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Game Preview: Ohio State, Michigan Look To Clinch Berth In Big Ten Championship Game

The Buckeyes are aiming for their ninth straight win in the series, which would tie the longest streak by either team.

The stakes can’t get any higher for either team as Ohio State travels to Michigan on Saturday afternoon with a berth in the Big Ten Championships Game and the right to control their own destiny in the race for the College Football Playoff on the line.

‘This is our No. 1 goal here at Ohio State, to beat The Team Up North. Period,” head coach Ryan Day said during his Tuesday afternoon press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. “I think the guys understand what a huge week this is for so many reasons. 

"First off, just the rivalry itself. Secondly, there’s everything on the table here. Certainly an opportunity to go to Indianapolis.

“I don’t know what else to tell you. There is a lot of pressure, and that’s the way you want it. You want this game with everything riding on it. At their place, it’s going to be a wild environment. Again, that’s why you come to Ohio State.”

The Buckeyes and Wolverines did not play each other last year, as the game was cancelled due to a coronavirus outbreak within the Michigan football program. It certainly adds another layer of intrigue to the 117th rendition of The Game, but it won’t be a motivating factor for Ohio State.

“Two teams playing in the rivalry game for a chance to go to Indianapolis,” Day said. “Two very good teams. Here we are in November. Thanksgiving week. Couldn’t ask for anything more.”

General Info

Date: Nov. 27, 2021
Where: Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, MI)
Expected Weather: 33 degrees, cloudy
Kickoff: 12 p.m.

Current Betting Numbers

Spread: Ohio State (-7.5)
O/U Total: 64.5
Betting: Check out the new SISportsbook!

How to Watch/Listen

Television: FOX
Streaming: fuboTV (get a 7-day free trial)
Announcers: Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Joel Klatt (analyst) and Jenny Taft (sideline reporter)

Local Radio: Ohio State Sports Network from Learfield IMG College
Flagship: WBNS 97.1 The Fan
Announcers: Paul Keels (play-by-play), Jim Lachey (analyst), Matt Andrews (sideline reporter), Skip Mosic (pregame/halftime/postgame host and producer)

Series History

Michigan leads Ohio State, 58-52-6
* OSU record at home: 34-21-2
* OSU record on the road/neutral: 24-31-4

LAST TIME THEY MET
2019
: Ohio State 56, Michigan 27

Coaching Matchup

* Ryan Day
* At Ohio State: Third Season, Record: 33-3
* Overall: Same

* Jim Harbaugh
* At Michigan: 7th Season, Record: 59-23
* Overall: 88-44

Ohio State Capsule

Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud has put up video game-like numbers worthy of winning the Heisman Trophy, as he’s completed 246-of-346 passes for 3,468 yards and 36 touchdowns compared to five interceptions in 10 games this season.

He’s No. 2 nationally in quarterback rating (186.7), No. 4 in touchdown passes and yards per attempt (10.0), No. 6 in yards per game (346.8) and No. 8 in completion percentage (71.1), while the Buckeyes lead the country with 47.2 points and 559.9 yards per game.

But for as brilliant as he’s been since returning from a one-week absence to rest his ailing throwing shoulder, one could argue Stroud has not yet had the “Heisman moment” that’s seemingly wrapped up the award for past winners – including Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991 or Charles Woodson in 1997.

However, that could change on Saturday.

“His preparation has allowed him the opportunity to be in these situations,” Day said following Saturday’s 56-7 win over Michigan State, when Stroud threw six first-half touchdown passes. “When you’re looking at the way he’s playing – not that that this really matters to our team or not – but when you only played really one half of football and you throw for six touchdowns, I just think that that matters when you’re looking at statistics.

“The level of play that he’s playing at right now is very high, and I think that needs to be taken into consideration. But our focus is on The Team Up North right now and getting ready for those guys.”

Michigan Capsule

Ohio State’s offensive line is among the best in the country, as it has allowed just 39 tackles for loss and 13 sacks on the season, good for sixth and 13th in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

It is also among the handful of semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, which is given annually to the toughest and most physical offensive line unit in the country, but will face its biggest test of the season in Michigan edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo.

The two have combined for 77 tackles, 19 sacks, seven forced fumbles, six pass break ups and 1.5 tackles for loss, which means left tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere and right tackle Dawand Jones will have to be at their best to keep the Wolverines away from Stroud and give him time to find his receivers downfield.

“They’re talented. They’re fast. They’re athletic. They’re strong,” Petit-Frere said on Tuesday. “They’re everything you’d imagine a great defensive end to be. They’re a great challenge for us this week. It’s a great opportunity.

“We’ve had a really good stretch of games here in November – and October, as well – where we’ve had some amazing pass rushers to go up against as a team and amazing defenses that we’ve had to go up against as a team that has been touted as probably some of the best defenses in the country.”

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The Wolverines rank seventh in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 16.27 points per game. They’re also giving up just 306.6 yards of total offense per game, good for ninth in the country, under defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who replaced Don Brown last offseason.

“They’re significantly different,” Day said. ““This style of defense is a little bit more NFL-oriented in the way that they’re structured. I felt like Coach Brown was a little bit more college-oriented. They’re very good. They have good personnel and they’ve done a good job this year.

“I think they’re well-coached, and they have really good players, playing with an edge. We have to practice with an edge and bring it, as well.”

Major Storylines

  • With a win, Ohio State will clinch its fifth straight Big Ten East Division title and play for its fifth straight conference championship against a to-be-determined opponent on Dec. 4 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
  • Last year’s cancellation snapped a streak of 102 consecutive years in which the Buckeyes and Wolverines have met on the gridiron.
  • Michigan won in consecutive over Ohio State from 1901-09. The Buckeyes can match that with a win on Saturday.
  • Ohio State has just one player, left guard Thayer Munford, who has started a game against Michigan. Eight starters have never even played against the Wolverines.
  • The Buckeyes are 10-10 in their last 20 trips to Ann Arbor.
  • This marks the 24th meeting between the two teams when they’re both ranked in the Associated Press Top 10. Ohio State is 12-9-2 in those games.
  • The Buckeyes are 17-2 against the Wolverines since Jim Tressel became head coach in 2001. Their last loss was 10 years ago today, a 40-34 loss on the road.
  • Stroud has four games this season with five touchdown passes against Big Ten opponents. That’s more than any other former Buckeye quarterback had in their career.
  • Senior wide receiver Chris Olave has caught a touchdown pass in eight consecutive games and is second in the nation with 13 scores on the season.
  • Freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson remains just one rushing or receiving touchdown shy of tying Maurice Clarett’s freshman record of 18 total scores, set during the Buckeyes’ 2002 national championship run.
  • Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington was Michigan’s linebackers coach in 2018, while secondary coach Matt Barnes was a defensive analyst with the Wolverines in 2015.

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