Daniel Dash: Ohio State 35, Michigan 27
This season’s parallels to 1969 — in which Michigan stunned then-No. 1 Ohio State under legendary coach Bo Schembechler — are difficult to ignore, but so is the present-day talent gap between these two programs.
If the 13th-ranked Wolverines can’t generate a formidable pass rush against a strong Ohio State offensive line, Buckeyes’ quarterback Justin Fields will carve up their secondary. If U-M wants to give itself a chance in this installment of the rivalry, getting a game-changing play out of Aidan Hutchinson, Kwity Paye or Mike Danna on the defensive side of the ball is a good place to start.
Offensively, Shea Patterson has to keep rolling. Ohio State’s defensive backfield is among the country’s most talented, but the senior signal-caller is playing his best football at the right time. As Herculean as it may sound, that alone gives Michigan a ray of hope.
It’s impossible not to mention junior wideout Nico Collins, who torched Indiana for a career-best 165 yards and three touchdowns last week, in the same breath as Patterson. The duo needs to produce when called upon, as does the rest of the Wolverines’ receiving corps.
There’s no way to neutralize Ohio State defensive end Chase Young’s edge pressure, but limiting his impact is a must. One big hit, forced fumble or third-down sack from Young can quickly swing the pendulum in the Buckeyes’ favor.
From afar, Ohio State is the country’s top team. Its offense is one of the best units college football has ever seen, while its defense is coordinated by none other than ex-Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison. While playing in Ann Arbor certainly benefits U-M’s upset bid, the Buckeyes remain my pick to run the table and win a national title in January.
Brandon Justice: Ohio State 31 Michigan 24
If this game takes place a month ago, you would be hard-pressed to find a single prediction projecting Michigan to stay within 10 points of the undefeated Buckeyes.
A month later and the Wolverines are hitting on all cylinders on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, Michigan has scored more than 38 points in four-straight contests.
Defensively, U-M has held each opponent under 14 points in that span.
All that being said, Ohio State is 11-0 and hardly seemed human in those 11 victories — winning each game by double-digits, most recently at home over No. 8 Penn State, 28-17.
The Buckeyes have the best player in college football in Chase Young. Behind its elite defensive line is an equally talented defensive back group that includes the best cornerback in college football in Jeffery Okudah. And the offense is as prolific as it’s ever been behind a transfer quarterback lighting the world on fire with 43 total touchdowns (33 passing, 10 rushing) to one interception.
However, this will be the first legitimate road test for OSU’s sophomore quarterback, Justin Fields. Road games at Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern and Rutgers — all unranked programs — aren’t close to the raucous rivalry crowd that will file into the Big House Saturday afternoon fueled with hate.
Unlike previous years, Michigan has been game-planning week-in and week-out since spring for The Game.
Of course, Ohio State has done the same, as it always does.
This feels like a game for the ages.
A chance for Jim Harbaugh to upend the Buckeyes under first-year head coach Ryan Day for U-M’s first win in the rivalry since 2011.
But it feels like a similar ending to 2016 & 2017 with the Wolverines coming up short.