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Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh runs off the field during warm ups. (Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire)
November 26th, 2021
The Eastern division of the Big Ten will be settled on Saturday when the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes visit the Big House to face the sixth-ranked Michigan Wolverines.
Let's dive into the matchup, beginning with the latest betting odds.
Ohio State has made a habit the last two months of roaring out of the gates and blowing up their opponent’s game plan from the start. Over their last eight games, the Buckeyes are outscoring their opponents 297-74 before the halftime whistle. That was on full display last week in the huge matchup with Michigan State, when C.J. Stroud led the Buckeyes to touchdowns on each of their opening seven drives en route to a 49-0 halftime lead.
🔥🌰 @CJ7STROUD had EVERYONE talking with an unbelievable performance for @OhioStateFB against No. 7 Michigan State pic.twitter.com/ktwVKlTpTT— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 20, 2021
🔥🌰 @CJ7STROUD had EVERYONE talking with an unbelievable performance for @OhioStateFB against No. 7 Michigan State pic.twitter.com/ktwVKlTpTT
Stroud threw a staggering six touchdown passes in that first half, and became the first Buckeyes quarter in school history to throw at least five touchdown passes in four separate conference games. The new Heisman frontrunner has thrown just five interceptions this season in nearly 350 pass attempts, and he has a plethora of dangerous wideouts for Michigan to deal with. He also has three terrific running backs helping to punish defenses that try to drop back and keep things in front of them, making it a "pick your poison" scenario for defensive coordinators.
The defense has had a solid season as well, in large part to their pass rush. Eight different Ohio State linemen have recorded a sack this season, and their 37 sacks lead the conference. They will be lining up against a Michigan offensive line that has allowed fewer than 10 sacks all year, in large part because they run the ball so well. The Buckeyes must find a way to slow down the ground game so they can unleash the hounds.
Michigan fans have been waiting a decade for a win against their rivals, having lost the last eight matchups since 2011. They’ve tasted victory over the Buckeyes just once in the last 16 meetings, and there are a few whispers that head coach Jim Harbaugh could be on the hot seat should he suffer defeat to the school’s two biggest rivals in the same season.
.@finebaum says there is NO WAY Michigan will beat Ohio State.“You can ask me this question until I’m 150, and the answer his still no. … [Jim Harbaugh] is incapable of beating his biggest rival.” pic.twitter.com/hHMUCpfJMv— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) November 26, 2021
.@finebaum says there is NO WAY Michigan will beat Ohio State.“You can ask me this question until I’m 150, and the answer his still no. … [Jim Harbaugh] is incapable of beating his biggest rival.” pic.twitter.com/hHMUCpfJMv
Michigan loves to run the football and control the game, averaging more than 218 yards on the ground per game. Their two-headed attack in the backfield has allowed Cade McNamara to have a solid season, using play action passing to stretch the field. In the three games since the defeat to Michigan State, McNamara has thrown seven touchdowns with zero interceptions. The offense ranks 15th in scoring, and they will want to keep Stroud on the sideline as much as possible and limit Ohio State’s ability to rush the quarterback.
Michigan has the seventh-ranked scoring defense in the nation, but both Michigan State and Penn State have shown the Wolverines can be thrown on. Both schools averaged nearly 10 yards per completion against Michigan, and they have yet to face a passing attack the likes of Ohio State’s this year.
Some are shocked by the spread being just seven, but I feel there is a valid reason. As well as he is playing, Stroud has yet to face an environment like he will on Saturday, with his only road games this year coming at Rutgers, Indiana, and Nebraska. The game against the Huskers was the only environment you could consider testing of those three, and Stroud threw two picks in that contest with just two touchdown passes. However, he settled down in the second half and played well down the stretch, and I expect Ryan Day to take pressure off him by utilizing the run game against a Michigan defense that allowed Kenneth Walker III to shred them for nearly 200 yards.
For me, the biggest difference in this game is the fact that Ohio State’s offense lends itself to success whether they have the lead or need to come from behind, and Michigan’s does not. If the Buckeyes roar out to another first half lead, the Wolverines would be less likely to find success running the ball and setting up play action. Even if Michigan is able to move the ball on the ground, there are simply too many weapons for Stroud to hurt them with.
I like the Buckeyes to not only win the game and cover, but to do so by a double-digit margin for the sixth time in the last seven meetings. Michigan has lost the last seven games against the Buckeyes by an average of 18 points, and that’s right about where I like the margin to be this year. Take the Buckeyes to cover, and for a nice Same Game Combo, pair the Buckeyes’ team total Over with a double-digit victory as Ohio State refuses to take its foot off the gas.
Score prediction: Ohio State 48, Michigan 30
Our predictive engine is calling for Ohio State to win outright and for Michigan to cover.
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