Seems like old times for college football fans. The winner of 2018’s Michigan-Ohio State game wins the Big Ten East Division championship and will play Northwestern in the conference championship game on Dec. 1. For decades, this was more than just a game–it was The Game. The Wolverines and Buckeyes were consistently among the best teams in the nation, coached by legendary figures such as Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Lloyd Carr, and Urban Meyer. More recently, however, OSU has dominated this series, winning the last six meetings, and 13 of the last 14. That includes blowout victories in 2008 and 2015.
But the tide could be turning in U. of M.’s favor. The Maize and Blue have won 10 straight games since opening the season with a loss at Notre Dame. The Scarlet and Gray are also 10-1, but have struggled to beat weaker teams since an ugly 49-20 loss at Purdue. Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh is looking for his first victory against the Buckeyes since returning to his alma mater in 2015. His team enters the game ranked 4th in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches’ polls. Ohio State is 10th.
Steve Brown is the Morning Edition host and managing editor at WOSU Public Media in Columbus. He says the mood on campus is cautiously pessimistic.
“Ohio State has looked really bad lately, especially on defense,” Brown says. “I think if you walked around the OSU campus, you would hear from people who would probably still pick Ohio State to win just out of loyalty, but I think they would do so very cautiously.”
But anything can happen in college football, especially in rivalry games. Brown recalls the 1995 game when Michigan upset the unbeaten Buckeyes 31-23 in Ann Arbor. U. of M. running back Tim Biakabatuka rushed for 313 yards against the 2nd-ranked team in the country.
As poorly as OSU’s defense has played of late, its offense is one of the best in the country. It’s led by quarterback Dwayne Haskins, running back J. K. Dobbins, and Detroit’s own Mike Weber, who played at Cass Technical High School. Weber originally committed to Michigan, then signed with Ohio State after U. of M. fired head coach Brady Hoke in 2014.
Steve Brown says the Buckeyes’ best chance to beat Michigan is to win a high-scoring shootout. That won’t be easy against the Wolverines’ defense, which has given up the fewest yards in the Football Bowl Subdivision and ranks 4th nationally in fewest points per game.
Kickoff is at noon on Nov. 24.
Click on the audio player to hear the conversation with WDET’s Pat Batcheller.