It’s the most important Staff Picks of the year. This is the one staff pick that you get remembered for. When your staff picks days are done, people will always ask you, “What was your record picking the Michigan game?” You never want to be on the wrong end of this pick.
I was on the wrong end in 2005 and I still hear about it from people who are petty and can’t just let bygones be bygones.
Anyway, since this is The Game, we decided to expand the participants and invite a few others to join in. We thank each of them for their predictions.
Darron Lee, OSU LB ’13-’15
Two really good teams, I am anxious to see how our O-Line holds up against their D-Line. I’m looking for Mikey Weber to do his thing, should have at least 100yds. Defense will show up and be fired up from kickoff to the end of the game…Kwon will have those boys ready! Freaky Leeky (Malik) will have 1 INT or pretty much anybody else in the secondary…Buckeyes win this one and go to the College Football Playoff.
Ohio State 35, team up north 17
Michigan is going to need some breaks on offense to win this, so if the Buckeyes just make the plays in front of them, they’ll win. But it’s never that easy, and we saw against Penn State what happens when the special teams implodes. That game surely woke up the Buckeyes and they’ll be looking to punt the ball quickly just to make sure they get it off. Their coverage units should be fine, but that’s not always enough against Jabrill Peppers.
I expect Ohio State to be able to run the ball, and I expect J.T. Barrett to put the Buckeyes in a position to succeed as often as needed. Regardless of who is at quarterback for Michigan, they will need to hit shots down the field, but that’s also where the OSU secondary excels. The Buckeye defense matches up very well with Michigan’s offense, but there will still be some oddball successes for the Wolverines.
In the end, I’m just not sure where Michigan’s points come from. I can see one drive helped by a long run, one drive helped by a long pass, and one legitimate drive, but they’ll need some turnovers to flip the field to make life easier. Obviously, Ohio State needs to protect the ball. I do see them taking advantage of Michigan’s No. 3 cornerback somewhere for a score.
Ohio State 31, Michigan 16
This Saturday in the Shoe, two great teams with a long history and a big rivalry battle to come out on top. For both of these teams it’s not just another game. The Buckeyes want to continue their win streak in this series, acquire another pair of gold pants, and have a chance to continue their season. This game determines it all… the loser is out.
Once again, I think this game comes down to defense. Ohio State leads the nation in pass efficiency defense so I think they will make it difficult for the Wolverines to put up as many points as they are used to. But the Buckeyes will face difficulty in the pass game, especially with Jabril Peppers. Positions are just labels for Peppers. I think we are going to see him everywhere and he will be a factor in many aspects of this game. I do think the Buckeyes will be able to successfully run the ball so I expect to see a lot of Weber, Samuel and Barrett. Ohio State has talented receivers that will make plays, it will just be harder than usual for Barrett to find them. I think the offensive line will need to play their best if they want plays to be made.
It will not be easy, but I think the Buckeyes will find a way to win this game. It’s on their home turf, it’s senior day, and it’s against the team up north. The Scarlet and Gray want and need this win. They will do whatever it takes to beat Michigan.
Ohio State 38, Michigan 24
The simple approach to this game is this: The team that runs the ball best will win. That’s been true in The Game forever, and it will be true this year. What remains to be seen however, is which coaching staff will come up with creative ways to get that done. Both defenses are stout against the run, particularly in the red zone, so just running the ball won’t get it. The run will have to be set up by the pass, and the run will have to come from plays that will be creative and unexpected. That means coaching. Which coach will be willing to put the pedal to the metal, take some chances, and MAKE the run work?
I like Urban Meyer.
Ohio State 30, Michigan 20
Vaughn Broadnax, OSU FB ’80-’83
That team up north has one goal. That goal is to defeat the Buckeyes. Currently, that team up north is experiencing much of the despair and angst we felt as fans in the ‘90s. After unceremoniously pushing a stellar coach out, that team up north looked twice to coaches who were literally fool’s gold while at the helm. Then their savior was announced. There was an immediate and evident improvement in the team. That was until the Buckeyes came for a visit last year. That game wasn’t close.
The funny thing about this rivalry is that the home team rarely seems to have an advantage. This year will be no different. The coaching staff is going to have to leave caution to the wind and show all what this team can be. It’s time to unleash the hounds, both on offense and defense. If Urban does that, and I pray he will, the Buckeyes will win a close game over that team up north.
Ohio State 21, team up north 17
Offensively the Buckeyes will need to be effective running the ball to win this game. The interior line of the Buckeyes should be able to create space on inside zone runs with Elflein and Price creating most of the damage. The key to winning the ground game lies in the effectiveness of Marcus Baugh when blocking. If he can play as well as he did versus Michigan State, the Buckeyes offensive line will be able to get to the second level to pave the way for Weber and Barrett. In the passing game, Barrett will have to continue to take what the defense gives by working the middle of the field. The Wolverines will play a lot of man coverage, so Barrett will have to pick his shots in order to stay out of 3rd and long situations throughout the game.
Defensively, the Wolverines run a standard pro offense with a FB and/or TE and rarely use more than three WR. This will benefit the Buckeyes defensively as Conley and Lattimore can align against Darboh and Chesson while Denzel Ward or Damon Webb will draw Jake Butt in coverage. Butt does not run a complex route tree, primarily working the middle of the field and under the chains, so Webb will have to be aggressive in coverage. The Wolverines run a fair amount of misdirection and trick plays so it will be imperative that the Buckeye defenders maintain discipline. O’Korn will be forced to play relatively conservative to build confidence, so don’t expect him to take shots downfield versus the Ohio State secondary. The Ohio State linebackers will need to tackle better this week than they showed against Michigan State a week ago to limit De’Veon Smith on the ground.
Peppers wants a physical game, and that is exactly what he will get. Run right at him, force him to shed a blocker and limit his effectiveness in backside pursuit. The Buckeyes have one of the best punters in the nation, but it will be a run on a fake punt by Johnston that proves to be the game changer.
Ohio State 24, Michigan 20
OSU is favored by a touchdown, give or take, which seems like a bit much for a team coming off a sloppy, uninspiring slog in East Lansing. Both teams rank in the top-10 nationally in defense in S&P Plus. The offenses are both okay, but not consistently great against good competition. Everything about this screams “low-scoring game.”
If Michigan wins, it will come down to one of these three issues:
1. The sometimes-shaky OSU offensive line falling apart against a very strong Michigan D-line.
2. Michigan’s defensive backs are among the best in the nation and OSU’s wide receiving corps, to put it charitably, has not been.
3. The Wolverines have a punt block unit that has been an absolute terror all fall. And as you may recall, blocked kicks played a somewhat significant role in the Bucks’ only loss of the year.
Michigan fans looking to keep expectations in check will undoubtedly point to Wilton Speight’s injury, because there is simply no precedent for a Big Ten team losing a starting quarterback to injury this late in the year and going on to achieve anything meaningful, especially during the playoff era.
This is just a total guess, but I would look for Speight to play at least some of the game. He’ll be complimented by whole lot of Jabrill Peppers on offense, probably throwing it at least once or twice to keep the safeties honest.
The forecast is decent, which means OSU should be able to at least put forth a decent impression of a passing game, largely centered around Curtis Samuel. Mike Weber runs for 125 yards, J.T. Barrett carries it 20 times, Michigan misses a field goal, OSU finishes with a positive turnover differential, and you feel a nagging and possibly worrisome tightness in your chest at least twice during the second half. The Wolverines cover, the Buckeyes win.
OSU 23, Michigan 20