Arguably The Ohio State University versus TTUN is the greatest rivalry of all-time. Some may argue others such as Auburn-Alabama, Texas-Oklahoma, Florida-Florida State, even Army-Navy …. But, really?
The annual border battle really isn’t about records, when you get down to the nitty-gritty issue of it all – its bragging rights for all involved – coaches, players, the schools, and the States.
The bragging rights take on a new level this year. The Buckeyes are 10-1 & 7-1 in the Big Ten. TTUN mirrors that very record, 10-1 & 7-1 in the Big Ten. This game could very well carry one of these two teams into the CFP’s … that’ll be absolutely great for whomever it may be.
So this coming Saturday, the 26th, at noon on ABC, comes ‘The Game.’
It will be the 113th time they met. TTUN leads in wins with a 58-47-6 record. The Buckeyes have won the last four times – winning the last battle in The Big House in 2015, 42-13.
The two teams are playing for a share of the Big Ten East Division title, the right to go to the conference championship game in Indianapolis next month and as I have already mentioned, an anticipated berth in the College Football Playoff.
“It’s officially rivalry week,” Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer declared after last Saturday’s narrow escape at Michigan State with a 17-16 victory. “Our eyes are forward. Let’s go.”
Let’s hope so!
“It’s going to be intense. The game of the century,” Ohio State defensive end Jalyn Holmes said after the Buckeyes survived at Michigan State when the Spartans failed on a go-ahead two-point conversion attempt with less than five minutes remaining.
A win over Michigan doesn’t necessarily guarantee Ohio State a berth in the Big Ten championship or a playoff berth. If Ohio State takes down Michigan and Penn State beats Michigan State on Saturday in State College, PA., the Nittany Lions go to Lucas Oil Stadium to likely face Wisconsin, based on a head-to-head win over the Buckeyes last month.
All the Buckeyes can do is win and then hope Michigan State pulls off the upset. Even if Ohio State beats Michigan and doesn’t get to Indianapolis, there’s still a strong possibility of landing a spot in the four-team national playoff.
TTUN’s recipe for a journey towards “greater glory” is much simpler. Win and they’re in Indianapolis for the first time since the Big Ten began playing its championship game in 2011. Michigan hasn’t won a conference title since 2004.
“I feel like we’re ready to go to battle, in a football kind of way,” TTUN booger-eating Head Coach Jim Harbaugh said. “And I’m ready to lead them.”
The Buckeyes have dominated the series in recent years, winning 11 of the last 12 meetings. The only Michigan victory came in 2011 after Jim Tressel resigned as Ohio State coach in the wake of a scandal and Luke Fickell took over for one year before Meyer arrived.
In Harbaugh’s first year in 2015, the Wolverines didn’t fare so well, losing 42-13 at home to the Buckeyes. Harbaugh’s arrival though has certainly fueled a change for them, and has added some flair to their otherwise drab existence. Word seems to be circulating among hard-core fans on both sides that this new Meyer-Harbaugh coaching matchup is reminiscent of the Woody Hayes-Bo Schembechler era when the series was in its heyday during the 70’s.
Saturday’s clash will be the biggest in the series since the epic 2006 game when the teams entered as # 1 and 2 in the country. Ohio State, led by Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, came away with a 42-39 victory in Columbus. The Buckeyes have not lost to the Wolverines in Columbus since 2000.
QB: Wilton Speight is certainly no JT. But he is not a slouch either. The JR QB out of Richmond, VA thus far this season has thrown for 2,156 yards with 15 TD’s and only 4 interceptions. His favorite target is said to be Amara Darboh. But he has a keen eye and often sprays the ball around to whoever is open.
There’s also O’Korn. But we will stay with Speight – watch for whomever plays – most likely both, Speight will have the better performance.
Running: De’Von Smith is their man here. The SR runner out of Warren, OH has 750 yards and 10 TD’s. Smith is a strong downhill runner with a pivotal style that decodes well to big games. He is a strong and sturdy runner that takes punishment well. His balance on runs is impressive, watch Saturday and you’ll see precisely what I mean ….
Receiving: Amara Darboh a SR out of Des Moines IA, the said favorite target of QB Speight, has 44 receptions so far this season for 758 yards and has 6 TD’s. His biggest game this season, based on the numbers was against the Spartans of *ichigan State. He caught 8 passes for 165 yards, with no TD. Amara has an interesting tale. He was born in Sierra Leone, Africa, in 1994. His parents were murdered during a bloody Civil War there. He and his siblings managed to escape Sierra Leone where the Civil War managed to kill well over 50,000. He was adopted by a family from Des Moines and has learned the American love of football rather well.
Defensively: TTUN’s defensive unit is good. It’ll certainly be the best that the Buckeyes have met so far this season. Ben Gedeon, SR LB, has 30 solo tackles, 58 assisted, for a grand total of 88. Jabrill Peppers, JR LB has 44 solo, 20 assisted, for 64 in total. SR DL Taco Charton leads in the sacks department with 6.5 for 34 yards. And Channing Stribling, SR DB has stolen 4 passes adding up to 60 yards with 1 TD.
Outside of Peppers these names are relatively obscure. But – that’s indeed the masquerade, this unit is good and will shut you down. BEWARE!
THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY:
QB: JT. As a Buckeye fan – need I say more? JT has 2,304 yards for 24 TD’s and only 4 interceptions. He has run for 722 yards so far, 6 times he reached the end zone. JT, certainly in my opinion, is one of the best QB’s in the nation. If he is “on” come Saturday, the Wolverines Defensive Unit will be tested unlike they ever have.
Running: Mike Weber. Mike has progressed tremendously well this season. The kid out of Detroit is indeed on his path to placing his name within Buckeye lore. Thus far this season he has run for 1,046 yards with 8 TD’s. What I like about this kid is his power. He often carries loads much larger than himself for an additional 5 plus yards once they latch onto him. He is strong, fast, and a complete joy to watch in action.
Receiving: Curtis Samuel, the kid out of Brooklyn, who is the Buckeyes “Mr. Everything”, is having a tremendous year. In the reception department he leads the Buckeyes with 61 catches for 790 yards and 7 TD’s. In rushing he has 650 yards with 7 TD’s. He leads the Buckeyes in TD’s with 14. Coach Meyer was wise in moving Curtis to punt returns. Don’t be misled by his only 4 returns for 18 yards. He’ll get it down pat. The important statistic here is he has not fumbled at all. Something Dontre Wilson seemed to have issues concerning.
Defensively: The Buckeyes have some concerns here. One game they can be the best defensive unit that day in the nation. On another afternoon they are being surprised all over the place. All in all, though, the Buckeyes are “quite” good. Raekwon McMillan, LB, leads the team in tackles with 30 solo, 41 assisted, for a total of 71. The one that I enjoy watching is Malik Hooker, DB. He is third on the team in tackles with 35 solo, 25 assisted, for a total of 60. Malik also leads the team in interceptions with 5 for a “very” impressive 165 yards returned, and 2 TD’s. Tyquan Lewis, DL, leads the team with Tackles for a Loss with 10 which has added up for 57 yards.
As I mentioned this team has a flair for the Jekyll and Hyde face. But, and do not forget this, they are certainly great at stepping up in big games – as they did in the Oklahoma matchup, and Nebraska as well. The Penn State game is the Special Teams weight to carry.
I don’t quite know how to end this preview. I want to the typical Buckeyes fan and say the Buckeyes will “cream” the Wolverines. They will have their way with the booger-eating Coaches team. But that route is completely irrational – if not rather stupid. So, in truth, we in Buckeye Nation must accept that Harbaugh has turned this team around magnificently. They are a team that also has the Jekyll and Hyde routine down pretty good. The Buckeyes and the Wolverines are evenly matched in every aspect. The Home Field, in a game like this, certainly plays a factor. So allow us all to kneel in prayer to say “thank-you” for allowing it to be in Columbus this year.
I don’t want to end like that. We know that the winner of this game will come down to many factors, one or two players, defense, coaching, and frankly luck! Those players for the Buckeyes that must “really” step-up is JT, Curtis “Mr. Everything” Samuel, and Weber. The coaching – well, I must go with Urban. He has proven to be a Master in the one’s that count – that isn’t to suggest that the booger-eater can’t coach in big games – he has proven the transition from college to pros and then back to college to be “commendable!” But as I said “one’s that count” – this certainly, all will agree, there just isn’t any other game that matters more than – The Game.
I will be brave here – Buckeyes – 27 Wolverines – 23. They won’t cover the spread (which at the moment is -6) – but will find a way to win. And let’s take it even a step further – Offensive hero will be Curtis “Mr. Everything” Samuel while the Defensive hero will be Malik Hooker with 2 picks for substantial returns.