It has been 364 days since the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-0, 8-0) lost a college football game. That defeat came at the hands of their archrival in The Big House last season and has been the single greatest motivating factor for this year’s OSU squad as they have striven to not only avenge the loss but to rewrite the narrative that began to solidify around the program following that game.
When the Buckeyes host the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (11-0, 8-0) on Saturday, Nov. 26 at 12 noon ET in a game that will be broadcast on FOX, head coach Ryan Day’s squad will be looking to cross off the first item on this season’s to-do list: Beat TTUN.
However, they will also be attempting to prove that the common talking point around the program that came out of last year’s loss is no longer true; that they are a soft team that is no longer able to impose its will along the lines of scrimmage.
Since giving up 297 rushing yards in The Game last season while only being able to gain 67 of their own, the Buckeyes have put toughness front and center in everything they’ve done. That has shown in how the defense has responded this year, especially following the introduction of Jim Knowles as the new coordinator on that side of the ball.
The Buckeyes finished 2021 with the 59th-ranked total defense, coming into today’s regular-season finale, they are ninth nationally. On offense, however, the laser focus on toughness has seemingly gotten the Buckeyes away from what they do best at time, so much so that Day has said that he was beating his head against the wall.
However, there is no doubt that the Buckeyes will come into this game with a chip on their shoulders and a lot to prove to the media, to their rivals, and to themselves.
One of the big questions coming into the game is the health of both teams’ running backs. Heisman contender Blake Corum was injured at the end of the first half in TTUN’s last-second win over Illinois last weekend and played only a single play after halftime. If he cannot play, Jim Harbaugh’s run-heavy offense will likely rely on Donovan Edwards, who missed the game against the Illini with a hand injury.
Wolverine quarterback J.J. McCarthy is also a threat to run, which will probably be extra important for TTUN, since the QB is not much of a passing threat. He is currently 10th in the Big Ten, averaging just 177.5 passing yards per game.
For the Buckeyes, they have seemingly been rotating injuries to their top-two running backs all season. Miyan Williams missed last week’s game against Maryland and was seen on the sideline on crutches and in a walking boot during the second half of the previous week’s game vs. Indiana. TreVeyon Henderson was also in a walking book following the win over the Terps, in which he averaged just 1.7 yards per carry and did not factor into the game plan in the second half.
In his stead, Day turned to true freshman Dallan Hayden who turned in a career performance. While the OSU head coach has remained characteristically non-committal when it comes to the status of his running backs, the belief around the program is that Williams has the better chance to play between him and Henderson, but that Hayden will likely be the team’s primary ball carrier in The Game.
Last year, the Wolverines sacked C.J. Stroud four times, but all four sacks came from players now in the NFL (Aidan Hutchinson and David Ejabo), and Harbaugh’s defensive line has not been nearly as dominant this year as it was in 2021. Stroud has been practically perfect passing from the pocket this season when not facing pressure, and while his numbers against rushers are still pretty good, he has seemed to be regressing a bit in recent weeks as he is all too often abandoning his fundamentals and attempting to make plays on his arm talent alone.
One of the keys to the game today will likely be how well the Ohio State offensive can protect its quarterback, especially considering that they will likely be without starting right guard Matt Jones who was carted off the field during last week’s game against Maryland. It is believed that Enokk Vimahi will start in his place.
The winner of The Game will play whoever emerges from the Big Ten West in the conference championship game and will essentially cement its place in the College Football Playoff. A close game could still see the loser earn a berth in the CFP, but that would require some other things to break their way, and no one wants to rely on other teams to get them where they want to be.
So, the Buckeyes are heading into the showdown in The Shoe looking to win for their pride, their chance at a Big Ten title, and a near-guaranteed spot in the four-team playoff field.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game Date/Time: Saturday, Nov. 26 at 12 noon ET
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Online: Sling TV
Radio: 97.1 FM | 1460 AM
DraftKings Sportsbook line: Ohio State -8 | o/u 55.5
Official LGHL Prediction: Ohio State 28, Michigan 14
Matt’s Prediction: Ohio State 41, Michigan 17
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Below is your Ohio State vs. TTUN GameThread. Be respectful, be kind and — as always — keep it classy, BuckeyeNation. If you like GIFs, lay ‘em on us. In all, be good fans, cheer for your teams, be cool to each other (even if somebody else isn’t) and everyone wins. Let’s finish the season strong!