Friday, November 25, 2016

Buckeyes Preview 11.25.16: Michigan Wolverines @ Ohio State Buckeyes

By Jason Disantis, @JasonInCLE

It's called "The Game" for a reason.

It's a rivalry that spans the course of over a century.

They first played in 1897 and since then have battled 112 times.  In 2000, ESPN ranked "The Game" as the greatest North American sports rivalry.

In 2006 they played the "Game of the Century" as no. 1 ranked Ohio State beat no. 2 ranked Michigan 42-39.  And while Michigan leads the all-time series, Ohio State has won 11 of the last 12 meetings.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer understands the magnitude of "The Game."  During this week the word "Michigan" is never mentioned.

"I'm very biased and I'm very respectful of all rivalries, but I grew up in the 70's and this was a time when Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes had two programs that were at the top of the food chain," said Meyer.  "What I remember and what I make perfectly clear to our players is the amount of respect that I learned in this rivalry from those two great coaches was real."

This Saturday the no. 2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) will host the no. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines with National and Big Ten championship hopes on the line.

Looking at the stats these teams are as close as you would expect out of a 2 and 3 matchup.  Ohio State is scoring 43.8 points per game while Michigan posts 42.3.  The Wolverines give up 10.9 ppg with the Buckeyes allowing 13.  Add to those numbers less than 50 yards difference in total yards posted and allowed and you have the making of a game for the ages.

Even the best player on each team are alike in that they are do-it-all playmakers for their teams.

Jabrill Peppers is in the Heisman discussion and with a big performance could be the first defensive player to win the award since another Wolverine defensive back, Charles Woodson.  Peppers will return kicks and have his share of snaps on offense along with lining up all over the field on defense.

Ohio State H-back Curtis Samuel will look to break a couple big plays as he has done all year for the Buckeyes.  Samuel has displayed a tremendous balance to his game gaining over 600 yards rushing and receiving for the Buckeyes along with 7 touchdowns on the ground and 7 through the air as well.  He will have his work cut out for him as Michigan will come to the Shoe with the best defense Ohio State has faced all season.

For Michigan a win would give them a divisional championship and send them to Indianapolis for a shot at their first Big Ten championship since 2004.  If they won the Big Ten championship they would lock up a place in the college football playoff and go on for a chance at a national championship.

Ohio State's path to a national title is actually more promising than their shot at a conference championship.  The Buckeyes would need to win this weekend and then hope for Michigan State to beat Penn State to get a shot at a Big Ten championship in Indianapolis.  But even if Penn State wins, the fact that the playoff committee has the Buckeyes ranked no.2 means a win against the no.3 team in the country would make it very difficult to leave Ohio State out of the four-team playoff.

"The Game" has more than just bragging rights on the line this year.  Michigan is finally back to relevancy after a long layoff filled with losing seasons and multiple coaches.  They've quickly put themselves back among the elite in college football after bringing in Jim Harbaugh.  And while Michigan looks to build on a season that has them back in the national picture, Ohio State will try to continue as one of college footballs most successful programs since Urban Meyer was named head coach.

Personally as an Ohio State fan the rivalry with Michigan has lost a lot of its luster.  Part of it was how bad the Michigan program had become, and part of it was a renewed rivalry between Meyer and Alabama coach Nick Saban.  But with coach Harbaugh leading the Michigan program there is no doubt that they are back, and so is the greatest rivalry in college football.

What:  Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines
When:  Saturday November 26, 2016 at 12:00 PM ET
Where:  Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Watch:  ABC

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