The Ohio State Buckeyes utterly destroyed the Michigan State Spartans last weekend, 56-7. This giant victory over another top ten opponent forced the College Football Playoff committee to adjust and raise Ohio State to No. 2 in the country, but it remains very clear there is no room for any further error if the Buckeyes want to get into the Playoff.
As a matter of fact, the Buckeyes aren’t even guaranteed a place in the Big Ten Championship game unless they come out of Ann Arbor victorious. Michigan currently sits at 10-1 and is ranked No. 6 in the country. The Wolverines’ playoff hopes are very much alive as it is hard to imagine if they beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten, the committee keeping them out. It’s an intriguing matchup, and Michigan fans, players, and coaches are extremely optimistic.
However, here are five reasons I believe Ohio State will win its ninth-straight contest vs. the Michigan Wolverines.
The Wolverines’ quarterback
Nov 20, 2021; College Park, Maryland, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh speaks with quarterback Cade McNamara (12) after during the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
I feel like I bash on the opposing quarterback every week, but I am not saying Cade McNamara is bad, he simply doesn’t have the skill to pull the victory off. There is a reason that Michigan is a run-heavy offense and they are going to do everything in their power to remain a run-heavy offense on Saturday.
That doesn’t mean the Wolverines won’t pass the ball at all — in fact, they have more passing yards than rushing yards on the season, but it all starts on the ground to be able to bleed the clock and keep the OSU offense off the field.
The Buckeyes have proven that they will smash a one-dimensional offense and McNamara is going to have to have the best game of his life to keep up with the barrage of Ohio State points likely to hit the scoreboard.
Nov 6, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Michael Barrett (23) runs with the ball at Michigan Stadium. Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The Michigan linebackers are not exactly a strength this season and the Buckeyes should be able to stretch them pretty thin. This defense has been known to drop defensive linemen into coverage and blitz safeties on a regular basis to hide some of the deficiencies on the second level and attempt to confuse opposing quarterbacks.
C.J. Stroud gets rid of the ball extremely quickly and the Wolverines are going to need to bring consistent pressure and try to defend the deep pass as much as possible, which means the linebackers need to be ready underneath and I don’t think they have the horses to hang.
Michigan defensive backs
Michigan cornerback DJ Turner runs by Indiana tight end Matt Bjorson on a kick return during the second half of Michigan’s 29-7 win on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, at Michigan Stadium. Credit: USA TODAY Sports
The Wolverines are not terrible in the defensive backfield, but just like when we discussed Cade McNamara, the task assigned is just south of a Lord of the Rings journey against the OSU passing game. These defensive backs have to limit perhaps the strongest receiving corps in the country. The top four guys on the depth chart at wide receiver for Ohio State could all hear their name called in the first round eventually, and Jeremy Ruckert at tight end is a good one as well.
Good luck Michigan. Pick up the phone and talk to Purdue and Michigan State to find out how impossible it is to slow down the Buckeye passing attack if Ohio State isn’t shooting itself in the foot.
Ohio State defensive line
Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Zach Harrison (9) bats down a pass by Michigan State Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne (10) during the third quarter of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports
The Buckeyes sit at No. 9 in the nation in sacks with 36, but that number doesn’t describe the impact that this unit has made as far as their puss rush, ability to knock down passes, and the interior’s ability to collapse running lanes. Every week this unit approves and despite Michigan having a solid offensive line, my money is on Ohio State dominating the line of scrimmage.
We’ve seen continued growth from this group, and while it’s been more of a committee approach than one or two dynamic players, the results are still there.
Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Cody Simon (30) pressures Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) during the third quarter of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports
Much like the defensive line, every week this unit has gotten stronger and stronger, but the linebackers will be tasked with a tougher task as the Wolverine run game is fairly advanced schematically with a lot of moving parts including linemen constantly pulling. The linebackers will need to be focused and aggressive.
We’ve seen a higher and higher level of play, and this group was sensational last week against Michigan State. It’s a thin unit, but one that has been impressing with a much more disciplined style of play.