Finally, it’s almost here. After 364 days of Michigan fans, players and coaches gloating about beating Ohio State last season, the Buckeyes get a chance to make the universe right again when they host the Wolverines at home in the ‘Shoe on Saturday afternoon.
The stakes don’t really get any bigger. The winner takes the Big Ten East crown outright and punches its ticket to the Big Ten Championship game, and likely the College Football Playoff. It’s No. 2 vs. No 3 with both teams coming in with unblemished records they hope to keep intact.
The oddsmakers have Ohio State favored by about a touchdown in the early odds release, but if you’ve been on this planet long enough, you know that in an all-timer of a rivalry game like this — anything goes.
Here at Buckeyes Wire, we think OSU has the better skill, the better team, and better coaching. We believe Ohio State will prevail when it’s all said and done on the banks of the Olentangy, Here are five reasons the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines on Saturday.
Lessons Learned on Defense
Ohio State Buckeyes defensive coordinator Jim Knowles motions to players during the spring football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on April 16, 2022. USA TODAY Sports
Why it Matters
After last season’s defeat to Michigan, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day went out and made changes — most notably on defense. The OSU defense was simply not getting it done, and the inability to win in the trenches and fly to the ball was exposed against the Wolverines.
Day hired defensive coordinator Jim Knowles away from Oklahoma State, and the difference has been like night and day. The defense is now an attacking unit that disguises coverages, giving the Buckeyes more options to take away what the opposing offense does well.
Ohio State will not completely throttle the Michigan offense, but it should be able to get more stops than last year and tilt the action in OSU’s favor. Don’t be surprised if Knowles has been holding some blitz packages back for this game either.
The Revenge Factor
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) walks off the field behind Michigan Wolverines defensive back Vincent Gray (4) during the fourth quarter of the NCAA football game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Ohio State lost, 42-27. USA TODAY Sports
Why it Matters
I feel like the revenge card is often overplayed, but not in this one. It would be one thing if Michigan took the high road after finally winning one in the series after almost a decade of having its lunch money stolen by Ohio State. Instead, the players talked, the coaches ran their mouths, and the fans are still talking to this day.
Of course, Ryan Day has been letting that all sink in with his team and reminding them of it. I guarantee you don’t hear about it in the media as much as it’s being talked about behind the scenes, but if there’s ever been motivation at the highest levels to put the Wolverines back in their place, it’s this year.
Why it Matters
Michigan fans probably aren’t liking how the weather forecast is shaping up for Saturday. Like it or not, good weather plays into the hands of Ohio State with its passing attack, and what was looking kind of sour earlier in the week now looks like a pretty pleasant day — especially for late November. It’s expected to be in the low 50s, and sunny with a light breeze during the game.
The Wolverines like to call OSU soft for not being able to beat them in the elements last season, and there’s some truth to that, but clearly, the team with the better passing game and offense should benefit from a smiling weather forecast.
The Buckeyes still need to bring sandpaper and nails to The Game, but you have to like the ability of C.J. Stroud and the receivers to have success moving the ball and making Michigan go toe-to-toe on offense.
Michigan's struggles passing the ball
Why it Matters
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy beat Cade McNamara for the starting job earlier this year to much fanfare and promises of greatness from Wolverine fans everywhere. Early on, he looked great but that was against less-than-stellar competition.
Against better defenses, McCarthy has struggled to push the ball down the field. He overthrows receivers a lot, and Michigan has had to really rely on its running game to win games as of late against the better defenses. Not only because of his inaccuracy but because he doesn’t have the explosive weapons at his disposal in the passing game.
You have a feeling McCarthy will have to have to be much better through the air and go out and make some plays through the air to get Michigan the win on Saturday in the ‘Shoe — especially if Blake Corum isn’t able to play at his best.
That just isn’t who McCarthy is right now, and it’s hard to expect the passing game to suddenly take off when needed.
The 12th Man
Why it Matters
The last time Michigan beat Ohio State at home was in 2000. That’s nine straight games and 22 years of misery in Columbus for Wolverine fans. It’s one thing to get the scarlet and gray monkey off Harbaugh’s back in Ann Arbor, it’s another to do it in front of a pro-Buckeyes crowd that’s going to be oiled up for this one.
Yes, OSU games can be somewhat sleepy for a noon game sometimes, but that’s not going to be the case when the archrival gets off the bus and walks into the stadium. It’ll be loud, it’ll be hard to communicate for Michigan, and Ohio State will get an emotional lift after hearing its toughness questioned and listening to all the talk the Wolverines did last season.
The Buckeyes will be prepared and the crowd will help them play even better than you’d see on a neutral field or on the road. Mark it down.
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