The No.3 Michigan Wolverines (10-1, 7-1) have had a very successful season thus far. Under second-year head coach Jim Harbaugh, they’ve defeated three top-ten teams and boast the best scoring defense in college football. However, they’ve looked vulnerable in recent weeks losing at Iowa on November 12 and almost falling to Indiana on Saturday with a very shaky backup quarterback in John O’Korn. This week, they’ll look to punch their ticket to the Big Ten Championship Game when they travel to Columbus, Ohio to face the No.2 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Anyone who pays enough attention to college football knows that the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, or “The Game” as many call it, is one of the best rivalries, if not the best, in the sport. Out of their 112 meetings, a handful of them have had Big Ten Championship and even national championship implications on the line.
Recently, the Buckeyes have dominated The Game, winning 11 of the last 12 meetings and currently holding a four-game winning streak. During this 12-year stretch, the Buckeyes have won six Big Ten championships, a national championship and finished undefeated in 2012 despite sanctions preventing them from participating in the postseason.
This season will mark just the second time in the rivalry’s history that both teams were ranked in the top three in the AP poll heading into the big game. The only other time was back in 2006 when Ohio State and Michigan were No.1 and No.2, respectively.
This year, the Buckeyes (10-1, 7-1) are once again in the hunt for another national championship . Despite the fact that they need both a win on Saturday and a loss from No.8 Penn State just to make an appearance in the Big Ten title game, they still boast a resume strong enough to keep them in the conversation.
The Buckeyes are led by redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett who has thrown for 2304 yards, has ran for 722 and has 30 total touchdowns this season. He also boasts a 147.7 passer rating, second best in the Big Ten.
Leading the rushing attack for Ohio State is freshman Mike Weber who has 1046 yards and eight touchdowns on 166 carries.
Both Barrett and Weber will have a big role to play in this contest, but perhaps the most dangerous player for the Buckeyes might be junior Curtis Samuel. The junior running back leads the team with 790 receiving yards and 61 receptions. He also has 650 rushing yards on 84 carries which gives him 14 total touchdowns.
Other impact players include wide receivers Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson as well as running back Demario McCall.
On offense, the maize and blue will have to keep an eye on defensive end Tyquan Lewis, whose 7.5 sacks are fifth in the Big Ten, and safety Malik Hooker, who leads the conference with five interceptions and is third in the country with 165 interception yards.
Players to Watch
Michigan’s Quarterback-Whoever it may be, whether Wilton Speight is able to recover from his collarbone injury in time or whether John O’Korn starts again, he needs to be aware of a lot of things. Michigan has played just three road games this season and this will by far be the toughest environment they will play in.
He’ll also have to make quick decisions when throwing the ball, find the right receivers and control the tempo of the offense. If he can’t do that, the Ohio State defense will make it a long, long day. Michigan’s running game may have a lot of talent and depth, but they alone can’t bring the Wolverines a victory.
Jabrill Peppers-The redshirt sophomore has been seen as the most versatile player in all of college football. He has been used as a kick returner, a quarterback, a running back, a wide receiver, a linebacker and a cornerback (just to name a few positions). In this contest, he’ll need to be used on both sides of the ball early and often. Whether it’s running the ball, serving as a decoy or even serving as a wildcat quarterback, Peppers will need to be ready for a very physical game.
Michigan’s Defense-Thanks in large part to defensive coordinator Don Brown, Michigan’s defense has enjoyed it’s best season in years. However, they have yet to face the types of threats that Ohio State has. It starts with the secondary as Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling and Delano Hill will have to lock down on guys like Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown. From there the front seven will need to be aware of Barrett, Weber and Samuel in the backfield as they can all turn it up the field for big yards.
The game will be broadcast this Saturday, November 26 at 12 p.m. EST on ABC.