It’s called ‘The Game’ for a reason.
It’s Michigan and Ohio State, one of the best rivalries in sports. It’s the 115th meeting between the two teams. This one will decide the East division winner who moves on to play Northwestern next Saturday in the Big Ten Championship.
Both teams and states don’t like each other. Buckeye fans keep count the amount of days Michigan has not won, they cross out the M’s, have a song about how much they don’t like Michigan, and call them “that team up north.” It’s been recently owned by Ohio State but Michigan has the overall winning record of 58-49-6.
Michigan football is on a mission and as Chase Winovich started calling it, a ‘Revenge Tour’ It just has a different feel when listening to Michigan staff and players this week. They are focused and know how much is at stake with this game on Saturday.
I made a prediction earlier this week that Michigan wins by 14.
I’m breaking it down with three reasons why I’ve got the Wolverines being victorious.
1. Playing focused with a chip on their shoulder
Ever since the loss at Notre Dame, this team has improved from top to bottom. They overcame a slow start at Northwestern and dominated their three ranked opponents.
Michigan football the last five games.— David Noe (@DavidRNoe) November 21, 2018
-Three wins against ranked teams by a combined score of 101-27
-2,202 total (440.4 ave)
-990 passing (198 ave)
-1,212 rushing (242.4 ave)
-54 points scored (10.8 ave)
-1,200 yards (240 yard ave)
The passing completions, offensive line play, punting, and run game have all seen improvements. Oh, and they have the best overall defense in the country.
Devin Bush talked about how much more confidence this team has, they are confident and focused. They know their final mission is to shake the core of Columbus on Saturday and break the losing streak to play in the Big Ten Championship.
2. Michigan is better on paper
If a team has not gotten better on defense this season yet, it won’t improve drastically in a week. Ohio State has been in close games against unranked teams. The overtime nail biter in Maryland was something nobody thought would happen, but it did.
Here is what Ohio State has done the last month. It’s shocking.
The last month for Ohio State— David Noe (@DavidRNoe) November 21, 2018
Won at Michigan State by 20 pts
In the other three games:
-Allowed 131 points scored
-29 point loss to Purdue
-Two wins by a combined six points
All three are unranked with losing records.
Here’s another breakdown of the two teams, according to Wesley Weber on Twitter.
Does this matter? To some extent, yes, but most will say throw it all out in a game like this.
3. Don Brown’s defense will hold the Buckeyes and Michigan will have success on the ground.
This defense is suffocating teams and the weather may cause OSU to keep the ball on the ground, not their strength. The stats show they rely on the passing game to rack up numbers based on the breakdown here from Angelique.
Tale of the tape — UM v OSU stats pic.twitter.com/RiAOQXjWtB— angelique (@chengelis) November 18, 2018
Don Brown’s goal is to keep everyone at 17 points and I think they achieve that. According to Phil Steele, Michigan holds opponents below their average yards more than any team.
Top defenses in holding foes below their season average— Phil Steele (@philsteele042) November 22, 2018
1. Michigan holds foes to 178.9 below ssn avg
1. Clemson 161.8
3. Alabama 151.3
4. Miss St 137.8
5. Miami Fla 134.3
6. Cincy 129.2
7. Iowa 121.4
8. Mich St 111.7
9. Calif 108.8
10. Army 108.7https://t.co/DJvorzCD5f
Ohio State is the second best offense overall averaging 548.1 yards per game. If Michigan keeps OSU under that average as they have according to Steele’s stat, Ohio State will have around 363 total yards against Michigan. The Spartans kept Ohio State to 347 yards in their 26-6 loss.
Michigan has started slow on offense on the road this year, which will be something to watch out for. Maryland’s Anthony McFarland rushed for 298 yards on 21 carries against OSU. With a defense that struggles stopping the run, Ohio State may have their hands full with an improved Michigan offense as the No. 69 overall defense allowing 398.6 yards per game. Michigan is averaging 429.6 yards per game and could expose Ohio State similar to how Maryland, Purdue and Nebraska did scoring at least 30 points against their defense.
Karan Higdon is averaging 5.3 yards per carry, 100.55 yards per game and has 10 touchdowns. The depth at running back with Chris Evans and Tru Wilson could be the difference in this game when it counts. Michigan likes to establish the run as we’ve seen all year, and they are fourth in the country for time of possession and No. 23 ranked rush offense in the country. If weather plays a factor, things will be in Michigan’s favor with a solid run game.
If Shea Patterson has to make plays in the air, it will be against the No. 77 ranked pass defense in the country. It could open up the playbook and give him the chance to throw downfield to his weapons on offense.
Emotions will be very high, both fan bases are sticking out their chests, and we are in for a huge game on Saturday.
Follow on Twitter: @DavidRNoe/@MaizenBrew