In one of the biggest rivalry games of the college football season, the no. 13 Michigan Wolverines conclude the regular season by welcoming the no. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes to the Big House. Game time is at noon EST on Saturday, November 30 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The game will be televised nationally on Fox.
Current odds list the Buckeyes as 9-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 51 points. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 14 college football odds.
For Ohio State, the pressure is on. The 11-0 Buckeyes officially punched their ticket to the Big Ten Championship Game with last week’s win over Penn State. However, they still need to win this game to guarantee themselves a spot in the College Football Playoff. For what it’s worth, the Buckeyes would still be in good shape if they lose this week but still win the Big Ten title game. But a loss at this point in the season always makes things a little messy for a team with national championship aspirations. If the Buckeyes want to hold onto their top-4 spot, this is a game they have to win.
For Michigan, this game is all about playing the role of spoiler for their biggest rivals. The Wolverines can also notch their 10th win of the season and improve their chances of landing a New Year’s Six bowl game with a win. However, nothing would make Michigan’s season more complete than ruining Ohio State’s season. The good news for the Wolverines is they appear to be peaking at the right time. Since losing to Penn State last month, Michigan has rattled off four straight wins by no less than 25 points, including blowouts of rivals Notre Dame and Michigan State.
Of course, it’s always a different story when Ohio State and Michigan get together. The Wolverines have suffered the indignity of losing seven in a row at the hands of the Buckeyes and notching just one win over OSU since 2003. The Buckeyes have dominated this series throughout the 21st century while also winning four of the last five meetings by double figures. Ohio State has become the bane of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach at his alma mater. For the sake of his sanity and perhaps his job security, Harbaugh needs to find a way to beat the Buckeyes.
Let’s be honest, folks, we’ve seen this show before and we know how it ends. The Buckeyes always handle their business against Michigan, so why would this year be any different? This might be the best Ohio State team that Harbaugh has faced as Michigan’s head coach. If he couldn’t topple the Buckeyes in past years, he’s not going to do it this year. This is a heavy lean toward Ohio State to win by double digits and cover.
To be fair, Ohio State faced a little bit of a scare last week against Penn State. After a season of blowout wins, the Buckeyes had to sweat a little when Penn State came storming back with 17 straight points in the third quarter. But outside of three OSU turnovers that let the Nittany Lions back in the game, the Buckeyes dominated, out-gaining PSU by nearly 200 yards. Take away the three lost fumbles and the Buckeyes would have won going away. Even with the turnovers, Ohio State still won by more than 10 points.
For what it’s worth, the Michigan defense might be the best that the Ohio State offense will face this season. The Wolverines, especially at home, will have a chance to get a handle on the Buckeyes and slow them down a little. But I still think there’s too much speed and talent on the OSU defense for the Wolverines to contain for 60 minutes. Penn State proved that the only way to stop the Buckeyes is with turnovers, which is easier said than done. One way or another, Ohio State has steamrolled every team they’ve faced this year, and I don’t expect that to change.
If the Wolverines want to stay within striking distance late, it’ll be up to the Michigan offense. However, I don’t think the Wolverines have the balance to take on a high-level defense. Michigan’s running game has been solid but unspectacular this year, putting too much on the shoulders of inconsistent quarterback Shea Patterson.
Even in recent wins over Indiana and Michigan State, the Wolverines didn’t crack 100 rushing yards. Given Chase Young and OSU’s pass rush, Michigan could have a hard time relying solely on the pass. Keep in mind the likes of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Penn State have held Michigan to 21 points or less, so the Wolverines have struggled against the best defensive teams in the Big Ten. Most people don’t realize that the Buckeyes are just as good defensively as they are on offense and won’t make it easy for the Michigan offense to move the ball.
In a way, Ohio State getting a test last week from Penn State makes me feel better about their chances of beating Michigan by a comfortable margin. The Buckeyes won’t take the Wolverines lightly and will put a little extra focus on ball security. Only Ohio State can beat Ohio State in this game, and I think the Buckeyes will take care of business and cover the 9-point spread without much of a problem.