Michigan vs. Ohio State. Bo vs. Woody. Maize and Blue, Scarlet and Grey and the few remaining leaves turned a robust shade of orange. It’s a November tradition, the one worthy of being called “The Game.” The spectacle is great, the context is secondary and the result decides the season for both schools. This pervasive passion only exists in college football. You’d have to be a truly sour individual to soil it.
It has been a topsy-turvy 12 months for both schools and, with two new coaches at the helm, they enter with opposite roles to the ones they had the year before. The Wolverines are 7.5 point favorites with a BCS bid at stake. They’ve found their swagger. They have even embraced an iconic fashion statement. It’s the Buckeyes who are coming off a deflating season, residing under an NCAA cloud, have a fluid coaching situation and are reliant on an inexperienced quarterback. Even the counter has come down.
Motivation: Michigan wants to end the dry spell, protect the house and excise some demons for those who stayed. Ohio State wants to beat Michigan and to go to a bowl game (if permitted) that isn’t sponsored by a cheap, Michigan-based pizza chain.
Elephant: Urban Meyer has accepted the Ohio State coaching job and the announcement will be made shortly after the game, unless Meyer opted out of calling a national television date for some family time and leftover inhalation and ESPN was totally cool with it.
When Michigan Has The Ball: Fitzgerald Toussaint has emerged, but Michigan still needs good Denard to break down a solid defense. Michigan has an array of weapons. A receiver or a running lane will almost always be open. Denard Robinson’s decision-making and execution will be critical. The Buckeyes need to control the line of scrimmage and pressure him into mistakes. Ohio State needs turnovers that score or lead to points. They must limit Michigan’s big plays in the passing game and force them to methodically dip and dunk down the field.
When Ohio State Has The Ball: The Buckeyes can’t pass effectively or efficiently. They need to get the downhill running game going with Boom Herron. Since he has returned from suspension, OSU has won every game he has hit the century mark and lost every game he has not. Greg Mattison’s front will be aggressive and disciplined, as they were against Illinois and Nebrasksa. OSU should be even more susceptible, since they don’t run the option and Braxton Miller is a freshman. If they get an opportunity to hit Michigan over the top, they must take it. Ohio State is 115th in the country in sacks allowed with 36. Whether that’s the offensive line or the quarterback, that could be troublesome against Michigan.
Prediction: Michigan has been at its best when doubted. The trouble is no one doubts them heading into this weekend. The Wolverines, for the first time in recent memory, have the better, more seasoned team in this matchup. They can’t believe that heading in, however, as Ohio State always plays with a chip and this year, ruining Michigan’s season is all they have left to play for. Michigan wins, but by a closer margin than expected, UM 27-OSU 20.
[Photo via Getty]