Point-Counterpoint: The Michigan Game

They say that when it comes to Ohio State-Michigan, the records don't matter before the game -- nor does the point spread, which favors the Buckeyes by about two touchdowns. So will that be true, or will the undefeated Buckeyes roll? We debate inside.

Ohio State enters the Michigan game as two-touchdown favorites at 11-0, while Michigan is unranked and has lost four of the last six.

So the Buckeyes should roll, right? That's what BSB writer Pat Brennan says.

Not so fast, says BSB editor Jeff Svoboda.

Both sides argue their case below.

Pat: Buckeyes Too Good
Some will tell you that anything can happen when Ohio State and Michigan meet on the gridiron. In a given year, you can disregard the teams' respective records and dismiss any national rankings attached to the programs. Certainly, some will say, you can cast out any concern for whether the teams have lived up to expectations that season. After all, you can't know for sure if preseason expectations were met until after The Game because both sides expected to win it along.

2013 is a different story, though. As far as Ohio State is concerned, go ahead and factor in its record, ranking and the preseason expectations because, quite simply, the Buckeyes have all of the above going for them — that's fact, not opinion.

Buckeye Nation is in the midst of savoring a program-best 23-game winning streak, and that's an achievement that speaks to the strength of this era of Ohio State football. For this discussion, we'll focus solely on what the Buckeyes have achieved during the 2013 season, and what they'll have to offer Michigan on Saturday on the field.

At 530.9 yards per game, Ohio State is the No. 7 total offense in America while its 48.7 points per game is third best in all of college football (Baylor is ranked No. 1 while Florida State is No. 2). This is stating the obvious, but it bears noting and saying it to yourself out loud just so you can really grasp this fact: Ohio State scores more points per game than Alabama, the unanimous No. 1-ranked team in America, as well as Oregon, Texas A&M and other noted offensive powers.

Ohio State has shattered school records for single-season points (536 through 11 games, breaking the previous record of 504 held by the 1998 team) and single-season touchdowns (73, breaking the previous record of 64 held by the 1995 Buckeyes).

The Buckeyes can beat you many ways, and this too is reflected in the program's record book with contributions from members of the 2013 team.

Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton — not then-injured third-year starter Braxton Miller — helped set the record for the longest play from scrimmage in Ohio State history in game No. 3 against California when he hit junior receiver Devin Smith for a 90-yard touchdown pass.

Just last game against Indiana, Guiton lined up in the shotgun with Miller split out wide. Guiton rolled to his left before pitching to the shifty Miller who reversed fields and sent himself careening into the end zone to make it 21-0 in the second quarter. And don't forget senior running back Carlos Hyde — head coach Urban Meyer's first-ever 1,000-yard running back. In summation, the Buckeyes' offensive unit alone is oozing with record-breaking performances and never-before-seen scoring proficiency, and that's really saying something for a 124-year-old football program.

Defensively, Ohio State hasn't quite set the world ablaze or rewritten much Silver Bullets history, but the oft-criticized unit still ranks No. 12 in America in total defense. In the grand scheme, Ohio State's defense is a serviceable unit that showed the potential to be dominant in a game against nationally ranked and BCS-eligible Wisconsin. Not too shabby when you really think about it.

For Michigan's part, suffice it to say that the Wolverines (7-4, 3-4) are backing into The Game having lost three of its last four and, at one point in the season, posting negative rushing yardage in two consecutive games (Nov. 2 versus Michigan State and Nov. 9 against Nebraska).

Michigan athletics director Dave Brandon felt compelled to respond to rumors about the job security of Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke in a midweek blog post just days before The Game, saying, "Brady Hoke is our coach and will be leading our football program well into the future. There is no question about it."

Whether Hoke will eventually prove himself to be the right man for Michigan football remains to be seen, but it's clear that the marriage hasn't worked out well in 2013.

To be clear, I do not have a vested interest in the outcome of this game, but these are facts as I see them. The hard numbers and statistics from the 2013 season tell of a historically strong Ohio State program and a middle-of-the-pack Michigan team.

If only for this edition of The Game, the 110th meeting in the great Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, just throw out the old "anything can happen when they play" platitude because Ohio State is just that good and Michigan is indeed that bad.

Jeff: Not So Fast
Ohio State is going to run away from Michigan in the 110th version of The Game?

Not so fast my friend.

I don't want to sound like a regular Lee Corso, but that might be the quickest way to get across my point that this won't necessarily be a cakewalk in the Big House on Saturday despite OSU's 11-0 record and Michigan's 7-4 mark and 3-4 Big Ten record.

Where do I begin? With history, of course. Ohio State fans probably felt pretty comfortable sending what many were already calling the best team in college football history to Ann Arbor in 1969. Five turnovers later, the Buckeyes were on the receiving end of a 24-12 loss that started a period of animosity so strong that it was known as the Ten-Year War.

And for someone of my age, it's not hard to remember the gutting losses to Michigan in 1993, '95 and '96, which happened to come right at the peak of my sports-watching childhood. In 1993, the Buckeyes were ranked fifth and Michigan was unranked. The Maize and Blue won 28-0. Two years later, the undefeated Buckeyes were ranked second; No. 12 Michigan won 31-23. In 1996, the most painful of all, the No. 21 Wolverines won by a 13-9 score over the No. 2 Buckeyes.

It goes both ways, of course. Earle Bruce's last team had cost the head coach his job, but those unranked Buckeyes won 23-20 in Ann Arbor. First-year coach Jim Tressel, "On The 310th Day," as BSB proclaimed, upset the No. 11 Wolverines by a 26-20 final in 2001. Three years later, an unranked Buckeye team coming off a disastrous loss at Purdue rode the stunning play-making ability of Troy Smith – heroics we'd never seen out of the sophomore – to a 37-21 drubbing of the No. 7 Wolverines.

Does history not do it for you? Then let me put it this way: There are enough talented players on this Michigan team to make life difficult for the Buckeyes.

This isn't 2008, when a Michigan team finishing up a 3-9 season started a walk-on quarterback named Nick Sheridan then was on the receiving end of a 42-7 beating in Ohio Stadium.

In 2013, Michigan has a lot of holes on its roster, but it has some very good players – the kinds of players who can turn something into nothing and hit enough big plays to stun the Buckeyes.

Devin Gardner was a five-star player coming out of high school, and he has the improvisational skills – much like a young Smith – to make things happen even if his inconsistent offensive line can't handle OSU's pressure.

Then there's two very good receiving targets in Devin Funchess and Jeremy Gallon. All Gallon did was set the Big Ten receiving yards record vs. Indiana, while Funchess is a big target and a matchup nightmare who can make plays down the field.

Defensively, this is a very good Michigan team in my opinion, with above average players at just about every position. If any team can stuff the Buckeyes' ballyhooed rushing offense, it is a physical Michigan team.

I'm not saying it's going to happen. I'm just saying it's not a foregone conclusion that the Buckeyes, two-touchdown favorites, will leave Ann Arbor with win No. 24 in a row.

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