(Previously: Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa)
Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0), at Michigan Stadium
Season to Date
Wins of negligible importance: vs. Buffalo 40-20, vs. SDSU 42-7, at Cal 52-34, vs. FAMU 75-0, vs. Penn State 63-14
Win that broke Northwestern: 40-30 vs. Northwestern - The Buckeyes had a real fight on their hands in Evanston. Northwestern staked a claim to the lead early and kept throwing counterpunches at every turn. Even as Ohio State scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, Northwestern still had a drive go into Ohio State territory threatening to score. Unfortunately for the Cats, that was about the last positive for the season, as a bad spot cost Northwestern a first down on a late drive to take the lead, and that was ultimately the game.
Best Win: 31-24 vs. Wisconsin - The Buckeyes held Wisconsin to 3.9 yards/rush and over the first three quarters built a solid double digit lead. Wisconsin made a late push thanks to ten fourth quarter points, but Ohio State was able to hold the Badgers off.
That weird win vs. Iowa: 34-24 vs. Iowa - Iowa went 80, 67, and 69 yards on its first three drives to put up 17 points and claim a first half lead. Ohio State only had three first half drives and scored on two of them. After halftime Ohio State had four drives that went 75, 84, 75, and 64 yards netting three touchdowns and a field goal. Iowa was lucky it was that close (Ohio State only failed to score on one meaningful drive all game) but simultaneously impressive in limiting possessions and making the game close.
I mean, you could really talk about most of the team — including the backup quarterback — but it seems like the first place to start is with Braxton Miller. Miller has only played in six games, but he has already thrown 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions (Kenny Guiton has 13/2, for the record). He also has 403 yards on the ground. He is great at moving in the pocket, keeping plays alive, and finding receivers down the field after a play breaks down. He also serves as a great counterpart to the other backfield threat...
Carlos Hyde is a handful. He is the between-the-tackles bruiser that Ohio State uses next to Miller, who is more of an outside, plays in space runner. Hyde is averaging well over 100 yards per game in his five games this year, and he has seven touchdowns. He is also averaging 6.7 yards/carry.
On defense there are quite a few players to worry about, but Noah Spence has been one of the most consisntently productive. He leads the team with nine tackles for loss and five sacks. The entire defensive line has been disruptive this year — Ohio State is giving up less than three yards per rush — and young players like Spence are a big reason why.
Outlook vs. Michigan
I want Michigan to beat Ohio State as much as anyone, but this game seems stacked against the Wolverines favor. Offensively, Michigan can find success against Ohio State's secondary, but running the ball will be tough sledding, which will mean that A) Michigan will face a lot of third-and-long situations and B) Michigan will need a lot of big passing plays to find offensive success against Ohio State. Devin Gardner is capable of this, but he is also capable of throwing away a couple interceptions and setting Ohio State up for easy scores.
On the other side of the ball, Ohio State's offense is diverse enough to move the ball against Michigan in many ways. The Wolverine defense will be put in the tough position to either go into nickel packages to try and cover all Ohio State's receivers, or stick with the base defense to stop Carlos Hyde. Ohio State will find enough ways to make Michigan pay that the Buckeyes should be able to outscore Michigan in what will still be a close game.
Michigan will still have a good chance at a win as the game is in Ann Arbor, but it will likely take Michigan's best game of the season to do so.