Can Carlos Hyde and the Buckeyes run over Michigan to extend their streak to 24 straight wins? Photo: USA Today
No. 3 Ohio State at Michigan
Saturday, Noon, ABC
Line: Ohio State -14
The hated words “style points” are close to being rendered meaningless for the Buckeyes. Having ascended to third in the BCS standings, the Buckeyes are still on the outside looking in at the BCS Championship Game, and will need an assist or two in order to get passage to the title game.
The Buckeyes would need the winner of the Alabama/Auburn game to lose in the SEC Championship game to either Missouri or South Carolina and/or Florida State to lose to Florida or in the ACC title game. Oh, and Ohio State would have to handle their own business against Michigan and Michigan State.
Michigan, meanwhile, is just looking for some positive signs of life. After a dramatic overtime victory against Northwestern, the Wolverines lost on the road in Iowa City, 24-21. Michigan would love nothing more than to ruin the sliver of a BCS Championship dream that Ohio State is holding on to. Can they do it?
For Michigan to win: Force turnovers. Michigan’s offense, and the running game in particular, are struggling quite a bit this season. Ohio State’s defense is not going to give them yards easily, so the best chance for the Wolverines to remain in the game is to try and force turnovers by Ohio State. Ohio State does protect the ball decently, only coughing it up 13 times in 11 games this season. But if Michigan can either force Ohio State drives to stall via turnover, or maybe pick up points because of short fields, they might be able to hang around in the game long enough to be dangerous.
For Ohio State to win: Convert third downs. Currently, the Buckeyes convert third downs at a nearly 53 percent rate. Michigan holds their opponents to about 38 percent. Even though Michigan’s offense has struggled at times, if you can extend your drives on offense, it reduces the chance for that struggling team to get in rhythm and score on you. Ohio State needs to maintain their conversion rate and their chances of advancing to Indy will increase.
Key Player, Michigan: Jeremy Gallon, wide receiver. Gallon’s three biggest games of the season have come in Michigan wins. If Gallon can manage to get on the same page as Devin Gardner, they could pose a serious threat to Ohio State’s secondary.
Key Player, Ohio State: Carlos Hyde, running back. Hyde is the one that gets the tough yards between the tackles and also down the stretch as Ohio State tries to salt games away late. Michigan’s overall run defense numbers look good, but Hyde has the strength to wear them down over the course of the game and the second half in particular. A steady does of Hyde could finish off the Wolverines.
Key Stat: 33-3. That’s Urban Meyer’s record in November games since 2003. A couple of additional notes: Ohio State’s current 23 game winning streak is a program record. Ohio State has won nine of their last eleven games against Michigan.