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The common-opponent numbers give Michigan a slight edge over Ohio State

Both offensive and defensive stats are trending maize and blue.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

After an intense season-long build up, The Game is finally here. Both Michigan and Ohio State enter the contest essentially how everyone expected they would before the season even began. Each team has had their falters, but both look like legitimate Playoff threats. Only one is likely to earn a spot to prove it though, and who that will be is anyone’s guess. When the two rivals meet on Saturday, anything could happen, but perhaps the last couple months could shed some light ahead of time.

Michigan and Ohio State have played six common opponents this season: each of the other five teams in the Big Ten East and Wisconsin, who happened to be on both teams’ schedules. While only looking at these six games leaves out key wins against Colorado, Oklahoma, and Nebraska and ignores Michigan’s loss to Iowa and Ohio State’s struggle against Northwestern, isolating these matchups is the best way to normalize the data.

Opponent UM Margin OSU Margin
Indiana 10 21
Maryland 56 59
Michigan State 9 1
Penn State 39 -3
Rutgers 78 58
Wisconsin 7 7

Against these six teams in common Michigan went 6-0, while playing four of the contests at home. Conversely, Ohio State went 5-1, but had to travel for four of the games. The table above shows the point differential for both teams against the common opponents and the numbers are very similar. While Michigan did have a better wins against Rutgers and Michigan State, Ohio State was better against Indiana. However, the biggest difference is against Penn State, a team Michigan killed but one who was able to knock off Ohio State.

Run Offense

Opponent UM Yd UM Avg UM TD OSU Yd OSU Avg OSU TD
Indiana 225 4.5 2 290 5.8 4
Maryland 273 7.0 5 253 5.9 5
Michigan St. 192 4.6 3 224 5.0 1
Penn St. 326 6.7 6 168 4.2 1
Rutgers 481 8.6 9 410 7.7 4
Wisconsin 130 3.0 1 185 4.1 2
Average 271.2 5.1 4.3 255 5.5 2.8

Both schools have been very effective running the ball this season, averaging over five yards a carry against common opponents. Michigan was contained by Wisconsin, but managed at least 4.5 YPC against everyone else. The Penn State game really stands out for both teams; yes, the Nittany Lions had some injuries, but the numbers are hard to ignore. Michigan was completely dominant against Penn State, while Ohio State had one of their worst rushing outputs of the season. As a whole, the Michigan ground game has been much more effective at finding the end zone.

Run Defense

Opponent UM Yd UM Avg UM TD OSU Yd OSU Avg OSU TD
Indiana 64 1.8 1 99 2.5 0
Maryland 78 2.1 0 43 1.1 0
Michigan St. 217 5.2 1 207 5.9 1
Penn St. 70 2.5 0 122 3.3 1
Rutgers 34 0.9 0 74 2.0 0
Wisconsin 71 2.5 0 236 5.1 1
Average 89 2.6 0.3 130.2 3.3 0.5

Michigan’s biggest strength is their run defense, and the numbers highlight this. Common opponents have averaged under 100 rush yards per game against them, and only one team has averaged over 3.0 YPC. The Michigan State game did identify some flaws, but since then Michigan has looked much better. While Ohio State has shown a decent run defense as well, their numbers are not as gaudy. Both teams will be challenged in this area, but Michigan should have the slight edge in both attacking on the ground and defending the rush.

Pass Offense

Opponent UM Yd UM Comp UM TD OSU Yd OSU Comp OSU TD
Indiana 59 43.8 0 93 42.9 1
Maryland 387 77.8 3 328 66.7 3
Michigan St. 244 64.0 0 86 45.5 1
Penn St. 189 60.0 1 245 65.1 1
Rutgers 119 50.0 2 259 69.4 4
Wisconsin 219 62.5 1 226 58.6 1
Average 202.8 61.6 1.2 206.2 60.4 1.8

The aerial attacks were surprisingly similar for the two rivals against common foes. The Wolverines were very efficient under Wilton Speight, but a tough day from John O’Korn against Indiana leveled the numbers out. The Buckeyes also struggled against the Hoosiers, but were even worse against Michigan State, a team that Michigan threw all over. Even though Ohio State lost at Penn State and Michigan won big, it was actually the Buckeyes who looked better through the air. The advantage here depends on who starts for Michigan; Speight would give his team a slight edge, but O’Korn is a clear step below Ohio State’s passing game.

Pass Defense

Opponent UM Yd UM Comp UM TD OSU Yd OSU Comp OSU TD
Indiana 191 46.7 0 182 50.0 2
Maryland 289 60.7 0 133 55.6 0
Michigan St. 184 46.4 2 127 38.1 1
Penn St. 121 59.3 1 154 34.8 1
Rutgers 5 11.1 0 33 18.8 0
Wisconsin 88 36.0 1 214 57.1 1
Average 146.3 45.5 0.7 140.5 44.8 0.8

The pass defense numbers are also close between Michigan and Ohio State, and neither is allowing much through the air. Michigan was very impressive against Wisconsin, a team that passed fairly well against Ohio State, but the Wolverines showed vulnerabilities against Maryland. Ohio State handled Penn State’s passing attack, but the Nittany Lions were able to win the game elsewhere. The Buckeyes may prefer to try the air as opposed to the ground on Saturday, while Michigan will likely opt for the opposite strategy.

Final thoughts

Unsurprisingly, the numbers between these two teams against common opponents are not too different. Both score much more often on the ground with very efficient run games, although both have pretty accurate passing numbers as well. Defensively, the two rivals have been solid on both fronts, and nothing has come easily for opponents in either vector.

Michigan’s run defense does stand out, in both raw totals and yards per carry. Ohio State has been very strong on the ground this season, but Michigan should be content letting this battle be a big part of the game. On the other side of the ball, the Wolverines rushing attack will also be their biggest focal point. The Buckeyes’ run defense has been beatable, and with questions at quarterback, look for Michigan continue to rely on their stable of rushers.