Five reasons Ohio State beats Michigan in ‘The Game’ Saturday

OK. Here we go. We’re less than 24 hours away from arguably the biggest game in the history of the Ohio State vs. Michigan rivalry. There have been some with a little more buzz than this one (see 2006), but none may have more story lines and national implications than what we’ll see unfold in the Big House up in Ann Arbor on Saturday at high Noon.

OSU is the higher ranked team at No. 2 vs. Michigan’s No. 3 ranking, but the Wolverines are coming off of two-straight blowout wins over the Buckeyes the last two years and are favored by Vegas and the ESPN Matchup Predictor to take care of business once again.

There all kinds of ways we can dissect this thing, and reasons to believe both the Buckeyes and Wolverines can either win or lose this massive collision in the Midwest, but if you’ve followed us at all this week, we like Ohio State’s chances.

Here are five reasons we believe Ohio State can pull off the mild upset over Michigan on Saturday,

No Jim Harbaugh

Michigan coach Jim Habaugh won't be on sideline for Ohio State game

Why it favors Ohio State

Look, any Ohio State fan that truly respects the rivalry and understands the big picture will tell you this isn’t ideal. You want the Buckeyes to beat the Wolverines when they are at their best, and having Jim Harbaugh watching from his couch while his wife presses his khakis isn’t it.

But still, it does give OSU an advantage. The players are the players and the game plan will have already have been set through the week with Harbaugh’s fingerprints all over it, but the in-game adjustments, personnel groupings, and massive decisions are why he gets paid in Brinks trucks.

We’ve seen J.J. McCarthy not play as well without his head coach on the sidelines (all four interceptions), and whether that’s just coincidence or not, it is a challenge to have your head coach out of pocket for the biggest regular-season game in the history of the Milky Way Galaxy.

A healthy TreVeyon Henderson


Why it favors Ohio State

If you’ve been glued to your television or streaming device all year watching all things Scarlet and Gray, you’ve seen the difference this Ohio State team is with running back TreVeyon Henderson doing exceptional athletic feats on a football field.

Without him lined up behind Kyle McCord, the offensive line’s woes look worse, the offense isn’t as varied, and there’s not the home run ability he brings. Rumor has it that he can run fast, hit the hole quickly, and go the distance given a seam or a crack to do so.

Michigan won’t be able to queue in solely on Marvin Harrison Jr. and the passing game because it has to be concerned about Ohio State’s ability to get chunk plays on the ground and out of the backfield on passes with Henderson.

That’s a huge deal and why this OSU offense has looked much improved over the last few weeks.

Ohio State is getting healthy just in time

You won't believe where Brett McMurphy put Ohio State on his AP ballot

Why it favors Ohio State

We’ve already discussed the Buckeyes getting the optimal version of TreVeyon Henderson, but he’s not the only guy that is on the mend and trending to be back at almost full capacity.

The other first round NFL draft pick at wide receiver, Emeka Egbuka, has been out with an ankle injury but got back in the lineup after missing a couple of games two games ago vs. Michigan State. And while he didn’t look as explosive in Game 1 back, he looked more the part last week against Minnesota.

Cade Stover is rounding back into form as well after an apparent knee issue and could be a major factor in the running game and as an outlet valve to Kyle McCord in the passing game. We also have gotten positive news on linebacker Tommy Eichenberg and defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr., two of the best players on the defense.

No team is at 100% health at this point in the season, but Ohio State is going to be pretty close to it with who it can run out onto the field.

A banged up Michigan team

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Why it favors Ohio State

Where the Buckeyes are starting to get some key guys back, Michigan is all of a sudden limping a bit into this game. Running back Blake Corum doesn’t have the explosiveness we saw from him last season after coming back from injury, J.J. McCarthy seems not quite right (though any injury concerns have been quiet), and the offensive line has taken a bit of a hit.

Whether it be depth concerns, or the best players not operating at peak performance, the Wolverines’ back-loaded schedule seems to have taken a toll on them with some physical games as of late.

Like it or not, unless there’s some miracle cure juice in the Michigan locker room, this team isn’t as efficient and dominating as what we saw earlier in the year, and that’s not ideal to say the least. Now, ‘The Game’ has a way of making some of those bumps and bruises hurt less, but it’s still a factor.

The retooled defensive philosophy

Ohio State vs. Michigan complete preview & prediction | Buckeyes Wire
Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

Why it favors Ohio State

Giving up big plays on defense really hurt the Buckeyes from not only winning at home against Michigan last year, but being able to take down Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on their national championship efforts.

But, like any good coaching staff, you take it in and learn from it. That’s exactly what defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and staff have done. There is less zero-man coverage, but rather a still mildly aggressive defense that keeps safeties deep to not give up the big plays.

It has worked so far, and there’s almost no way we see as many big plays surrendered against Michigan this time around. The Wolverines won because of four kill shots and that’s not going to happen Saturday. It expect a lower scoring game and one in which Ohio State’s defense is a difference maker … in a positive light.

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Story originally appeared on Buckeye Wire