Top to bottom, Ohio State has more talent than Michigan, but you can only put 11 guys on the field at a time. Michigan is in the ballpark with OSU on a position by position basis but it's still going to take a near-perfect performance for U-M to upset the Buckeyes. Ohio State is favored by nine, which is pretty substantial number considering Michigan is the home team. Ohio State is the popular pick but it's always tough to win on the road and it is The Game. Here are some different ways it could play out.
Senior quarterback Shea Patterson has now stacked together two great games and he'll make it three with a fantastic effort against Ohio State. The weather cooperates and Patterson is able to throw for at least 250 yards and a couple of scores.
For a couple weeks now, Patterson has been playing confidently and has been saying that he feels completely healthy, which has enabled him to keep the ball a bit more on zone reads. Against Ohio State, he'll keep the ball more times than he has against any other team because he knows he can be a weapon. He does that and puts together his best running game this season.
For the first time all season, Michigan's receivers don't have a decided athletic advantage against the defensive backs covering them, but it doesn't matter. Josh Gattis schemes ways to get his guys open and Patterson finds them with opportunities to run after the catch. Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Ronnie Bell all manage to get open, make several catches and become threats in the open field.
The offensive line caps off the regular season with its best performance yet. They keep Patterson clean and open up lanes for him and the running backs to run. Most importantly, they keep Chase Young in check. Young is a game wrecker but between Jalen Mayfield and Jon Runyan, they really limit his disruption allowing the offense to operate at a high level.
The defensive line turned in dominant performances against Iowa, Penn State and Notre Dame and really made things tough for Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana as well. Ohio State obviously has the best roster of any of those teams but it won't matter. Michigan's front seven is going to harass Justin Fields in a way that he simply hasn't seen before especially on the road. The front seven will also keep JK Dobbins in check. Big chunk plays that are usually there in bunches for the Bucks won't be, which will frustrate them and take them out of their element. Don Brown has really dialed things up in a way that confuses quarterbacks and he'll do the same against Fields. We've heard that he still has some tricks up his sleeve and we'll see them unveiled against the Buckeyes.
Ohio State obviously has a dangerous pack of skill players but Michigan's secondary will be up to the task. Downfield, U-M's cornerbacks and safeties keep things in front of them and Brown's installment of zone packages takes away crossing routes and mesh concepts. The pressure up front will rattle Fields and may even cause him to reevaluate playing in the game. He's not 100 percent healthy and taking hits from guys like Kwity Paye, Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Uche will only make the problem worse.
Michigan tries to be a little too conservative and can't keep pace with Ohio State. They also struggle to find any rhythm because of turnovers and bad weather and simply can't put points on the board.
Patterson gets hit a few times and reverts back to what we saw earlier this year. He gets too antsy in the pocket and bails out when he doesn't need to. Young is able to get to Patterson a few times, swings the down and distance into Ohio State's favor and really changes what U-M wants to do on offense.
With the threat of Patterson as a passer stymied, the Buckeyes sell out to stop the run and are able to keep Hassan Haskins and Zach Charbonnet bottled up. The offense isn't on the field enough, drives stall and Michigan struggles to put points on the board, which is a death sentence against an explosive team like Ohio State.
Things don't get out of hand like they did in Columbus last year, but Michigan is outpaced by a speedier, more athletic and more explosive team. Fields shows no signs of being banged up, JK Dobbins is able to pop off several long runs and Buckeye receivers get open downfield. All in all, things just click and work for Ohio State just like they did last year.
With the passing game working, Fields is able to hand off to Dobbins over and over as the speedy, versatile back eats up yardage. The successful rushing attack allows Fields to find some big plays downfield off of play action and RPOs and Ohio State's talented pass catchers make U-M's secondary pay.
How do you see the game playing out? Can Michigan beat a really good Ohio State team? Comment below!!!