Week Thirteen Preview and Predictions: Michigan at Ohio State

Week Thirteen Preview and Predictions: Michigan at Ohio State

Football

Week Thirteen Preview and Predictions: Michigan at Ohio State

Preview

For the first time since 2011, Michigan is favored to beat Ohio State — which is also the last year that the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes. The maize and blue also hasn’t beaten the scarlet and grey in Columbus since 2000 — meaning, there are some football freshmen on the team that were born the same year that Michigan last one in The Horseshoe.

While pundits are acting like it’s a foregone conclusion that Michigan wins, considering how the Wolverines and Buckeyes have each looked all season long, Ohio State has the talent and coaching acumen to put the team in favorable positions. If either team isn’t on its A game, it could certainly lose.

Here’s how the two teams stack up against each other.

When Michigan has the ball

Defense is Ohio State’s weakness this season, and while it’s not absolutely terrible, it hasn’t been good in key stretches. The front four is solid for the Buckeyes, but the back seven is suspect, and has a difficult time making tackles in space.

Michigan doesn’t exactly have the most explosive offense in the world, but the Wolverines are good at everything. The offense is very slow and deliberate by design. It’s a ball control offense that likewise controls time of possession. Expect Michigan to first try and strike quickly and then continue to move slowly down the field to keep the Buckeyes offense from having its own opportunity.

The key to Michigan’s success, just like it has all season long, is predicated upon strong offensive line play, running the ball and smart decisions by quarterback Shea Patterson. This is the first time since Chad Henne that Michigan has, at least, a quarterback equal in capability to what exists on the other side of the ball — even if Dwayne Haskins’ numbers are vastly superior. Harbaugh doesn’t ask Patterson to do much in the ways of throwing downfield, but in this game, he may be asked to do a little more, considering the nature of The Game.

When Ohio State has the ball

This is the big one — strength against strength. The No. 2 offense vs. the No. 1 defense. The No. 3 passing game against the No. 1 pass defense. Neither has Ohio State seen a defense of Michigan’s caliber this season, nor has Michigan seen an offense so capable.

Buckeyes QB Dwayne Haskins has broken all kinds of Ohio State records this season, and is still in the Heisman Trophy race, even if he’s currently overshadowed by the likes of Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa. He can make all the throws and has a top-flight receiving corps that can make big plays downfield.

Ohio State, inexplicably, goes away from the running game from time-to-time, despite having a two-headed monster in J.K. Dobbins and Michigan-native Mike Weber. They aren’t as explosive as they’ve been in years past, but as Weber showed against MSU and Dobbins showed against Maryland, they’re both certainly capable.

Look for Michigan to rattle Haskins early and often. Ohio State’s offensive line has been suspect, and Haskins has been rarely rattled — but when he has been, he hasn’t been as accurate. The 69.3% passer has struggled against the top pass defenses and top defense he’s faced, so it will be incumbent upon Michigan — whether injured defensive end Chase Winovich plays or not — to get into the backfield and force Haskins to make throws he doesn’t want to. All while limiting the run game.

Predictions

Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold)

Overview: Under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan is 36-0 when rushing over 125 yards. When going for under 125 yards on the ground, the Wolverines are just 2-12. In the last three seasons, Michigan’s rushing totals against Ohio State include 57 yards, 91 yards and 100 yards. This time around, Karan Higdon is the difference maker. I believe he will take the Wolverines for over 125 yards, grinding Harbaugh his first win over Ohio State as a head coach in Ann Arbor.

Higdon should manage to get Michigan near the 125-yard mark, but Ben Mason and quarterback Shea Patterson will push the Wolverines over the edge. Patterson, along with logging a few rushing yards, will burn Ohio State’s secondary with his arm. The Buckeyes have struggled in big-play situations, and Patterson will expose those struggles on Saturday.

Despite Patterson’s heroics, Ohio State will keep things close under Urban Meyer. With the game going down to the wire, Michigan will get a big defensive stop on fourth down to win the game by seven points.

Player of the game for Michigan: Karan Higdon
Three bold predictions:
1. Jake Moody does not attempt a field goal.
2. Tarik Black catches his first touchdown of the season in rivalry fashion.
3. Jim Harbaugh does not get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for yelling on the sidelines.
Final score prediction: Michigan 21 – Ohio State 14

Brandon Knapp (@bknappblogs)

Overview:On offense, Michigan is going to struggle at first, but get their groove going on this subpar defense that the Buckeyes have. Karan Higdon is going to able to break out for many 15+ yard runs as the offensive line is going to create holes with ease. Shea Patterson will have a fully functional Tarik Black now and the Buckeyes secondary won’t have answers for all the weapons Patterson has in the passing game.

On defense, Michigan shouldn’t have trouble creating pressure on Haskins, with or without Chase Winovich. When Haskins gets pressured, he makes more mistakes and he’s only thrown two interceptions in one game this year and he’s about to do it again. The secondary is going to create problems with their lockdown coverage, something Haskins hasn’t seen all season.

The weather could be a big factor as there is a 90 percent chance it will be raining on Saturday and that could affect the passing game on both sides, which is going to hurt Ohio State more as Michigan is more of a running team and Ohio State has struggled to run the ball constantly this season. Another factor could be how Meyer is on the sidelines. If he was struggling against Maryland, how is he going to react when playing Michigan?

Player of the game for Michigan: Shea Patterson
Three bold predictions:
1. Dwayne Haskins held to under 225 passing yards, his worst passing game of the season.
2. Zach Gentry attempts a pass
3. Higdon has 200 rushing yards.
Final score prediction: Michigan 31 – Ohio State 14

Isaiah Hole (@IsaiahHole)

Overview: I’ve spent the entire week convincing myself Michigan would lose this game, despite saying for weeks that I think the Wolverines could win in blowout fashion. After seeing quite a bit of the Ohio State – Maryland game, it furthered my earlier belief, while Michigan’s performance against Indiana had me a little shook.

Peyton Ramsey is one of the best passers Michigan will face all season, and yet he managed play after play after play after play. The Wolverines defense couldn’t get home, but was that maybe by design, given that the Buckeyes were just a week away? I don’t know, and while I’m betting that’s the case, it still has instilled doubt where it didn’t exist before.

Facing Dwayne Haskins is the biggest challenge this Wolverines defense has faced all season long, as he’s the third-most prolific passer in the country and has broken 12 OSU records thus far. He showed an ability to run against Maryland — something he hadn’t done before. With Chase Winovich being questionable to play on Saturday, the challenge just got a little tougher, especially considering we don’t know that, if he does play, how effective he will be.

This game will be a lot on Devin Bush Jr. who’s going to need to use his speed, neutralize the run — from not just J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, but Haskins as well. He’ll also need to keep any short-passing in check, considering that Haskins getting the ball out quickly is Ohio State’s best chance to beat an aggressive, top-rated Michigan defense.

Offensively for Michigan, it’s not an afterthought, but with Ohio State’s defense being suspect, the onus will be on the Wolverines to essentially continue doing what it does. That is: running the football, play-action pass and ball control, controlling both the line of scrimmage and the time of possession. Michigan’s best defense in this game is a strong offense that disallows Ohio State the opportunity to score.

The Wolverines have not won a game rushing for under 3 yards-per-carry, so getting Karan Higdon, Chris Evans & Co. going will be paramount. Of course, Patterson also has the ability with his legs, and if a play breaks down, picking up yards and keeping the chains moving is key. I expect we’ll see quite a few designed runs in this game.

On the offensive side of the ball, the primary key isn’t just the running game as much as it is the offensive line, which has been a strength for the Wolverines all season long. Michigan’s OL has worn down stout fronts, including MSU and Penn State in consecutive games. Both teams are adept at either stopping the run or getting into the backfield, and Shea Patterson remained (mostly) clean in both games. Ohio State’s defense is equally as talented at getting pressure, but if the line can give Patterson time or open holes for Higdon and the running backs, the Buckeyes are incredibly suspect at tackling in the second level.

Special teams-wise, that Jake Moody got six kicks in and made six kicks means that the Wolverines can feel confident going out and attempting field goals where they may have not before. While Michigan is going to need touchdowns to win this game, it will need to take points whenever it can get them. Both Will Hart and Drue Chrisman have shown a propensity to pin teams back deep. Whoever wins the field position battle will have a huge advantage in this game (obviously, that goes without saying, but I also don’t think it’s the key to the game this time around).

Whoever has run the ball more effectively in the past has won The Game, and Michigan seems to be at an advantage there. So it’s simple — run the ball, stop the run, keep Haskins at bay. Do that, and the game belongs to the Wolverines.

I expect Ohio State to strike fast, and get on the board as fast as possible to get Michigan to doubt itself. But Michigan will answer back with a slow and methodical drive, giving the defense time to rest and regroup. It will feel very tit-for-tat for the first half, and will be tight at halftime. But the Wolverines will do as they generally do — control the ball, the clock and the line of scrimmage, and pull away in the late third-quarter for good. OSU will remain in striking distance, but a determined Michigan will be just too good.

Player of the game for Michigan: the entire Michigan offensive line
Three bold predictions:
1. Michigan doesn’t run the ball as good as most predict — but will still outgain Ohio State
2. Dwayne Haskins has 300 yards of total offense, but not more.
3. At least one questionable penalty will cost the Wolverines.
Final score prediction: Michigan 30 – Ohio State 20

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