When the much-anticipated battle between undefeated teams kicks off in Columbus this weekend, entire seasons will be on the line. College football careers may even come to an official end, depending on bowl bids, NFL draft prep, health, etc. And unforgettable memories will be made, whether positive or downright devastating. Ohio State and TTUN have everything to play for, which means they also (both) have everything to lose. The 2022 season – and whether it is ultimately deemed a success by each program – likely comes down to the outcome of this game... The Game. Not only will it determine the winner of the Big Ten East, but it will also help shape the College Football Playoff and subsequent chase for a national championship. Other than that, it should be a friendly little exhibition in The Shoe, right?
The Buckeyes and Wolverines will clash at noon (Saturday), in what should absolutely be considered the best rivalry in sports. Yankees-Red Sox? Get out of here. Celtics-Lakers? No offense to the GOAT, Larry Bird, but give me a break. Because OSU and TTUN first met in 1897, and have since engaged in The Ten-Year War, a Game of the Century, and now 13 total matchups during which both teams were ranked inside the top-5 (AP or CFP rankings). This is it, folks. And this season, it is for all the proverbial marbles!
Jim Harbaugh’s bunch will roll into enemy territory with an 11-0 record, aided by a surprisingly stout defense and a balanced yet bruising offense. Said defense, which saw the losses of No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson, as well as fellow first-rounder Dax Hill and pass rusher extraordinaire David Ojabo, has bounced back nicely to allow just 11.7 points per game in 2022. Of course, those numbers were propped up by playing local high schools in the non-con, but a win is a win and a shutout is a shutout. That being said, I have been equally impressed by the Wolverines’ potent offense. They are averaging 39.4 PPG, and have found a nice balance between their physical ground game and an efficient aerial attack.
Now, before I start to get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach – for being too complimentary of *ichigan’s team – I would harken back, once again, to their schedule. The fact of the matter is, TTUN faced an embarrassing trio of opponents early on, and this year’s version of the Big Ten is not what it was cracked up to be. But the Wolverines are legit. As is their leading rusher and Doak Walker Award candidate, Blake Corum. This third-year running back has maintained impressive efficiency in a starring role while finding his way to the endzone 19 total times. As if there were another option, Corum is this week’s Offensive Player to Watch.
Now, this is written under the assumption that we actually do get to see Corum on Saturday. He went down with what looked like a scary knee injury against Illinois, only to return in the second half. However, he only carried the ball once more in a game the Wolverines clearly needed, indicating a lack of perfect health. You never wish injury upon another person – even a bitter rival – so here is hoping Corum’s injury is not too serious... However, if he were to miss this game, I cannot truthfully say that I would be heartbroken. Sure, there is the spirit of competition and wanting to beat the other team’s best, but I won’t be out there! This is not my personal battle! I want my Buckeyes to win, and if one of CFB’s top runners is watching from the sideline, so be it.
But in all seriousness, we should all be hopeful for Corum’s long-term outlook. Like, from Nov. 27 on, I hope he enjoys a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year.
This 5-foot-8 bowling ball was a consensus top-20 RB and four-star recruit out of Maryland, where he was also named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2019. And he actually made an official visit to Ohio State less than two weeks before committing to TTUN, but ultimately chose the Wolverines over a number of other schools, enrolling (early) in January of 2020. At the time, Corum was hyped up as an explosive all-purpose RB, and he has since met or exceeded those expectations. However, you may not have believed he was destined for any future award consideration after a disastrous freshman season.
TTUN was just plain awful during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and Corum was arguably the least impressive member of their backfield. Yes, he was a true freshman, but he was also given the second-most RB carries behind Hassan Haskins and averaged just 2.8 yards per. He did score two touchdowns and bring in five receptions for 73 yards, but it almost takes intentional effort to average less than three yards per tote. Corum’s pass-catching skills were the most positive takeaway from an otherwise dismal campaign, but he clearly learned from it and got better, eventually marrying the two parts of his game in 2021.
As the lightning to Haskins’ thunder last year, Corum averaged a robust 6.6 YPC, while nearly topping the 1,000-yard milestone as a rusher (952 in 12 games). He did, however, reach that magic number in total yards, with an additional 141 through the air. He did so on 24 receptions, often displaying crisp route-running skills and soft hands. All in all, it was a heck of a 2021 season for the second-year back, highlighted by four 100-yard rushing performances and four multi-TD games. It could have been even better had Corum remained healthy throughout. He was banged up down the stretch, totaling just 15 carries in TTUN’s last four games. Even then, he averaged over 14 YPC against both OSU and Iowa... Yuck.
Corum has come back stronger and better than ever in 2022, rushing for at least 71 yards in each of the Wolverines’ 11 games. And that was with a massively-reduced workload against inferior opponents. Since beginning Big Ten play, he has rushed for at least 108 against every conference opponent. He has also scored at least one TD in each game, found paydirt five times against UConn, ran over Maryland for a season-high 243 yards, and has stood up to crazy volume (averaging 26 carries per game during Big Ten play). By any and all metrics, Corum has been one of the best backs in college football. Now the Buckeyes are tasked with stopping him and prolonging their own season — easier said than done.
The engine of TTUN’s offense can beat you in a number of ways. He is short, stout, and powerful, with the ability to run over defenders. If he gets to the outside, he has more than enough speed to go the distance. And although his pass-catching skills have not been on display often in 2022, Corum can and will take advantage of a screen or wheel route if called upon. He is the total package. Limiting his effectiveness will be key to an Ohio State victory, but Buckeye Nation better believe that their team can make it happen.
Come Saturday, OSU will be facing its biggest test of the season, going up against the best individual player and team they have encountered, with everything on the line. And if you are reading this, and you bleed scarlet and gray, this upcoming game is what you look forward to all year. So get ready, paint your face, get your favorite jersey on, and let’s all say it together: Go Bucks!