This year’s college football game between Michigan and Ohio State could be one for the ages.
The Big Ten rivals meet for the 118th time this Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. Both teams are undefeated.
OSU is ranks second in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings with Michigan right behind at #3. The winner goes to the conference championship game on Dec. 3 and will likely secure a playoff berth.
One team will lose
While both teams are 11-0, they have looked beatable at times. The Wolverines needed a last-second field goal to beat Illinois on Nov. 19 in Ann Arbor. That same day, the Buckeyes trailed Maryland at halftime and led by just 3 points late in the fourth quarter.
“If the Buckeyes can hold their own up front and make some big plays over the top, I think they have a very good chance.” — WOSU Managing Editor Steve Brown on Ohio State’s chances of beating Michigan.
Steve Brown is the managing editor and Morning Edition host at WOSU Public Media, the NPR affiliate in Columbus. He says if the Buckeyes have one weakness, it’s the lack of a running game. Brown says injuries have hampered the team’s top running backs.
“Both TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams have had a lot of questions about their health,” Brown says. “OSU still has freshman Dallan Hayden, who looked good against Maryland.”
Hayden rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 43-30 win over the Terrapins.
By contrast, Michigan’s running game is its strength. The Wolverines average almost 244 rushing yards per game, fourth best in the nation. Junior Blake Corum is the country’s fourth leading rusher with 1,457 yards and 18 TDs.
Corum injured his knee in Michigan’s 19-17 win over Illinois. His status for the OSU game is uncertain. If he does play, Brown says he’ll be hard to stop.
“Ohio State’s defense has proven to be a little better this year under new coordinator Jim Knowles,” Brown says. “But it has still not been airtight, especially when it comes to stopping the run.”
Heisman Trophy voters will be watching this game
Corum is a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, but so is OSU quarterback C.J. Stroud. The junior has the highest passer rating in the nation and is considered a potential top pick in the 2023 NFL draft.
Brown says Stroud’s strength is his leadership on the field.
“Accuracy and decision making are his two biggest tools,” Brown says. “He is a great game manager.”
Stroud is a mobile quarterback who has been sacked just seven times this season. That’s a credit to his offensive line, which struggled against Michigan’s defense in 2021. He also has several good wide receivers, including Marvin Harrison, Jr., Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Emeka Egbuka.
Smith-Njigba is returning from an injury and is expected to play against Michigan. Like Stroud, he is considered a potential first-round NFL draft pick next year.
Brown says the outcome will depend on how well the linemen play.
“If you go back to last year’s game, Ohio State was bullied up front,” Brown says. “They were just overmatched on the defensive and offensive lines. But if they can hold their own, they have a very good chance.”
The Michigan-Ohio State game kicks off at noon and will be televised nationally on FOX.