Game Matchup: Ohio State Vs. Michigan

This is the most up-in-the-air version of The Game in quite some time. Will Jim Harbaugh break Ohio State's hex and get a win in year one? Or will the Buckeyes bounce back against the Wolverines? We break it all down with stats, matchups and more in this week's game matchup.

No. 8 Ohio State at No. 12 Michigan

Matchup Preview  |  Nov. 28, Michigan Stadium, 12 p.m., ABC.
Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1, 6-1)
Michigan Wolverines (9-2, 6-1)

Five Fast Facts About Michigan
1. Jourdan Lewis leads the nation in pass breakups (1.91 avg.) and holds the U-M season record with 21 PBUs this year.

2. U-M has three receivers with 500-plus yards this season: Amara Darboh (635), Butt (566) and Jehu Chesson (535).

3. This will be the 49th consecutive season The Game will be televised, including the 29th consecutive season it will be on ABC.

4. 4. Twenty-one Wolverines hail from the state of Ohio, including starters Joe Bolden (linebacker, Cincinnati Colerain), tight end Jake Butt (Pickerington North), defensive end Willie Henry (Cleveland Glenville), offensive lineman Kyle Kalis (Lakewood St. Edward), running back De'Veon Smith (Warren Howland), safety Jarrod Wilson (Akron Buchtel) and defensive end Chris Wormley (Toledo Whitmer).

5. Michigan is ranked in the top six nationally in six defensive categories, including second in total defense, pass efficiency and third down defense; fourth in rushing and passing defense.

Game Breakdown
This will be a clash of strengths if there has ever been one, although one key personnel development could loom large. With a fairly veteran front seven, Michigan has been stout against the run for most of the season, but a season-ending injury to nose tackle Ryan Glasgow could loom large. It did in the first game he missed as Indiana, with a spread-based running game that bears some resemblance to Ohio State, gashed the Wolverines for 307 yards on the ground and nearly pulled off an upset. There is still plenty of talent up front for the Wolverines, though, and former Urban Meyer assistants Greg Mattison and D.J. Durkin (both now at Michigan) know Meyer’s offense very well. EDGE: OHIO STATE

The Wolverine running game has been a bit feast or famine. Michigan put up a couple of nice running performances early in the season but hasn’t had as much success lately as it has had a revolving door at tailback while getting offensive line play that has been average at best. De’Veon Smith is a bruising running back who can be tough to bring down but is not a home-run hitter. Drake Johnson, who had a strong game against Ohio State last season before blowing out his knee in the third quarter, brings some shimmy and shake to the backfield. The Buckeyes will have to be prepared for a variety of different blocking schemes as well as end-arounds and reverses — not to mention the occasional fullback trap. EDGE: OHIO STATE

The Michigan secondary has improved from solid to outstanding in the first season under head coach Jim Harbaugh and with Durkin as the defensive coordinator. The No. 1 reason is the Wolverines finally have a shutdown cornerback in Jourdan Lewis, who is a bit undersized but tenacious in coverage. He plays very aggressively and will blanket bigger receivers. The rest of the unit has been very solid as well, though standout safety/nickel back Jabrill Peppers has been exposed in single coverage at times. He has also proved to be a big hitter who will attack short passes and screens and go after the ball wherever it is. Ohio State has the pieces to be a strong passing team but has had a hard time putting them all together. EDGE: MICHIGAN

Iowa transfer Jake Rudock has had some highs and lows this season for the Wolverines. He brings a veteran’s savvy but only average arm strength and decision-making to the position. His favorite targets are receiver Amara Darboh and tight end Jake Butt. There is no real field-stretching threat, but Darboh and Jehu Chesson have been adept at getting open on short patterns and making some yards after the catch. Butt is one of the nation’s best tight ends and a major weapon on third downs and in the red zone when he can beat single coverage. Ohio State counters with one of the best pass defenses in the country. Though the Buckeyes have not faced a player like Butt, they should be able to handle the Michigan receivers and pressure Rudock. EDGE: OHIO STATE

This has been an area of overall strength for both teams. Peppers is a very dangerous return man on punts and kickoffs, though the Michigan kickoff coverage has been close to the middle of the pack statistically and so has the punt game. Ohio State has been excellent punting and covering kickoffs, but the Buckeyes are still waiting for their return team to pop a big one as the Wolverines did with Chesson against Northwestern in the middle of the season. If it comes down to a game of field goals, Michigan has the advantage – by default if nothing else. EDGE: MICHIGAN

Ohio State’s stunning loss to Michigan State leaves the door open for this to go either way. Will the Buckeyes head to Ann Arbor deflated, or will they have a new resolve to get the bad taste out of their mouths? The Wolverines are sure to be fired up, if for no other reason than that they want to close Jim Harbaugh’s first season with a signature win. EDGE: MICHIGAN

Urban Meyer’s teams have been favored in all three previous matchups with the Wolverines since he became head coach of the Buckeyes, but they have yet to turn in anything close to the type of dominant performances expected of them. This Michigan team should be the best of the four, but maybe the Buckeyes are due. The talent advantage is still clearly in Ohio State’s favor, but we all know how much that counts for sometimes in this rivalry. Victory is not likely to come easy for either team as Michigan has the tools to make the Buckeyes work hard to score, but the Buckeyes shouldn’t need many points to come out on top. MICHIGAN 21-20

The staff pick is an average of predictions by staffers Ryan Ginn, James Grega, Tim Moody, Jeff Svoboda and Blake Williams. Matchup previews by Marcus Hartman.

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