Kevin here once again. It took eleven games, but Michigan has found something in their offensive playbook that is working. The receivers emerged as the terror squad we all thought they’d be when the season started, and getting them confident heading into the biggest game is very, very encouraging. Many things in the game against Indiana were the complete opposite of last year’s game, in which Indiana gave Ohio State the blueprint for shredding Don Brown’s defensive scheme. Death by a thousand crossing routes was so last year, man. Dudes were getting to the quarterback with regularity, and while they gave up some completions, the secondary was quick to limit yards after said completion.
What universe am I in?
Instead, Michigan’s offense is continuing to improve, definitely an indication that the Gattis experiment is trending in the right direction. When Michigan scored to take the lead for good in the second half, the camera quickly cut to Gattis on the sideline, furiously fist-pumping and yelling, as if the lightbulb has finally come on for all these guys. Ohio State might actually have to gameplan for many different targets, instead of assuming Michigan will run the ball twice and throw on third down. The statline from last Saturday, if you squint, looks like a -- /checks notes -- spread offense (?)
Conveniently, the playoff committee has elevated Ohio State to the top spot in the rankings. No big deal, Michigan, just gotta go out on your home field and beat the number one team in the land. HOWEVER, we don’t have to spend the rest of this week wondering if the team is going to be ready, or whether anyone is injured. If there was ever a time for Michigan to become the giant-killer we’ve been begging them to become, this is that game. It’s THE game.
Media people are tossing around analogies to the 50th anniversary of Michigan beating Goliath -- er, Ohio State -- in 1969, which, fine, whatever. The circumstances aren’t entirely similar. There’s no modern version of Woody Hayes on the other sideline, probably one of the most feared coaches in the sport’s history save for maybe Bear Bryant, on the other sideline. Ohio State is still Ohio State, and Urban Meyer will be on the pregame desk somewhere in Michigan Stadium. I say make him regret leaving. Make him watch helplessly as a perfect season is ruthlessly stomped out in front of him, so he knows how much agony his stupid den of cheaters has caused everyone north of the border the last fifteen years.
Take it away…
Daniel A: I’m currently traveling for the holidays and typing off my mobile so I’m going to keep this shorter than usual.
For the second year in a row, Michigan appears to be entering the game with quite a bit of momentum. At least, on the surface I think that’s the narrative. I’d like to push back though. In 2018, Michigan played a sloppy game against Rutgers and escaped a very annoying one against Indiana. Some of us had spent much of the “revenge tour” wondering if the team was still the same team that had come up short previously, just executing a smidge better.
Well, those doubts turned into prophecy. The Buckeyes annihilated the Wolverines on the same crossing routes that Indiana and Rutgers had caused headaches with. The offense lacked the big play explosiveness to keep pace, and yeah. That game sucked.
The 2019 Wolverines appear to actually be different. Two weeks ago, Shea Patterson became Michigan’s first 300 yard passer in over two years. One week ago he repeated the feat. The defense has incorporated the athleticism of Khaleke Hudson and Dax Hill into a bracket coverage scheme that thus far, has held up well against those lethal mesh concepts. But Michigan State and Indiana are not Ohio State. They do not have Justin Fields, J.K. Dobbins, and an army of blue chip athletes.
As for a prediction, I’ve learned not to carry expectations into this game. Similar to last week, I think the offense will do it’s part but I don’t trust this defense. Stats are what they are but the two offenses with a pulse this team has played put up points at will. I can’t convince myself anything different happens this week. Ohio State Wins 38-21
Andrew V: All season long I’ve looked ahead to this game and figured Ohio State would pound Michigan, but the Wolverines are playing well enough that now I believe this will be a competitive game.
OSU should still win, probably by two touchdowns, but I see this starting out like it did in 2017, when Michigan took a lead into the third quarter. U-M hasn’t faced an offense anywhere near as good as OSU’s, but Penn State slowed the Buckeyes attack a bit more than I expected, so it’s not impossible, especially if the defense can force a turnover.
The recipe for victory seems simple: Shea Patterson needs to continue playing at an elite level and the defense will need to win the turnover battle. My hopes have been shattered by Ohio State too many times to think Michigan actually pulls off the upset.
David: This game is the one everyone who enjoys the game of college football tunes in to each year. No matter who you root for, this is one if not the best rivalries in all of sports. The amount of close and blowout defeats in the last decade have been gut wrenching for Michigan fans and they know it’s such a huge mental block now. This is the game players go to that school and look forward to each year with the chance to beat the other.
The new dawn and day for Ohio State under Ryan Day has not skipped a beat since taking over and looks to have one of the best teams in the country. It’s hard to think going another 365 days of a Michigan loss, so this one would help get that huge monkey off the programs and Jim Harbaugh’s back.
I think Michigan has a real shot if they can keep Ohio State to under 40 points. The weather is calling for sleet, rain, and temperatures below 40 all day may keep this game low scoring and a defensive juggernaut. I would not be surprised if this was a 31-28 kind of game or even lower if the weather is what they say.
Will this be the best team Michigan faces? Yes
Has Michigan been down, in close games? Yes
Has OSU been on the ropes on the road yet? No
Has OSU fell to a team the last two years on the road they were favored big to win? Yes
I see Michigan keeping it close and every year I give a prediction the Wolverines lose, so I’m holding off. I do not see the score being anything close to what happened last year, I’m definitely confident in saying that. One play or two, on top of this nasty weather may just decide this game.
Kevin: Two of the games during the Harbaugh era, Michigan managed to come up with a near-perfect game plan against a clearly-better team. I’m more confident this year than either of those games, and it’s almost the reverse of the usual “Michigan plays down to its competition” trend. Ohio State has had one of the easier schedules, and doesn’t look like a world-beater. There isn’t a clear precedent for this scenario in Michigan lore, but I will say this: it only takes one stroke of luck to turn the tide, and it’s Michigan’s turn this time.
I can’t take another year of seeing that damn nut mascot celebrating on the sidelines.