Ohio State vs. Michigan – “The Game of The Century” Part 2
Ten years ago Ohio State squared off against the Michigan Wolverines in what was called “The Game of the Century”. Ohio State ranked #1 in the AP poll headed into the season but a surprise was when Michigan was #2 travelling to Columbus, Ohio for their rivalry game. Both teams were competing for the Big Ten Championship and a trip to the BCS National Championship Game. The loser had to wait out selection day to see if they would get a shot at a rematch.
With both teams undefeated, Heisman hopeful Troy Smith and the Buckeyes came into the game as a favorite but future pro quarterback Chad Henne and the Michigan Wolverines looked to knock off the Buckeyes. What turned out to be an offensive shoot out, both quarterbacks attempted over thirty throws and had a passer rating above 150. Both teams featured an array of NFL talent and put on a show in the Horseshoe. A 42-39 win for the Buckeyes led to a match-up with Florida in the National Championship. What continued a winning trend for the Buckeyes, did the opposite for the Wolverines (9-1 against Ohio State since 2006).
Ten years later, the story is one in the same but the Wolverines have finally found hope under their second year head coach Jim Harbuagh. For the first time since 2006, the Wolverines find themselves in National Championship contention. They have a chance to square off against the Buckeyes with one of the best defenses in the FBS. Although quarterback Wilton Speight is questionable headed into Saturday, Harbaugh will be trying to wash away their loss to Iowa behind their Heisman caliber player Jabrill Peppers.
On the opposite sideline, Urban Meyer looks to remain undefeated against “That Team Up North” behind Heisman hopeful J.T. Barrett. The Buckeyes offense has been in sync the last couple weeks and looks like they have the capability to compete with the best college football teams in the nation. After a tough loss to Penn State, the Buckeyes will need some help if they hope to have a chance at the Big Ten title but with the emergence of Penn State being an elite team in the FBS, their college football playoff hopes are more than alive. The Buckeyes will have to escape a tough match-up against Michigan after Thanksgiving as College GameDay travels to Columbus for a top 5 rematch, reliving what was ten years ago.
Key Positions for Saturday
Ohio State Buckeyes
J.T. Barrett is regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the FBS and must play like it come Saturday. He has struggled to throw the deep ball in recent weeks and needs to regain earlier success. Without a true deep threat receiver this year, Curtis Samuel must lineup all over the field to give J.T. some looks down the field. Look for Urban Meyer to dial up designed run calls for his quarterback as well; J.T. recorded a season high 17 carries a week ago and will have to do the same to keep the Buckeyes playoff hopes alive.
In recent weeks, the Buckeyes have struggled to generate pressure up the middle and the loss of Joey Bosa has really shown. Defensive end Tyquan Lewis will have his hands full fighting off double teams and Sam Hubbard must live up to his freshman year hype from a year ago on Saturday. Look for defensive coordinators Greg Schiano and Luke Fickell to get creative with their blitz packages and send emerging stars Jalyn Holmes and Nick Bosa after Michigan’s quarterback. Ohio State must find a way to make the Wolverines one dimensional, whether it be the run or the pass.
Ohio State has yet to generate a consistent return game, whether it be through punts or kickoffs, and will rely on winning field position at home. Dontre Wilson has yet to prove his speed is valuable for the Buckeyes this season but now is a good of time as ever. Meyer will look to produce big plays in his home stadium and a return for the Buckeyes will be huge in front of 110,000 fans.
Running back De’Veon Smith has come into his own this year and will be counted on heavily to alleviate the pressure off of Michigan’s starting quarterback (Speight day-to-day). Recording 740 yards on the ground and ten touchdowns, he has been a key part of the Wolverine offense this season. The Buckeyes have struggled to defend the run in recent weeks and head coach Jim Harbaugh will look to exploit their young defensive front. If Michigan hopes to knock off the #2 Buckeyes, their run game must show up on the road in Columbus.
Featuring one of the best safeties in college football, Jabrill Peppers will be lined up all over the field on Saturday. J.T. Barrett has struggled to push the ball up the field this year and the Wolverines will be preaching to their defensive backs to keep everything in front of them in hopes of limiting Ohio State’s elusiveness at the receiver position. Michigan must also find a way to generate turnovers on defense and will hope to force Barrett into some questionable throws in front of his home crowd.
Jim Harbaugh, in his second year as head coach for the Wolverines, has put his team back on the map. Coming into one of the biggest games of his career, #3 ranked Michigan will have to play a near perfect game to match Ohio State’s talent at the skill position. Harbuagh has been known to be one of the most intense coaches in the game and there is no doubt that the Wolverines will travel to Columbus ready to play. Schematically look for Harbaugh to target the center-guard gap on runs and establish the play action pass on offense. This will be the toughest match-up for the Wolverines this season and will truly show how much the Michigan program has improved under Harbaugh’s reign.
Key Players to Watch:
Ohio State Buckeyes:
Curtis Samuel – Wide Receiver/ Running Back – #4
Tyquan Lewis – Defensive End – #59
Gareon Conley – Defensive Back – #8
De’Veon Smith – Running Back – #4
Jabrill Peppers – Defensive Back – #5
Ryan Glasgow – Defensive Lineman – #96