead the Big Ten allowing just 11.7 points per game, while Ohio State has allowed 16.9 pointers per game this year. Michigan has allowed 241.3 yards per game this season to lead the B1G, while OSU is 5th in the conference allowing 283.4 yards per game. As previously mentioned, some of these numbers may be inflated as a result of the Wolverines’ incredibly easy schedule to this point, but even while losing some of the biggest names from last year’s Michigan defense — namely Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo — this unit remains one of the best in the country.
I truly have no idea what is going to happen in this game. Ryan Day and Ohio State have been preparing non-stop for this game ever since last year’s loss, and they will be looking for revenge back in Columbus. Both teams are dealing with pretty significant injury issues, with the two playing with banged up running backs the Buckeyes potentially without star receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba once again. It seems as thought the Buckeyes are the better team this year, but anything can happen in a rivalry game.
What do you think? Does an 8.5-point spread in Ohio State’s favor feel right to you given everything we have seen from these two games this year? Let us know!
How do you feel about the spread?
This poll is closed
Ohio State is favored by too much
Ohio State is favored by too little
The line feels about right
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.