Thursday, November 23, 2017

No. 9 Ohio State with plenty to play for as Michigan looms in the 114th edition of "The Game"

One must stay ten steps ahead of the game, rather than on pace in the game of life.
Since then coach Jim Tressel made the famous 310 days speech against Michigan in a basketball game on a cold night at Value City Arena on Jan. 18, 2001, Ohio State has managed to stay above the curve and then some by winning 12 of the last 13 meetings in the series.

The 2017 edition of the Ohio State Buckeyes came in with College Football Playoff hopes, but got railroaded thanks to an unexpected 55-point showing from the Iowa Hawkeyes on Nov. 4. Despite the loss, Ohio State's goals are still intact sans the CFP with a possible Big Ten Championship and New Year's Six slot at stake no matter the result of Saturday's meeting at Michigan.

Even with little on the line, the 114th edition of “The Game” still serves as its own season and Ohio State must beware of the wounded wolverine.

Michigan's lackluster offense has highlighted an underwhelming 8-3 record with no quality wins to show for to this point, but a win against No. 9 Ohio State can go a long way to oozing confidence for its bowl game and offseason plans. In order to realize a potential upset, the vaunted Wolverines defense will be in for a challenge as they try to stop Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett— which is not as far-fetched as one would think.

Barrett’s season has seen more ups and downs like the stock market, but the senior can finish his Ohio State career 4-0 all-time against Michigan with a win on Saturday. Despite throwing 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season, Barrett’s performances in Ohio State’s two losses to Oklahoma and Iowa left a lot to be desired as five of his seven mistakes proved to play a pivotal role.

As rough as things have been through the air, Barrett’s ground game has made up for some of the mistakes made with 605 rushing yards this season, which is second on Ohio State behind running back J.K. Dobbins’ 1,089 yards, to go along with eight touchdowns.

A matchup to watch out for comes courtesy of Ohio State's Dobbins and Michigan linebacker Devin Bush. Dobbins’ elusiveness against Bush’s crafty vision could be the immovable force against the irresistible object. Dobbins leads the Buckeyes in rushing, while Bush leads the Wolverines in total tackles with 89.

Michigan’s stellar depth on the defense also highlights safety Khaleke Hudson, who leads the team in tackles for loss (16) and sacks with linebacker Chase Winovich (seven). Hudson’s presence could cause problems if Barrett decides to go deep at any given point.

The Wolverines’ offense has performed at the opposite side of the equator as their quarterback carousel through injuries to Wilton Speight (back) and Brandon Peters (concussion protocol) appears to lead the way for John O’Korn to get the start against the Buckeyes once more. Most of Michigan’s struggles can be tied to the senior has thrown for a touchdown and five interceptions in eight games with a quarterback efficiency rating of 99.37.

O’Korn will have to find something similar to Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” or else Michigan’s offense will be in for yet another long day against a hungry Ohio State defense. 

Prediction: Ohio State 35, Michigan 17

Game Itinerary:

No. 9 Ohio State at Michigan

Kickoff: Noon ET

TV/Online: FOX/FOX Sports GO

Line: OSU (-12)