THE GAME. That Team Up North.
Ever since the clock struck zero on November 27, 2021, and Ohio State was on the losing side of the ledger for the first time since 2011, the Buckeyes have been pointing to this moment. Here is the chance to push back on the narrative that Ohio State has become “soft.” Here is the game to demonstrate to the entire college football world why the complete overhaul of the defensive staff, except for legendary defensive line coach Larry Johnson, was necessary. Most importantly, here is an opportunity for Ohio State to clinch The B1G East Division, and get back to Indianapolis for The B1G Championship Game on December 3rd.
Below are Three Things To Watch From Michigan when THE GAME kicks off on FOX at 12 noon ET...
1) The Ohio State Running Game Versus Michigan’s Run Defense
The Buckeyes tried to use TreVeyon Henderson last week at Maryland and were not successful until turning to true freshman RB Dallan Hayden. While Ryan Day is optimistic about Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson being possibly available to play, Hayden would seem likely to play a larger role in the offensive game plan than most Ohio State fans probably would have projected even a week ago.
The Wolverines are stingy against the run, giving up an average of only 80 yards per game on the ground. While I expect Ohio State to have more success with the pass than the run in this game, the Buckeyes will need to continue to run the ball throughout the contest. Perhaps this is Dallan Hayden’s moment to shine in this storied rivalry.
2) Michigan’s Run Game Versus Ohio State’s Run Defense
The injury to Blake Corum in the Wolverines’ narrow 19-17 win over Illinois has clouded this picture considerably. If Corum is unable to go, or is not at 100%, the Michigan offensive game plan will need to rely upon Donovan Edwards or freshman RB C.J. Stokes. Edwards has also been missing time due to injury, so comparably to Ohio State with Dallan Hayden, the Wolverines’ success running the ball may fall squarely upon the shoulders of a freshman in Stokes.
Another aspect for Ohio State fans to be concerned about is the threat of J.J. McCarthy on designed quarterback runs. In my estimation, here is where Ohio State linebacker Steele Chambers may be needed to spy upon McCarthy.
Keep in mind that Michigan will not get bored with running the ball. It is with that thought in mind that Ohio State defensively will need to limit the Wolverines’ offensive success on first down. If Michigan is repeatedly able to line up with 2nd and 3, 2nd and 4, etc, it will put more and more stress on Ohio State’s defense. Ohio State needs to put Michigan in 2nd and 7, or 2nd and 8, as frequently as possible, as McCarthy has not been called upon to carry the Michigan offense by passing the ball.
3) Who Will Win The Special Teams Battle?
For the last two weeks, Ohio State’s special teams, specifically Lathan Ransom, have come up big with blocking punts (Indiana, at Maryland). Ohio State fans can also take comfort in the form of PK Noah Ruggles, who has connected on 12 of 14 field goals this season, with a long of 47 yards.
The Wolverines are also feeling confident in their placekicker Jake Moody, as Moody came up big versus Illinois, kicking the winning field goal from 35 yards out with only 9 seconds on the clock. Moody has made 25 of 30 field goals this season, with a best of 54 yards.
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has to swallow his pride and play the field position game, a la Tresselball, with P Jesse Mirco pinning the ball deep in Michigan territory, or taking the points with Ruggles, versus going for it on 4th down. The stakes are too high for reckless gambling in a game of this magnitude.
Bonus: As for the weather, rain could be a factor, but all indications are that it may be later in the game, if at all. Even if it rains, Ohio State should have an advantage in the passing game against a Michigan secondary that will be challenged to slow down the Ohio State passing game.
While I believe Blake Corum is going to play, I question how effective he will be against Ohio State. Even with Corum at less than 100%, the Wolverines are going to throw everything they have against the Buckeyes in this grudge match, and I believe Ohio State is going to come out on top late in the 4th quarter.
I have it Ohio State 35, Michigan 28.