Ohio State Will Likely Emphasize Run First at Michigan

Buckeyes have hammered their toughest opponents with effective run game
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It's easy to get distracted by Ohio State's astronomical scoring average, the primary method by which the Buckeyes embarrassed Michigan last year and the reputation Ryan Day carved out before he even became OSU's head coach.

All of that screams Michigan better buckle up in pass coverage Saturday when it plays host to No. 1 Ohio State, trying to avoid an eighth straight loss to its rival, if not another flat-out face-plant like last year's 62-39 eyesore in Columbus.

Oh, the Buckeyes have the quarterback capable of duplicating Haskins' five TD passes in sophomore Justin Fields, who's thrown 33 touchdown passes against only one interception.

They certainly have the receiving corp to inflict such torment, with 12 players who've caught at last one touchdown pass this season.

And Day hasn't forgotten all those passing concepts he used to scheme a national-best 90 touchdown passes combined at OSU in 2017 and 2018, when he called the plays for Urban Meyer.

But the backbone of Ohio State's advance to 11-0, particularly in the three games closest to this one that preceded it on the schedule, is a fierce rushing attack featuring J.K. Dobbins and Master Teague pounding away behind a nasty, physical offensive line.

That's what OSU used to dispatch Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State, all of whom came into Ohio Stadium allowing less than 80 yards per-game rushing, only to give up at least 220, or in Sparty's case, more than 300.

"If you can run the ball, you basically control the game," OSU guard Wyatt Davis said. "Especially when you come out and have a drive like we did Saturday."

Davis refers to the 10-play, 91-yard march to a 7-0 lead against Penn State, all of it on the ground.

So, OSU in one possession exceeded what the Lions had been allowing on average in 10 previous games.

Why would Saturday at Michigan be any different, particularly with an inch or two of snow in the forecast?

It's not even like Ohio State is trying to hide its plan, given how plainly linebacker Pete Werner puts it.

"There's so much that goes into this game," Werner said. "We all those from the paste of this game that the most physical team is going to win. When you think about physical on offense and defense, it's about running the football.

"We've won that battle the last few years and that's going to be a big game plan (Saturday) -- run the ball and be as physical as possible."

So, it's probably not a coincidence that there are two signs on the door leading to Ohio State's football locker room from its indoor practice field.

One has a photo of Michigan's winged helmet, circled in red, with a diagonal line drawn through it.

The other sign bears one word: "Physical."

When threatened Saturday by Penn State, its lead shaved from 21-0 to 21-17, Ohio State rededicated itself to running the ball.

Dobbins finished with a career-high 36 carries and Fields a career-high 21.

Some OSU fans groused about Day getting conservative.

Asked Tuesday if he regretted that strategy, Day said: "I think absolutely it was the right thing to do at the time. (It) won the game. You do everything you can to win the game."

The Buckeyes are 16-0 during Dobbins' career when he rushes for 100 or more yards.

He averages 131 yards per-game on the ground, but against MSU, Wisconsin and Penn State, he's averaged 162.

"If we come out and do what we're supposed to do and dominate the run game, we'll definitely have a better chance at the end of getting the goal that we want," Davis said.

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