Which of the past games in the rivalry does this game's mood remind you of the most, or are we in uncharted territory with OSU pegged as a 20-point favorite?
Chuck McKeever: I think we might be in uncharted territory here. Not being a betting man, I'm not sure what the spread was last year, but I'm guessing it was larger than the 1 point that OSU ended up winning by. I'm never sure what to make of spreads like this--on paper, it seems like 20 points is a reasonable figure, but the Buckeyes were favored by something like 34 last week against Indiana, and that certainly didn't end up being the case.
I actually wrote on this earlier in the week for LGHL-- for us, the worst part about Michigan being mediocre is knowing that regardless of the coaching circus, those guys are going to come to play. If they keep things close despite being unranked underdogs (see: 2013), that doesn't look good for the Buckeyes.
In terms of the disparity in what we've seen on the field this season, I guess I could see this being something like the 2008 game in Columbus. Terrelle Pryor was tearing it up all year despite a few fundamental issues, and led the Buckeyes to a 45-7 victory in that one. I don't think the difference will be quite that big in this game (don't quote me on this, but I vaguely remember Tate Forcier being at the helm back then), but 45 is a reasonable expectation for what Ohio State could put on the scoreboard.
Do you think Urban is going to run up the score knowing the playoff committee is watching? Or, is it a moot point for OSU's chances to slip into the first four, a la, a win is a win?
CM: I think we've used up our quota of "a win is a win" this season between Penn State, Minnesota, and Indiana. I think one more close game against a team that we should be putting away easily might be enough to tip us into Florida State territory as far as the consensus being, "okay, these guys are not showing us the kind of firepower against inferior opposition that we want from a playoff team." So I'd rather not take our chances by hoping that, say, a six-point win will be enough. We suffer enough from the national perception that the conference as a whole just isn't very good, so the Buckeyes need to do everything in their power to get the job done on Saturday without too many hiccups.
As it stands, we need a decent amount of shenanigans to happen between now and January for this conversation to even matter, not even counting the fact that we'll likely be meeting Melvin Gordon in Indianapolis in a few weeks. That said, I'm not sure Urban Meyer will run up the score against Michigan in the traditional "because I couldn't go for 3" sense, but the Buckeyes do have a tendency to score an awful lot of points against teams that allow them to. And you know what? I'm pretty okay with that. To quote the 1980's Miami Hurricanes-- you don't like us dancing, keep us out of the end zone.
Which of OSU's players might have a breakout game in their first try against Michigan?
CM: Darron Lee and Jalin Marshall are two guys who the Wolverines haven't seen on the field yet who could do some serious damage on Saturday. Lee has been the season's biggest pleasant surprise. He's a redshirt freshman outside linebacker, who got way less hype coming into Columbus than someone like Raekwon McMillan. He's quietly turned into the Buckeyes' second-best defensive playmaker behind Joey Bosa. He plays bigger than he looks, and has great closing speed in open space. He's been nasty dropping back in coverage in the zone, as well.
Marshall went from goat to hero in the span of the last two weeks. He was the Buckeyes' Achilles heel against Minnesota, with two massive turnovers that almost led to a major upset by the Gophers. People were calling for him to be benched, to never see the field again this year, etc. Fast forward to this past Saturday. The former high school quarterback returned a punt for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter and scored 3 touchdowns in the 4th quarter to bring Ohio State back on top and create a comfortable lead against an Indiana team that was hanging around far too long for comfort.
(J.T. Barrett could very well destroy worlds, too, but y'all already knew that.)
From the view of Michigan's most-despised rival, is this Brady Hoke's last go-round at The Game regardless of outcome?
CM: I think it has to be, right? And I see that as a net positive. Like I alluded to before, I think the rivalry and the conference both suffer when one of the historic greats is consistently mediocre. I'd like nothing better than for Michigan to bring in a competitive, competent coach who inspires love among your fan base and inspires hatred within ours. Of course, if Ohio State were to win the next dozen or so games and level the field as far as our head-to-head records go, I also wouldn't complain.
Should Hoke beat Ohio State, I still don't think the story changes. Much as the old guard loves him, I'm sure the general sentiment is that you could do better than 6-6 or 7-5 with a crappy bowl game appearance every season. And I'm betting you'd really like someone who would show signs of life against Ohio State. The world is full of hot takes, and the fact that people talked for a while about Wisconsin being Ohio State's "real rival" (dumb) after we had some hugely meaningful games against the Badgers, and then changed their tune to make it seem as though Michigan State were the real rivals (also dumb, but over the last 2 seasons certainly entertaining), goes to show you that the greatest rivalry in sports seems to have lost at least a little bit of its luster. I want nothing more than to see that change.