It’s finally here. The week that hardcore college football fans have waited for all season, “The Game” is this week, and the stakes couldn’t be any higher between the two teams.
Both teams come into the game 11-0, and ranked second and third for the CFP respectively. This game will decide the winner of the Big Ten East and is a near shoo-in for the playoff on New Year’s Eve.
Last week, Ohio State defeated Maryland, 43-30, in a game much tougher than many people expected. Michigan had a giant scare against Illinois and came back to win as time expired, 17-16, on a last-second field goal by Jake Moody. Both the Wolverines and the Buckeyes left much to be desired, but survived.
Brad Powers and Joey Knish recap Week 12 of College Football and preview Week 13. The guys discuss the Detroit Lions, Dan Campbell, Thanksgiving Weekend, and CFB rivalry weekend.
Other winners last week in the Big Ten were Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Penn State, and Iowa. Only one favorite actually covered last week as there were plenty of close games and upsets.
This week, all roads lead to The Horseshoe.
Spizzly’s Spotlight Game of The Year: #3 Michigan (11-0) @ #2 Ohio State (11-0)
Time: 12:00 ET
Line: OSU (-7.5) O/U 57
Injury Bug In the Backfield
Michigan running back Blake Corum left last week’s game against Illinois with a knee injury in the first half, and ran only one play the rest of the way. Needless to say, his health is paramount in this game against the Buckeyes. Corum ranks third in the NCAA in rushing with 1,457 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Ohio State’s backfield has been besieged by injuries as well, and the running backs have rotated at times this year to show that. Three different running backs have at least 100 carries for the Buckeyes, led by Miyan Williams who has scored 13 touchdowns so far this season. Williams was carted off the field against Indiana and was out last week against Maryland, so his availability may be in question.
The Field Generals
Michigan is led by sophomore quarterback J.J McCarthy, who has been efficient but not outstanding. He has thrown for 1,952 yards and 14 touchdowns against only two interceptions this season.
Last week, McCarthy did not fare so well without Corum on the field. In the second half, Michigan did not score a touchdown against Illinois and were forced into four field goals. The Wolverines will simply need better this week.
There are no question marks on the other side. Junior quarterback C.J Stroud leads the offense and is a contender for the Heisman Trophy. He has thrown for 2,991 yards and is tied for the lead in all of college football with 35 touchdown passes.
While Stroud is not extremely mobile, he does not make many mistakes and only has four interceptions on the year.
Best In The Country?
Ohio State’s wide receivers are what set them apart from other teams, not just in the Big Ten, but nationally as well. The Buckeyes are led by Marvin Harrison Jr., who has been nothing short of electric this season with 1,037 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns.
On the other side of the field, sophomore Emeka Egbuka has been fantastic with 57 receptions for 914 yards and eight scores. This doesn’t even mention junior standout Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who has been sidelined most of the season due to injury. When healthy, Ohio State may very well have the best wide receiver core in the country.
The Wolverines are led by senior wide receiver Ronnie Bell, who has 48 receptions for 641 yards this season. Senior tight end Luke Schoonmaker has been a valuable piece for Michigan as well, chipping in with 30 receptions and two scores.
If Corum is not at 100 percent or is too injured to play, Bell and Schoonmaker will be exceptionally important if the Wolverines are to win.
The Defensive Side
Michigan’s strength all season has been its defense. The Wolverines’ defense ranks first in total yards per game and has only allowed 13 offensive touchdowns this season. Senior linebacker Mike Morris has seven sacks for Michigan, and he will be important to put pressure on Stroud.
Ohio State’s defense has been very good as well, ranking ninth this season in total yardage. Sophomore defensive end Jack Sawyer will lead the defense and has 4.5 sacks this season.
As of this posting, the temperatures look seasonable on Saturday afternoon, with the forecast calling for about 50 degrees or the lower 50’s by kickoff. The sky does not look pretty though, and there is about a 50% chance of rain.
If it is indeed a wet day, it would seem to benefit Michigan more due to their running game and big offensive line. Timing is still a major question for the precipitation, not to mention the intensity. Stay tuned to your local media outlets as the game draws nearer.
I think of this game like the irresistible force meets the immovable object. It will be a real treat to watch the Buckeye offense take on the Michigan defense.
Neither team has faced a challenge as severe as they will face. While Ohio State has been a force on offense and has put up tons of points, they are now facing one of the top defensive units in the country.
Without Corum, Michigan loses a big component of what the Wolverines try to do on offense. This would be even more magnified on a wet field. I do think if he is not seriously hurt, Corum will try to give it a go here.
In the first half, I see this being a close game, but eventually the Buckeyes will find the motivation from their home crowd and start to pull away. The biggest question of the game is what happens to Michigan if the Wolverines fall behind.
In that case, the Wolverines will have to rely on McCarthy’s arm to rally and I just don’t see it happening. The Buckeyes salt the game away with a late touchdown and head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game. I still think the Wolverines have done enough to get into the playoff at 11-1 as the No. 4 seed.
Pick: #2 Ohio State 35, #3 Michigan 21
Best Sportsbooks to Bet According to Betstamp.com
For bettors who want to take the Buckeyes, PointsBet has Ohio State at -7.5 with a vig of -110. Michigan bettors can get +7.5 at BetMGM for a vig of -105. For those who want to take the over, FanDuel has the game’s total points at 56.5 with a vig of -110, while PointsBet has the game at 57 for under bettors with a vig of -110.
Quick Snaps From The Big Ten
Nebraska (3-8) @ Iowa (7-4) A win gets the Hawkeyes a berth in the Big Ten Championship game and wins the Big Ten West Division. The Cornhuskers almost pulled out a close one last week against Wisconsin, but does not have much to play for. Iowa’s defense will be good enough here. Pick: Iowa 21, Nebraska 7
Rutgers (4-7) @ Maryland (6-5) It was a tough stretch for the Scarlet Knights to end the season, while Maryland has already gained bowl eligibility. I think the Terrapins’ offense has a big day. Pick: Maryland 31, Rutgers 17
Illinois (7-4) @ Northwestern (1-10) Illinois will always think about what could have been last week against Michigan, but Bret Bielema has the Fighting Illini going in the right direction. Northwestern just wants to get to the end of the year. Pick: Illinois 28, Northwestern 10
Minnesota (7-4) @ Wisconsin (6-5) Both teams are very run-oriented, but I think the Badgers have a bit of an edge at home. Behind Braelon Allen, Wisconsin takes Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Pick: Wisconsin 24, Minnesota 21
Purdue (7-4) @ Indiana (4-7) The Hoosiers played well last week and defeated a desperate Michigan State team in double overtime while the Boilermakers struggled with Northwestern. Just a hunch, but the win against the Spartans will give Indiana much-needed momentum and the Hoosiers will win the Old Oaken Bucket. Pick: Indiana 24, Purdue 21
Michigan State (5-6) @ #11 Penn State (9-2) The Nittany Lions beat up on Rutgers last week, while Michigan State inexplicably lost to Indiana. Expect Nick Singleton to have a huge day as Penn State romps over the Spartans. Pick: #11 Penn State 38, Michigan State 17