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10 Players Lions Should Watch in Michigan-Ohio State Clash

Read more on the 10 players the Detroit Lions should watch closely in this year's Michigan-Ohio State game.

The latest edition of "The Game" may very well be the game of the year in the 2022 college football season.

The Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes, both sporting unblemished 11-0 records, will square off Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. The winner will claim a spot in the Big Ten championship game, while the loser will hope for the correct dominoes to fall to have a chance at the College Football Playoff.

For teams like the Detroit Lions, which hope to improve itself through the NFL Draft, this matchup will be one worth watching. With plenty of top-tier talent, Ohio State and Michigan will have plenty to boast to pro scouts.

Here are 10 prospects to watch when Michigan and Ohio State square off. 

Ohio State

QB C.J. Stroud

Stroud is ranked highly by scouts, and is projected to go within the top five of the 2023 NFL Draft. The standout Ohio State signal-caller has been excellent for the Buckeyes since taking over the starting role in 2021. In 23 starts, he’s thrown for 7,426 yards and 79 touchdowns, with just 10 interceptions.

Currently, SI’s NFL Draft Bible has Stroud as its No. 2 quarterback, behind only Alabama’s Bryce Young.

“A mature, highly intelligent, pocket-passer who makes smart decisions, does a phenomenal job of reading through his progressions and understands when to add zip or touch,” reads a one-line scouting report from the NFL Draft Bible, describing the California native.

The Lions have been linked to this year’s quarterback class, and could have a draft pick high enough to take one of the best. If Young isn’t available, Stroud will be in contention to become Detroit’s quarterback of the future.

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OT Paris Johnson Jr.

Another highly-rated prospect, Johnson is among the best offensive linemen in the 2023 Draft class. Currently, he has an 83.9 offensive grade on Pro Football Focus, which ranks 18th in the country.

Johnson has started every game for the Buckeyes this season, and is a semifinalist for the Lombardi Award, which is given annually to the best Division I lineman.

The true junior shows strength in both pass and run blocking, sporting high PFF grades in both aspects. He’s an efficient blocker who has yet to be penalized in 2022.

DE Zach Harrison

Harrison has emerged as the leader of a dominant one-two punch for the Buckeyes at the defensive end position. On the opposite side of sophomore J.T. Tuimoloau, the senior has notched three sacks during the 2022 campaign.

Harrison made a big play last week to cement the Buckeyes’ win over the Maryland Terrapins, strip-sacking quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa on the game’s final play. The veteran has 10.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in his career, showcasing his ability to wreak havoc on opponents.

Harrison is graded as a third-round prospect by SI’s NFL Draft Bible.

S Ronnie Hickman

A projected second-rounder by the NFL Draft Bible, Hickman has reportedly already voiced his intentions to enter the 2023 NFL Draft at the conclusion of the season.

The playmaker has three interceptions in 26 games as a Buckeye, to go along with 152 total tackles. His current PFF grade, sitting at 87.7, is among the team’s best. In a secondary full of talent, Hickman’s ability to read run lanes and help in coverage stands out.

LB Tommy Eichenberg

Beginning the season low on draft radars, Eichenberg has risen up boards steadily in what has been an excellent 2022 campaign. He leads the Buckeyes' defense with 70 tackles, and has added 2.5 sacks, as well as an interception.

In the season opener against Notre Dame, Eichenberg made a statement with two sacks and nine tackles. Since then, he’s had four games with at least 13 tackles.

Though he remains less than a household name, Eichenberg’s stock continues to grow. He’s been an anchor of Ohio State's defense. With the Lions looking for help at linebacker, Eichenberg could be an option, if Detroit elects to dedicate another draft pick to the position.

Michigan

WR Ronnie Bell

Bell was thought to be a promising pro prospect last season before suffering a torn ACL in the 2021 season opener. He’s worked his way back to full health, and while Michigan’s passing numbers haven’t been ultra-impressive, he’s had a solid year.

Bell leads the Wolverines in receptions (48) and yards (641). Though his stats aren’t exactly eye-popping, he’s done enough to earn an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. His draft stock isn’t certain yet, but his performance over the final stretch of the season should give scouts a good idea of where he’s at heading into the offseason.

The Missouri native is versatile. If his body of work as a receiver isn’t the most appealing, his ability to work as a returner on special teams could be a skill that allows him to stick with an NFL franchise. 

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OT Ryan Hayes

The Wolverines have made their living on the ground, and Hayes has been a big part of that effort. Despite dealing with injuries, Hayes has been a key piece of Michigan’s dominant offensive line each of the last two seasons.

Standing 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds, Hayes is a massive tackle. He’s been very efficient as a pass blocker, allowing just seven pressures in his nine games played. The veteran tackle has played in 37 games across his Michigan career.

Currently, Hayes is evaluated as a second-round prospect by SI’s NFL Draft Bible.

CB DJ Turner

Turner has been consistent in Michigan’s secondary, as its top cornerback. While Gemon Green has struggled on the opposite side, which has led to playing time for true freshman Will Johnson, Turner has remained steadfast for the Wolverines' defense.

Turner has allowed just 22 completions, on 52 targets, this season, according to PFF. Opponents have converted just one touchdown against him, which is equal to the number of touchdowns he has on the year.

He will face a very tough test Saturday, as Ohio State’s receiving corps is among the best in the nation. Marvin Harrison Jr. will be among the best players in next year’s draft class, while Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming have enjoyed good years.

The Lions need secondary help. If they choose to take a corner in the middle rounds, Turner would be a top option.

DT Mazi Smith

Smith has never received the shine that his defensive line teammates past and present have. While he doesn’t have the numbers that the likes of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo received in years past, he’s been a calming presence on Michigan’s defensive interior.

He’s generated 11 pressures this season, notching one sack. His 39 tackles ranks among the best on the Wolverine defense, and his efforts in plugging run lanes that allows other defenders to make plays doesn’t show up in a box score.

If Michigan is going to slow down Ohio State’s punishing run game, Smith will have to play a key role. His experience, which has been his strong suit, will be tested.

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C Olusegun Oluwatimi

When center Andrew Vastardis graduated last year, there were concerns about the level of play on Michigan’s offensive line taking a step back. Thanks to Oluwatimi, that has not been the case.

Behind Oluwatimi, the Wolverines have averaged 243.8 yards per game on the ground. His PFF Grade is a solid 77.3, which ranks as third best among Michigan’s linemen behind Hayes and Trente Jones.

Oluwatimi won’t be among the first few linemen selected but could be a fit for a team looking to add depth in the middle rounds.