Week 13 Preview: #3 Michigan Wolverines vs. #2 Ohio State
This is the finale. “The Game” as they call it. Michigan vs. Ohio State. #2 vs. #3. The biggest rivalry in college sports happens once again as Michigan travels Columbus to take on the Buckeyes in each teams biggest game of the year.
Michigan hasn’t beaten Ohio State in Colombus since 2000, and this could be the year that the streak finally ends. If the Wolverines win the game they are going to the Big Ten Championship game against either Wisconsin or Nebraska. If they lose then Ohio State will need Penn State to lose to go to the championship game. The Wolverines shouldn’t have to worry about the Penn State game if they can get the job done at noon.
What to Expect Against Ohio State
There is still no word on who is starting on Saturday, but Wilton Speight did practice on Tuesday and a source said that “After medical testing today, definitely expect him to try to go. 70 percent, trending upward” so expect Speight to suit up against the Buckeyes. He will have a tough test against the Buckeye secondary. Malik Hooker leads the team in interceptions with five, while cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley have seven combined interceptions. Speight will have to be careful or else Ohio State’s defense will give him a headache.
The rushing game for the Wolverines relied heavily last week on De’Veon Smith and they might need him to carry the workload again. The big players to make stops for the Buckeyes will be linebackers Raekwon McMillan, who has 71 tackles, four and a half for loss and one sack and Jerome Baker who has 64 tackles, seven and a half for loss and two and a half sacks. Michigan will need the run game if Speight can’t play and the offensive line has to help out.
The receivers will be tested heavily with the tough secondary that the Buckeyes have. Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and Jake Butt will all need to be involved as just one player can’t carry the team against this defense. Grant Perry, Drake Harris or Eddie McDoom will need to be a secret threat if the other three can’t get going.
The offensive line will have some challenges with Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis. Lewis leads the team in tackles for loss with 10, along with seven and a half sacks. Holmes has 31 tackles, eight for loss and two sacks. Michigan will need the line to hold off the tough Ohio State defensive line and if they can’t create any holes then Michigan will be in for a long day.
The defensive line will be different for Michigan this year. Last year they didn’t have Bryan Mone, or Ryan Glasgow and with the addition of Rashan Gary this line will be the key reason why Michigan could possibly win. The offensive line for the Buckeyes has struggled for a while as Michigan State was able to get to JT Barrett without Malik McDowell. Michigan has the best defensive line in the Big Ten so the Buckeyes will need to really step up if they want to try and run or pass the ball. JT Barrett has had a good year so far, getting 2,304 yards, 24 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Jabrill Peppers is most likely out of the Heisman race, unless he can have a fantastic game week or two. He has been quiet in the past two weeks, so a big game is due for him. He will have the duty for covering Curtis Samuel for part of the game as Jourdan Lewis will handle him at other times. Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon will have to try and stop Barrett and Mike Weber in the running game. Barrett has 722 rushing yards for eight touchdowns while Weber leads the team in yards with 1,046 and eight touchdowns as well.
The receiving core for Ohio State is a one man show. Curtis Samuel has 61 catches for 790 yards and seven touchdowns. As stated earlier, Jourdan Lewis will be on him for some of the game, but the next best receiver for Ohio State is Noah Brown with just 27 catches for 345 yards and seven touchdowns. Dontre Wilson will also be a problem with 26 catches for 343 yards and five touchdowns. Channing Stribling will have to help Lewis out as well because if they pay too much attention to just Samuel, Ohio State will attack with someone else.
Overall this will be the toughest game for either team. Both teams will need a win to have a chance to play in the College Football Playoffs. Michigan doesn’t need help like Ohio State as if they win they are in the conference championship game. The number one defense will have a great challenge with Barrett, Weber and Samuel, but defense wins championships and Michigan’s will prove that once again.
Prediction: #3 Michigan 24 – #2 Ohio State 21
Brandon Knapp covers the Michigan Wolverines, follow him on Twitter @BKnappBlogs