Usually, when it's Ohio State and Michigan on the same field, that's more than enough to rile everybody up and put on a show. But this year, The Game means even more as the winner clinches a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game and is a virtual lock for the No. 2 seed in the national semifinal.
The loser isn't entirely thrown out of the proceedings, but they'll need some help from around the country and a big vote of confidence from the selection committee with other contenders in the mix for those third and fourth spots.
Michigan took this game a year ago and used the victory to make its first College Football Playoff, and now the Buckeyes want revenge at home. Both teams are right where they want each other: undefeated and among the best nationally, setting up the definition of a "quality win" to get back to the semifinal.
What can you expect from Saturday's game? Here's our prediction for who wins, and why.
Ohio State vs. Michigan preview, prediction
How to watch
When: Sat., Nov. 26
Time: 12 p.m. Eastern
TV: Fox network
Stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Odds, point spread, betting lines
Game lines are courtesy of SI Sportsbook and may change after publication
Point spread: Ohio State comes into the game favored by 8 points to defeat Michigan, according to the lines at SI Sportsbook.
Total: 57 points
Moneyline: Michigan +240 | Ohio State -333
FPI prediction: Ohio State has the 71.8 percent chance to win the game outright, according to the Football Power Index computers that predict winners by simulating a team's season 20,000 times. Michigan has the 28.2 percent chance to win.
Spread consensus pick: Ohio State -8
Ohio State vs. Michigan: What you need to know
1. Michigan's injuries. There's no mystery as to who has been the engine behind Michigan's superb offensive output, and that's running back Blake Corum. The nation's premier rusher has 1,457 yards and 18 touchdowns on the year, but he's also now dealing with a new knee injury sustained last week against Illinois. X-rays were negative and he's said all the right things, but we're still short on details. Donovan Edwards, UM's second-best option, was also kept out of last week's game for undisclosed reasons. Next up is C.J. Stokes, who has 268 yards and a touchdown on the year. Michigan needs all hands on deck against an improved Buckeye front seven allowing 107 ypg and that can create negative plays at the line. "Michigan's run game is as good as anyone has seen," an anonymous coach told ESPN recently. But only if its best pieces are on the field.
2. Getting to Stroud. "Ohio State's passing game is as good as college football has seen," that same coach also said. Its cornerstone is quarterback C.J. Stroud, and the offense relies on his having time in the pocket to connect with receivers like Marvin Harrison, Jr. (1,037 yds, 11 TD) and Emeka Egbuka (914 yds, 8 TD). Michigan needs to generate pressure on the quarterback in order to slow down the Buckeyes' quick-strike aerial attack. The Wolverines registered just four pressures in the Illinois game, and didn't have Mike Morris, the team leader with 7.5 sacks, who is expected to be back on Saturday. He'll line up against OSU left tackle Paris Johnson, who hasn't allowed a sack this year.
3. Ohio State's depth. Buckeye backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams have been playing, and not playing, through various injuries all season. Henderson left last week's game at Maryland and was spotted wearing a walking boot, as was Williams during the IU game a week before. Neither of those situations is ideal; even with how good the Buckeyes are throwing the ball, they also want to balance things out and have the ability to burn clock to protect leads. The good news has been the play of Dallan Hayden, who has now rushed for 100-plus yards in two straight games, and is coming off a three-TD performance last week. Michigan fields the No. 2 run defense nationally, allowing under 80 ypg, just 2.79 ypc, and has allowed all of six rushing touchdowns.
+ Michigan is top 5 nationally in rushing offense and defense
+ Ohio State is 20-17-6 in games vs. UM decided by 7 or fewer points
+ Corum has rushed for a TD in 11 straight games, a Michigan record
+ Stroud is 1st nationally with 35 TD passes and 183.3 efficiency rating
+ Michigan is 9th nationally with 39.4 points per game
+ Ohio State is 1st nationally with 46.5 points per game and 2nd in red zone offense (52 of 54)
+ Michigan has scored in 39 of 44 quarters this season
+ Buckeyes are 8th in total offense and 9th in total defense nationally
+ Wolverines have forced 11 takeaways while having 6 turnovers
+ Ohio State is 118th out of 131 in FBS in red zone defense (.960)
+ Michigan is 43-1 when it has a single 100-yard rusher under Jim Harbaugh
+ OSU has scored 40-plus points in 35 of 49 games under Ryan Day
+ UM is 58-8 under Harbaugh when scoring first
+ Ohio State has 73 plays of 20-plus yards, 8th nationally, and 38 of 30-plus yards, the third-most
+ Michigan is 6-20 when trailing after 3 quarters under Harbaugh
+ OSU's Marvin Harrison, Jr. has converted first downs on 51 of his 65 catches (78%)
+ Michigan is 16th nationally allowing 1.09 sacks per game
+ Ohio State has scored 20-plus points in 72 straight games, an FBS record
+ Corum is 1st nationally with 15 runs of 20-plus yards
Ohio State vs. Michigan Prediction
Potentially not having Corum on the field may cut into Michigan's offensive production more than it wants to admit. The unit eked out a close win at home over Illinois and, despite quarterback J.J. McCarthy's lack of turnovers, the Wolverines quarterback has hardly hit 60% of his passes the last month.
That could come into play as Michigan may be playing behind an early deficit and will have to move the ball in the air, but given how little we know about the injuries to both its top rushers, it's difficult to accurately assess the gameplan here.
What we do know is that Michigan owns the No. 1 total defense in college football, has not allowed 300 passing yards in a game, and is surrendering under 3 yards per carry on the ground. But it also hasn't faced anything like the speed and variety that Ohio State has on offense.
But neither have the Buckeyes lined up against an attack as physical and punishing as Michigan's, with or without Blake Corum on the field. This is a clash of styles, each as good as the other in absolute terms.
Michigan will ground and pound, move the chains on third down, and push the Buckeyes' pursuit group around in close range, tacking on consistent intermediate gains early. But in a game that could depend on one team being able to get a quick score when things are tight, that advantage clearly belongs to the home team.
College Football HQ Prediction: Ohio State 31, Michigan 27