Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) – With their spot in the Big Ten Conference
Championship Game assured, the seventh-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes now turn
their attention to Saturday’s regular-season finale against the Michigan
As well as Ohio State has performed this season, Michigan is simply hoping it
can record the requisite six wins just to be eligible for bowl consideration,
as the team comes in sporting a 5-6 record, 3-4 in conference. The Wolverines
dropped a 23-16 decision at home to Maryland last weekend, saddling the team
with a 3-5 mark since opening the campaign at 2-1.
There is speculation that UM head coach Brady Hoke could be on his way out,
but a huge win over the school’s most hated rival could grant him a stay.
Ohio State is in the midst another successful campaign under head coach Urban
Meyer, the team sitting at 10-1 overall, which includes a perfect 7-0 league
ledger. The Buckeyes are riding a nine-game win streak, with their latest
triumph coming in a 42-27 decision against visiting Indiana last Saturday. It
was the 23rd consecutive Big Ten regular-season victory for OSU (conference
record), which will face the winner of Saturday afternoon’s clash between
Wisconsin and Minnesota in the league’s title tilt.
Ohio State has won three straight division crowns, and will be appearing in
its second consecutive conference championship game.
This bout marks the 111th meeting between these two storied programs, and the
series is all even at 45-45-4. Michigan came oh so close to upsetting the
Buckeyes last season inside the Big House, as a failed two-point conversion to
win the game left the team with a 42-41 defeat.
Michigan tallied nearly 400 yards of total offense, Michigan let a third-
quarter lead slip away as it dropped a seven-point decision to Maryland in
last week’s home finale. The Wolverines used a potent rushing attack to keep
the Terrapins back on their heels, as Drake Johnson ran for 94 yards and Devin
Gardner added 82 and a score, the team averaging 6.5 ypc. Gardner threw for
only 106 yards in completing 13-of-24 passes, and he failed to connect on a
scoring strike while being intercepted once and sacked twice.
As for the UM defense, it did a solid job for much of the contest, yielding
only 312 total yards, including a mere 167 through the air. Unfortunately, the
Wolverines failed to come up with a turnover and made only four plays in the
Maryland backfield. Joe Bolden and Jake Ryan were quite active though, logging
14 tackles apiece. As for the rest of the unit, no one had more than five.
While certainly not happy to lose the final home game to one of the Big Ten’s
newest members, Hoke is trying to be positive as he looks ahead to this week’s
clash with the Buckeyes.
“Obviously, we’re really, really disappointed. Disappointed because of our
seniors, the 12 guys who are graduating, 12 guys who are playing their last
games.” He continued, “Obviously we’ve got the greatest rivalry game, in my
opinion, in college football coming up, and that’s what we’re going to focus
For the season, Michigan’s effectiveness both on offense (bad) and defense
(good) have been at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Wolverines are scoring
roughly the same number of points as they allow (20.3 ppg to 20.6 ppg), while
generating 329.5 ypg and surrendering only 301.8 ypg.
While Gardner (152-of-251, 1,663 yards, eight TDs, 14 INTs) has struggled in
the passing game, the team’s rushing attack has been solid in that De’Veon
Smith and Derrick Green have combined for 986 yards and nine TDs, while the
unit as a whole averages just shy of five yards per carry. Devin Funchess
leads the receivers with 55 catches for 625 yards and four TDs.
As for the standout performers on the defensive side of the ball, Ryan is at
the top of the list with 104 tackles, while Bolden is close behind with 94. No
other player has more than 44 stops, and the Wolverines have been credited
with only 10 takeaways all season.
Jalin Marshall scored four straight touchdowns in the second half of last
Saturday’s bout with Indiana, propelling Ohio State to its 10th win of the
season, and securing the Big Ten East Division title in the process. Marshall,
who returned a punt 54 yards for a score, as well as catching three scoring
strikes from J.T. Barrett, finished with five grabs for 95 yards, just off the
pace set by leading rusher and receiver Ezekiel Elliott (107 yards, TD
rushing; seven receptions, 39 yards). Barrett finished the game 25-of-35 for
302 yards, four TDs and two INTs, while adding 78 yards on 20 rush attempts.
Joshua Perry logged 14 tackles, of which two were sacks, to spearhead the
Buckeyes’ defensive stand. All told, the Hoosiers churned out 281 yards on the
ground (7.8 ypc), of which star RB Tevin Coleman was responsible for 228 and
three TDs, but only 114 yards through the air. Both teams recorded three sacks
in the contest, and Indiana was held to just 4-of-16 success on third-down
Ohio State is the Big Ten’s top scoring team (44.3 ppg), and it ranks second
in total offense (511.4 ypg). With Barrett calling the shots, the Buckeyes sit
third in both rushing (259.6 ypg) and passing (251.7 ypg), displaying the kind
of balance a coach like Meyer absolutely loves to see. Barrett has made the
most of his fortuitous chance to start for the Buckeyes this season, hitting
64.8 percent of his passes for more than 2,600 yards, 33 TDs and 10 INTs. He
(849 yards, nine TDs) is also the club’s second-leading ground gainer behind
Elliott (1,061 yards, eight TDs). Spreading the wealth is one of the keys to
OSU’s success in the air, as nine players have logged double-digit catches,
none more than the 37 Michael Thomas has. Thomas and Devin Smith have a
combined 1,215 yards and 16 TDs.
Perry continues to set the standard for the Ohio State defense, as his 99
tackles are 37 more than his closest teammate, and he has three sacks and an
INT to his credit as well. Joey Bosa is a QB’s worst nightmare, as he has a
league-leading 11.5 sacks, while Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell and Doran Grant each
have three picks, part of OSU’s Big Ten-best 17 interceptions on the year.
Meyer spoke after the IU game about what the win meant to his team.
“The good thing is we won the championship. Division championship. It will
give us a ticket to the championship game. And then we can all focus on our