Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Predictions, bold or otherwise, for Ohio State vs. Michigan
We’re here, folks. It’s *ichigan Week. How about I/you/we just punt on this edition of You’re Nuts and save that energy for The Game? Kidding, of course.
But it is that time of year, and let’s face it, The Game is all we really care about. Work? Nah, we’ve pushed everything to 2024 already. Family? We can interact with them 51 weeks a year, no need to over-do it. Thanksgiving? Honestly, overrated. The sole focus this entire week is and/or should be Ohio State vs. TTUN. It’s as simple as that.
As for You’re Nuts, well, this is normally the part where I wax poetic for a few paragraphs, throw in a couple of jokes/sarcastic remarks, and then ultimately set the table for Gene to crush me in this good-natured quasi-debate. But my partner is absolutely dialed this week. So he said “Let’s just cut the BS and start talking ball.”
What Gene wants; Gene gets. He suggested we throw out a final score prediction, but I'm going to toss in one added wrinkle — a(nother) bold prediction to go along with it. Something like: Jim Harbaugh, Connor Stalions, Uncle T, and Biff Poggi lead TTUN out of the tunnel and hilarity ensues... Just an example, and hopefully one that is not stolen by Gene for this exercise. Let’s get to it.
The bold part of my prediction is that both Dallan Hayden and Carnell Tate play a key role for Ohio State’s offense. Not in place of other Buckeyes, but as supplementary weapons to aid Kyle McCord against a stout defense.
We have seen plenty of Tate scattered throughout the season, but far less Hayden. The latter seems to be by design, as Ryan Day has mentioned preserving the running back’s redshirt. However, Hayden was thrown into the mix late against Minnesota, in a game that was already well out of reach. Ohio State could have easily chewed up clock using Chip Trayanum and Evan Pryor... So why use Hayden, burning his third game in the process?
Well I believe that the Minnesota game was used as a tune-up game for Hayden. To get the Buckeyes’ second-year RB re-acclimated and ready for TTUN. Because OSU will likely need to lean on the running game (at times) in Ann Arbor, and TreVeyon Henderson should not be expected to do all the heavy lifting on his own. Hayden is the team’s second-most explosive option and, in my opinion, a more viable threat than Trayanum. The latter is more physical and likely better in pass pro, so there should be a role for all three. But Ohio State needs to put the best players on the field Saturday. And Hayden has proven to be one of them when given the opportunity.
As for Tate, well, he’s awesome. And again, the Buckeyes would be wise to put their most dangerous weapons on the field. So why not the freshman? As the sole proprietor and possibly sole inhabitant of Fleming Island, I know and understand that Julian Fleming is an experienced downfield blocker. However, he is not getting it done in the passing game. If Tate is out there, TTUN will be forced to genuinely account for him, possibly opening things up (more) for Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, and Cade Stover.
Now for the score prediction...
There is so much on the line here, Gene. Are you aware of any over-the-counter narcotics that would safely knock me out for approximately 100 hours? So I can see the score after I wake, and then decide whether to watch The Game?
In all seriousness, I like the Buckeyes’ chances on Saturday. Playing in The Big House definitely concerns me, but TTUN has not proven to be perfect or unbeatable. On or off the field. The Wolverines’ running game, while productive, is not as explosive as it was last year. J.J. McCarthy hasn’t thrown the ball well in two weeks. Taulia Tagovailoa was able to find holes in their secondary. Oh, and Jim Harbaugh will be watching the game on TV... We think. Either way, Ohio State has a chance to go exercise some demons. And I believe in McCord.
Give me 24-23 Buckeyes. TTUN gets into the red zone a handful of times, but OSU’s defense forces three field goals. Marv shows out, Henderson and Hayden produce (enough) on the ground, and Day calls a good, smart game. There ya have it. Go Bucks!
While overall I feel good about Ohio State heading into Ann Arbor, especially with the Buckeyes playing some of their best ball over the past two weeks, I do have four areas of concern for The Game: special teams, offensive line, the OSU run defense and slow starts.
If Parker Fleming cared at all about Ohio State, he would resign from his position before Saturday. The Buckeyes’ special teams unit has been dreadful under his watch in every facet of the game, whether it be kick/punt return defense, fielding punts, stopping obvious fakes or even things as simple as lining up correctly, it has all been awful. Ohio State ranks 115th in FBS in punt return defense, 110th in punt returns, 71st in kick returns and 47th in kick return defense — on top of all their other procedural issues. I am incredibly worried that in a game with slim margins such as this one, a special teams mistake could cost the Buckeyes the game.
The offensive line has gotten better as the year has gone on, but it is still largely inconsistent. It seems like on any given week a different Ohio State offensive lineman struggles, outside of the rock solid Matthew Jones. It has been a tough few games for Carson Hinzman, and I have some concerns about the young center going up against some really talented interior linemen in Kenneth Grant and Mason Graham. On the outside, Josh Fryar has gotten beaten badly off the edge a handful of times, and Josh Simmons is good for at least one false start or holding penalty per game. They’ve been solid as a unit overall, but there are enough red flags there to warrant hesitation.
When it comes to the run defense, I understand that statically Ohio State has been really good in this area this season. The Buckeyes rank 19th in FBS and 5th in the Big Ten giving up 108.5 yards per game on the ground, but many teams haven’t been able to run the ball a ton against Jim Knowles’ defense when they are playing from behind. Teams that have committed to running the football, like Notre Dame and Rutgers, have had success against the Silver Bullets, each rushing for at least 170 yards and 4.5 yards per carry. Blake Corum is the best running back Ohio State will have seen this season, and I do think he will find success even if he's not ripping off six or seven yards per attempt.
My final area of concern is a slow start that puts the Buckeyes behind the eight-ball. Outside of the Michigan State game, Ohio State has had a problem all season putting up points in the first quarter and first half of games. Against a team like Michigan, you cannot afford to play a bad half or even really a bad quarter of football. An early turnover that leads to points and puts you down 10-0 or worse could be monumental in deciding the outcome of the game. Kyle McCord, TreVeyon Henderson and Marvin Harrison Jr. will have to be at their best early to avoid digging an early hole.
All that is to say: I still think Ohio State will win this game. Outside of offensive line I do think the Buckeyes are better or even at really every position across the board. They have the best player on the field in Harrison Jr., and if the defense plays up to its standard from the previous 11 games, they should have success keeping Michigan out of the end zone for the majority of the contest. I have it 21-17 Ohio State, and I think J.T. Tuimoloau will be the difference in the game, whether it be a huge fourth-quarter play as he’s been so accustomed to making or just harassing J.J. McCarthy all afternoon.