THE GAME: Ohio State @ Michigan Predictions

The Big House. The Horseshoe. The Maize and Blue. The Scarlet and Grey. Bo Schembechler. Woody Hayes. The Ten Year War. The Big Two and the Little Eight. Jim Harbaugh. Urban Meyer.

This will be the 100th consecutive meeting between the arch-rivals, 113 meetings in total. Records and rankings are thrown out the window because after kickoff, the only thing that matters is beating that team on the other sideline, it’s an absolute war. To keep it short, these schools don’t like each other and that’s just how it is.

(9-2) no. 9 ranked, Ohio State, will come to Ann Arbor and play (8-3) unranked, Michigan. This rivalry is widely considered to be one of the best in all of sports, despite the 21st century being a tad-lopsided in favor of the Buckeyes.

The Block M Insider has just four contributors for both our blog and to run our Twitter pages, and this article is featuring opinions and predictions on how “The Game” will potentially unfold come this Saturday:

Shane: 

Not many will be predicting a Michigan victory in Ann Arbor come Saturday when the Buckeyes will come to the Big House as a likely double digit favorite. Wolverine season-ticket holders everywhere have been looking to sell their tickets, feeling similar to the 2013 game that held little to no confidence throughout the fan-base.

I’d love to sit here and say that the intensity of this rivalry is going to lift this younger, inexperienced, lesser coached, less talented Michigan team to a victory come Saturday but that simply hasn’t been the case in my lifetime. I don’t think this team is good enough to hang with the Buckeyes, but I’m also a firm believer that in college football on any given day, anything is possible.

This Michigan defense is a stout unit with a front to be reckoned with, however they have a inexperienced secondary with plenty of vulnerabilities that have been exposed to man coverage specifically this season. Overall, this group is arguably atop in the nation in terms of quality, they’d be able to perform at a higher level had their offense give them time to rest in between possessions. Going up against this Buckeye offense who has more dimensions than one, they’ll be able to spread it out to attack these said vulnerabilities within the Michigan defense. This will be the best total offense that Michigan has gone up against this season, Penn State being the 2nd best as they put up 42 points. Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown must prepare their best game-plan along with unanimous execution to limit the Heisman hopeful, J.T. Barrett, freshman RB, J.K. Dobbins, and the rest of the Buckeye play-makers.

Offensively in Ann Arbor, this season has not been a favorable one and it’s difficult to say things will change this week. We’ve seen three different quarterbacks under center for Michigan this season and Brandon Peters, the fan favorite, is not a guarantee for play on Saturday, remains in concussion protocol. Wilton Speight’s status remains in non-contact for practice, not likely he dresses. If both are out for the game, that would likely leave it up to John O’Korn, or Alex Malzone if they wanted to risk playing someone with no experience. It’s no secret that the offense has clicked the most efficiently while having Peters in the huddle and it would be in Michigan’s favor to have him ready to go, but the real bread and butter to this unit are two men named Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. The passing game struggle has allowed the run game to open up several times this season; Higdon is 124 yards away from being Michigan’s first 1,000 yard rusher in a season since Fitz Toussiant in 2011. Evans has carried his weight as well with a 594 yard season thus far. Unfortunately for the offense, Ohio State’s run-defense is their strength and Iowa, who routed the Buckeyes, were able to expose their secondary. I can’t express how crucial it is for Michigan to have Brandon Peters’ arm, gives them the best chance to move the ball in my opinion because we’ve seen the John O’Korn offense and I really don’t think there’s a chance with him under center.

As a fan, I’m hoping for a close game that comes within a possession or two at the very least, but I’m taking Ohio State in this one and expect them to cover the spread. This isn’t Michigan’s season, but a win over your rival would essentially forgive the losses this season strictly due to transitional circumstances after losing over 40 seniors and returning less than 5 total starters. Michigan is the least experienced team in the FBS to my understanding, currently fighting for a 9 or 10 win season while the Buckeyes are trying to make their case to the committee for yet another college football playoff appearance.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Michigan 14.

Mark:

Weird things happen in sports.  It’s the unpredictability that makes fans go crazy.  For Michigan fans, it’s “The Game.”  There have been so many upsets in this rivalry.  They are actually easy to remember.

1969 – Michigan 24, Ohio State 12

1987 – Ohio State 23, Michigan 20

1996 – Michigan 13, Ohio State 9

2016 – Ohio State 30, Michigan 27 (2OT)

Why do I list all of the more memorable ones?   That’s the point.  This game is SPECIAL.  This game is TRADITION.  And for both fan bases who reside on the internet like they know it all, those four games above prove that when you least expect it, we know nothing.

So now let’s move on to 2017…

QUICK FACTS

  • Michigan has allowed 14 points or less in the last 10 home games.  Last team to score more than 14…Ohio State in 1015.
  • Not a player on Michigan’s roster has beaten Ohio State.
  • Ohio State has only scored less than 30 points twice (Oklahoma & Iowa).
  • Michigan has only given up more than 24 points in a game once (Penn State).

Do you know what the problem with facts can lead to?  Short-sighted conclusions based on insufficient evidence.

So let’s get to it.  To the casual observer and to the most loyal fan, this seems to be a game that Ohio State should win. This is the game that Michigan has been preparing for since last year’s loss in the Horseshoe.

The Buckeye offense is potent and features playmakers all over the field…including a dual-threat quarterback.  J.T. Barrett is good enough to make Michigan fans sick to their stomachs.  Why?  Barrett is the only real quarterback that is going to force Michigan into a “Spy” situation.  Don Brown will have to assign somebody to mirror Barrett because the “Cover 10” defense that Michigan uses is the most vulnerable to a scrambling quarterback.  While OSU has made recent gains in the run game with Dobbins and Weber, there is nothing to suggest that they will be able to run against Michigan.   In the passing game, it’s about containable pressure on Barrett while winning the individual matchups outside.

Will he play?  Earlier in the week, my sources around Schembechler Hall thought it was more likely that Peters would play.  As the week has gone on, that outlook has dimmed just a bit. As I pen this prediction, my gut tells me that O’Korn is the starter.  Most Michigan fans just clicked to another website because they think that tells the whole story but let me add a twist to their perceived ending.  Here’s what UM has to do to be in position to win:

  • Be efficient in the intermediate passing game (5-15 yards down field)
  • Stay out of ’22’ personnel and run the ball while spreading out the Buckeye defense
  • Use designed runs/rollouts to enable O’Korn to be on the move
  • Take shots downfield as the Buckeye defense starts to roll to the line of scrimmage as the game is much tighter than they expect.

In both OSU losses, you see the OSU defense lose steam in the second half.  Why?  This Buckeye team is really not built to dominate for four quarters.  They are much more like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV.  They are going to try to knock you out early.  Harbaugh and Co. has to put the Rocky Balboa shorts on and just keep punching.

That’s how upsets happen.  Being told you can’t win can motivate but does this Michigan team have enough toughness to stand in and punch with the B1G Ten’s Drago (no matter how flawed they are).

The answer…yes and it’ll shock the hell out of most of us.

Prediction: Michigan 24, Ohio State 12. 

Now let me get back to my Rocky training montage.

 

 

Brandon: 

First played in 1897, the 2017 edition will be played in Ann Arbor at the Big House. The Ohio State-Michigan game is one of, if not the, biggest rivalries in sports.

This year’s Buckeyes team comes into this game ranked no. 9 by the College Football Playoff Committee while the Wolverines will be unranked. Ohio State is sporting a 9-2 record with a tough loss to a good Oklahoma Sooner squad along with a blowout loss to Iowa on the road. Michigan will come into this one with an 8-3 record with close losses to Michigan State and Wisconsin and a drubbing at the hands of the Penn State Nittany Lions.

So while these teams are only separated by a game in the standings, they’ll be playing for completely different reasons. OSU has already clinched the East for a spot in the conference title game, a win against Michigan on the road and a victory against the Wisconsin Badgers in Indy gives the Buckeyes and the Big Ten a resume worthy of potential consideration for the CFP final four. Michigan on the other hand is looking to beat their rival for the first time since 2011 and have a chance at their third consecutive 10-win season under Jim Harbaugh.

I believe this game will come down to the battle of the quarterbacks. J.T. Barrett leads this Buckeye team and they are currently the fourth ranked offense in the nation when it comes to yards per game as they are averaging over 546 total YPG. They are also averaging over 44 points per contest as well.

Michigan, on the other hand, comes into this game having played three different QBs this season (Wilton Speight, John O’Korn, Brandon Peters) with Speight being sidelined due to injury, O’Korn being benched due to poor play, and Peters playing decent but he is now hurt as well and is uncertain for Saturday’s matchup.

If OSU is going to be victorious, they will need two key elements. First, their defense will need to contain the run game that Michigan employs; Karan Higdon, Chris Evans and Ty Issac provide the offense with a lethal backfield when clicking on all cylinders. When Michigan’s ground game is going, it helps their defense by allowing them to control the time of possession battle. Second, they will also have to not get picked apart by the weak air attack that U of M employs, regardless of who is under center. Iowa put up 55 on the Buckeyes a couple of weeks back and they accomplished it primarily through the air.

If the Wolverines are going to come out of this game with a win, they will have to do two things as well. First, whoever is playing at quarterback will need to attack the weak part of Ohio State’s defense, which is their secondary. Secondly, they will have to put pressure on J.T. Barrett. He one fine player, but when you contain him and make him throw from the pocket, he isn’t himself. This will be a tall task for this Michigan defense, but it is a must if they want to leave the Big House on a high note.

As for my final score prediction, I believe this one could get ugly. Ohio State is a double-digit (I’ve seen anywhere from -11 to -14) favorite in Vegas and I think they will cover the spread. Not saying Michigan can’t shock the world and pull of the upset, but I just see that as a long shot. J.T. won’t be short this year, folks.

Prediction: Ohio State 31, Michigan 13.

Michael:

November 25th, 2017 3:50 pm. The ESPN ticker scrolls along, you catch a glimpse of something deceives your eye, you check again and it was true. Michigan defeats Ohio State.

Harbaugh finally gets his signature win, on the heels of a defensive masterpiece constructed by Don Brown. Tim Drevno and Pep Hamilton dig up their best game plan, and the offense clicks just enough to pull of the upset.

Prediction: Michigan 28, Ohio State 7.

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Game Prediction: Michigan @ Wisconsin

College Gameday: An ESPN tradition since 1993. This week Rece Davis, Lee Corso and the rest of the crew will be headed back to Madison, Wisconsin, where the Wolverines of Michigan will take on the Wisconsin Badgers. What helmet or mascot head will Corso put on this week?

Wisconsin is coming into this game with an unblemished 10-0 record and the number five ranking in the latest CFB Playoff poll, released this past Tuesday. Michigan, on the other hand, is ranked 24th in the newest poll with an 8-2 record.

This game has big implications for both teams, albeit a little larger for the Badgers. A win for them adds a quality W to their resume, which many people around the country feel they are sorely lacking. It also will strengthen their case to get into the playoff.

Michigan is heading into this one having reeled of three straight wins in the Big Ten (vs. Rutgers, vs. Minnesota, at Maryland) and has got to be feeling good about how they’ve played for the most part. The run game has really stepped up and the defense is still playing at an extremely high level.

I believe there are two key players that will decide the outcome of this game, one from each side.

Jonathan Taylor, the explosive freshman running back for Wisconsin, comes into this game with over 1,500 yards on the ground and 12 rushing touchdowns. He’s also averaging close to seven yards a carry and has gotten stronger and better each game. He is a sneaky, dark horse, Heisman candidate, especially if the Badgers can run the table. Will Michigan’s defense be up to the tall task of slowing Taylor down?

As for the Michigan side, I think it will come down to the play of redshirt freshman QB Brandon Peters. While he has only attempted 46 passes so far, he has thrown four TDs to zero interceptions. But he hasn’t gone up against the stiffest of competition, Wisconsin will be his toughest test to date. I believe Michigan will try to get the ground game going, but you cannot be one-dimensional and Peters will have to complete big throws, especially on third down. Will he be up to the job of hitting his receivers when the time calls for it?

Now onto the prediction. I think this will be a good, close game for the most part and will be a toss-up. While most people are probably choosing the home team to pull it out, I think the visiting Victors may surprise some folks. But I am going to take a line from the legendary Lee Corso and say “Give me that Badger!”

Wisconsin 24, Michigan 20.

An Ode To College Gameday – Rutgers Game Prediction

by Mark Edwards

In 1993, ESPN took “College Gameday” on the road for the first time when Notre Dame hosted #1 Florida State in a November showdown.  In the 24 years since, College Gameday has become as big of a staple in College Football as Beano Cook, Keith Jackson and January 1st bowl games before them.  In honor of ESPN’s College Gameday, we are going to shake up the format for the weekly prediction.  The Block M Insider has spared no cost to bring to you the guest pickers at the end of this column. We hope you appreciate it.

INTRO- Comin’ to your city

When I first heard the song, I thought it was the Pampers truck to deliver diapers for all of the Michigan fans who have embarrassed this university/team by, quite honestly, “jumping ship” this week.  I guess a 42-13 loss to Penn State is too much to deal with.  If that’s the case, how did any of the so called “fans” make it from 2008-2010?  Was the loss disappointing?  Yes.  Was it the worst loss in the last decade?  You decide.  Here’s a list:

  1.  2007 vs Appalachian State
  2. 2015 vs Michigan State (punt snap anyone)
  3. 2014 vs Maryland
  4. 2008 at Notre Dame
  5. 2010 vs Mississippi State (technically it was 2011)
  6. 2009 vs Purdue

Okay, so the list goes on and on.  The takeaway is this:  Michigan got beat by a top tier team with the best player in college football.

SATURDAY SLATE

We welcome our top rival in Rutgers to Michigan Stadium for the 2017 Homecoming game.  It’s actually a noon kickoff.  Rutgers comes in off of a victory vs. Purdue and the best offensive mind in college football.  Uh oh!  We are in trouble.  I’m sure Chris Ash has the score of last year’s game (78-0) littered across the streets of Piscataway, New Jersey this week.  Speaking of littering, go back and take note of how many spoiled baby Michigan fans have inundated the internet with ramblings of a little petulant child who didn’t get their way at about the age of 5.  As former Colorado Head Coach Dan Hawkins once said, “This is Division One football brother.”  You know why the big boys stay the big boys?  The answer-they had to go through the process to ensure sustainability.  Michigan’s not there and if you thought they were going to lose 10 starters on defense and 12 guys to the NFL and just reload with no growing pains, you need to check your expectations.  Speaking of pains, also this team lost their starting quarterback this season.  I’m not talking about Florida State here.  However, both the Seminoles and Wolverines struggles should remind you of something.  You don’t see a backup step in and outperform a starter on a normal basis.  It’s has happened but to expect that is the pure definition of lunacy.

FEATURED PLAYER – Brandon Peters

I like Brandon Peters.  I like him because he plays for Michigan and not some other team.  With the exception of the Spring Games that he has played in, I can’t tell you much about his playing history.  Why not?  The answer is soooooo simple-I’m not at practice everyday and, in that respect, neither are you.  Michigan fans want John O’Korn to be better and most have concluded that means the next guy has to play.  Okay, that’s a perfectly popular opinion…in every sport ever.  Backup catchers, set-up relievers who should be the closers, the rookie point guard on the bench….they are all the same.  They are the most popular players on the team.  At Michigan, that has always been the backup quarterback.  Maybe Peters becomes the next Tom Brady.  Wait, I just did some research.  Tom Brady didn’t play until his fourth year on campus.  Peters in is year #2.  Hold your horses.  Trust the process.

GUEST PICKER SELECTIONS

In this week’s guest picker selections, we bring to you all of the candidates that the cry baby Michigan fan base is clamoring for.  They’re going to predict the final score and comment for the first time on their ability to do this just better than OUR COACH.

Rex

Rex Ryan – Former Jets and Bills coach now an ESPN commentator

“I like Michigan to win and win big.  How big?  Doesn’t matter but I’ll go 52-0.  As for the Michigan job, nobody can satisfy those people and speaking of satisfaction, let’s go get a God Damn snack.”

Mullen

Dan Mullen – Mississippi State Head Coach

“I’m busy working in the EESSSSSSEEEEEEEEECCCCEEEEE.  Haven’t seen much film on either team.  I could call Hugh Freeze as I’m sure he has family time now but I’ll just wing it.  Michigan has Harbaugh.  Rutgers sucks Ash.  I’ll take Michigan 42-3.  I want to clarify that my twangy style isn’t going to work in that Big Ten and especially not in the Big Ten East.  I’ll stay here and be thankful that I wasn’t hired there last time…wait the last three times.”

SchianoAtPractice

Greg Schiano – Former Rutgers Head Coach, Michigan Candidate and Current Ohio State Defensive Coordinator

“I’ve been to Rutgers.  Since the passing of Tony Soprano, things have been bad there.  Harbaugh has a 5-2 team and their fan base is seemingly losing their minds.  What other fan base does that?  Oh wait, I work in Columbus.  I know the feeling.  While it might seem that it’s never good enough, Michigan will be.  I’ll TTUN 49-0.  Don’t tell Urban I used the M word.  Speaking of M words, I’m majorly hoping that the crybaby whine ass Michigan fans run Harbaugh out of there.  It’d be the best thing for Ohio State.”

fisch

Jedd Fisch – UCLA Offensive Coordinator and former Michigan Passing Game Coordinator

“Book it.  Michigan 63, Rutgers 0.  As for all of that other crap, I believe in Jim and the fans should too.  If they don’t, they belong at the school in East Lansing.  As for my candidacy, I’m going to be just fine here in about two months.”

Rich Rod

Rich Rodriguez – Arizona Head Coach and former Michigan Head Coach

“Y’all need to just understand that y’all have a defense.  Boy, I never did.  Michigan loses to Rutgers by a score of 17-14.  I’m hoping my son Rhett is still a Michigan commit.  As for me returning, have y’all ever tasted Miss Rita’s Nacho Dip?”

jim-harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh – J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach Michigan

“The fake love is gone.  I’m not going anywhere.  So watch what the hell happens on Saturday.  Brandon Peters is progressing.  Wish I could say the same for our fan bases understanding of the process.  You throw a snowball at me, I throw a rock at you.  Back to work.”

As for my prediction, I’ll go with Michigan 56, Rutgers 0.  Why?  Just to see the fan base have to sit a week with nothing to complain about.