|This story originally published on CollegeFootballNews.com|
Ohio State (11-0) at Michigan (7-4) Nov. 30 12:00, ABC
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Can it really be a rivalry if one side has won nine of the last ten games, mostly in dominant fashion?
Ohio State might be on a roll in, arguably, the greatest rivalry in all of sports, but Michigan occasionally has a way of pulling something special out of its Schembechler just when Ohio State needs a win the most.
How do say Biakabatuka?
The Buckeyes were 11-0 in 1996 and on the way to the national title before the mediocre Wolverines came up with a 13-9 shocker. The year before, the Buckeyes were once again 11-0, but gagged in another loss to an okay, but not great Michigan team. 1993 Ohio State was 9-0-1 before getting shut out by a Michigan team that finished with four losses. The 1986 Buckeyes had the Rose Bowl all set to go, but lost 26-24.
1980, 1977, 1976, 1969 … it has happened before.
And, with three losses in the last four weeks, and with an offense that's struggling to find its footing, Brady Hoke could really, really use something special to come out of the Maize and Blue this time around, too.
The Sugar Bowl-winning 2011 season seems like it's a million miles away, especially with nine losses in the last 24 games since the controversial win over Virginia Tech in New Orleans. It's made extra worse when the guy on the other sidelines hasn't lost a game in two years.
But it's just that sort of big game moment that Michigan seems to live for. If Urban Meyer's Ohio State winning streak is going to come to an end, it's not going to happen against someone like Indiana. On the flip side, if Michigan is going to make a statement that it's on the right track, this is the game to do it.
The Buckeyes have done everything right since starting out the season ranked No. 2, but it has to keep fighting, keep pushing, and keep looking the part in the beauty contest with Florida State. Ohio State doesn't have a 51-14 win over Clemson in Death Valley, but if it can whack around a fired up Michigan and look impressive against Michigan State in the Big Ten championship – and if Mr. Winston's issues become bigger – the trip to Pasadena might not be for a January 1st game.
Why Ohio State Might Win: The Wolverine offensive line has been an issue over the second half of the season, and now the Buckeyes should be able to tee off wherever needed. Michigan is 7-0 this season when it has scored a rushing touchdown, and 0-4 when it doesn't. How many times has Ohio State allowed a rushing score? Four in 11 games. Linebacker Ryan Shazier and the Buckeye defensive front seven are giving up fewer than 100 rushing yards per game this season, and Michigan's ground attack is struggling – to be nice. No one has allowed more tackles for loss than the Wolverines, and Ohio State's defense has been camping out in opposing backfields. If the Wolverines are going to win, they have to get the passing game going in high gear, but it's been wildly inconsistent. However …
Why Michigan Might Win: Devin Gardner has to keep pressing. The running attack isn't going to fly when he's not taking off, but he has the moxie and the experience to take the shots down the field needed to press the okay, but banged up Buckeye secondary. Northwestern was on fire against OSU, completing over 80% of the passes for 343 yards, and everyone but Purdue and Florida A&M have been able to connect on touchdown passes. On the other side, to beat the Buckeyes, Michigan has to hold up against the run and deal with the OSU power – not a problem. While the Wolverines have allowed nine rushing scores in the last six games, they haven't been gouged allowing just 3.23 rushing yards per game.
Who To Watch Out For: Carlos Hyde continues to take control, averaging a ridiculous 7.7 yards per carry with six straight 100-yard games with 13 touchdowns over that span. Last year he took control against the Wolverines with 146 yards and a score on 25 carries, and he'll be a workhorse this time around, too.
- Michigan tight end Devin Funchess belonged as a finalist for the Mackey award. Steady, he has made 43 catches on the season as a field stretcher with 686 yards and five scores. He only has one touchdown grab since coming up with two against Penn State, but he needs to be a key part of the puzzle as an outlet target for Gardner.
- He might not win the Butkus, but Ohio State's Ryan Shazier might be the nation's best linebacker this season with a team-leading 109 tackles making a whopping 20 against Indiana and 16 against Illinois the week before. Not just great against the run, he has been unstoppable in the backfield with 4.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss over the last three games. Last year he registered just five tackles against the Wolverines, but he came up with a sack.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint made plenty of noise two years ago when he ran for 120 yards as the main part of the offense in Michigan's close call loss, but he was out for last season's game. This year, he hasn't been able to get back on track, with a concussion a part of the problem. While he's trying to get back into the swing of things, freshmen De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green have taken over adding a bit more pop to the attack. Green is the better of the two, but Smith showed flashes.
What Will Happen: Ohio State will close strong. Michigan's offense will find a sign of life and won't get stopped cold, but the power of the Buckeye offensive front, and the running of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, will be enough to overcome a shaky day from the secondary.
Prediction: Ohio State 31 … Michigan 17
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