The second-ranked Buckeyes will host the third-ranked Wolverines in game with playoff implications at stake. The BSB staff came up with five things to watch for when OSU plays Michigan.
1. Who Starts At QB For Michigan?
Sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight reportedly broke his collarbone vs. Iowa on Nov. 12 and therefore John O’Korn started as the signal caller last week in a 20-10 win over Indiana. Head coach Jim Harbaugh declined to comment on the severity of Speight’s injury, but if it is a broken collarbone, it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to play just two weeks after suffering the fracture. If he can’t go, that means O’Korn will make his second-ever start for Michigan. In the Houston transfer’s first start vs. Indiana, he completed 7 of 16 passes for 59 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Wolverines heavily relied on their running attack against the Hoosiers and may do the same this week against the Buckeyes.
2. How Will OSU Defend U-M’s Running Attack?
In that game against Indiana, the Wolverines struggled to move the ball in the first half, only scoring three points and producing 110 yards of total offense. In the final 30 minutes, however, Michigan turned to senior running back De’Veon Smith to pull out the victory. He had two rushing touchdowns in the second half and 111 of his 158 total rushing yards came in the third and fourth quarters as well. If O’Korn struggles to move the Wolverine offense with his arm, then Harbaugh will likely go to Smith to shoulder most of the load and it’ll be up to the Ohio State defense to stop him.
3. How Will OSU Handle Jabrill Peppers?
Jabrill Peppers has impacted a number of Michigan’s games this year in many different ways. The junior linebacker/defensive back does more than just play those two positions for the Wolverines. Not only does he lead the team with 16 tackles for loss, he has three rushing touchdowns as a running back and has even caught a couple passes when he’s lined up as a receiver. Add in the fact that he’s returned a punt for a score this year and it’s clear why Michigan leans on him so much. The Buckeyes will have their hands full with trying to contain him in all aspects of the game come Saturday afternoon.
4. What Will OSU’s Offense Look Like?
As we have come to find out this season, Ohio State’s offense is very dependent on the weather conditions. If there’s any form of precipitation and/or if it’s windy, then the Buckeyes rely on junior quarterback J.T. Barrett to carry them to finish line. Last week at Michigan State, the temperature was in the 30s, it was windy and there were snow flurries. Barrett had difficulty at times throwing the ball and therefore had a game-high 24 carries. The conditions for the game vs. Michigan seem to be much more ideal, however, so the OSU offense should be a little more diverse than it was a last week.
5. Who Makes The First Mistake?
In this rivalry game, it always seems like the team that makes the first crucial mistake ends up being on the losing end. A costly penalty that prolongs the opposing team’s drive could be the difference-maker in a game like this that is expected to be close. A turnover at the absolute worst time could easily decide this one as well. Bottom line, the team who takes care of the football and plays fundamentally sound football will most likely come out on top.