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This Week at The Wolverine Den

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Columbus, Ohio

Michigan @ Ohio State

Ohio Stadium

November 29, 2014 - 12 p.m. ET

Michigan vs. Ohio State is the greatest rivalry in sports. There is no convoluted trophy (like the Paul Bunyan Trophy). There is no nickname for the game (like the Egg Bowl or the Iron Bowl). It is just The Game. Over the past few decades, The Game has gone from a bitter rivalry to a respected rivalry and now back to a bitter rivalry. Flagrant fouls and misconduct on (and off) the field are more prevalent. This is more than just football.

The teams have played on the last day of the Big Ten season since 1935 and 44 of those games have decided the Big Ten Championship.

The series is filled with upsets and ruined seasons. Ohio beat undefeated Michigan teams in 1970, 1972, 1974, 1975 and 2006. Michigan beat undefeated Ohio teams in 1969, 1993, 1995, and 1996. Michigan leads the all-time series 58-45-6 (not counting the vacated win by OSU in 2010 due to cheating). Since the start of the Bo era, the series is 21-22-2. Ohio has won 11 of the last 13 while Michigan was 10-2-1 in the preceding 13 games.

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Ohio is 10-1 on the season and hasn’t lost a Big Ten regular season game since the end of 2011. Yes, that last Big Ten loss was to Michigan. While they have clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship game next week, the Buckeyes have loftier goals. A win over this week and in the Big Ten Championship game could put them into the National Championship playoff.

But first, they have to beat Michigan.

The Wolverines come into the game with a losing record and need a win over their rival just to become bowl eligible. It could be the last game for Brady Hoke as the head coach. The Michigan offense is struggling while the defense has been asked to shoulder the burden. It has been a season of promise that has turned into disappointment. But Michigan has come into the final game of the season with similar accomplishments and responded in “The Game.” The 1993 Michigan team was 6-4 headed into the Ohio game. That team dominated the undefeated Buckeyes 28-0. The 1995 Michigan team came into the game having lost 2 of their final 3 games, yet they turned back the undefeated Buckeyes 31-23. Same in 1996 when Michigan had lost 2 straight before beating undefeated Ohio 13-9 in Columbus.

The Wolverine Den Trivia

Michigan vs Ohio was named the greatest rivalry of the 20th century by ESPN. What rivalry was #2 on that list?

The Ohio offense is primarily a running attack that uses some play action and a mid-level passing game. The Buckeyes lost their Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller before the season began. In stepped redshirt Freshman JT Barrett. After struggling at first, Barrett has put together, arguably, the best season ever for an OSU quarterback. Barrett has competed 64.8% of his passes for 241.6 yards per game with 33 TDs. He also has rushed for 849 yards and another 9 TDs. But he has also thrown 10 interceptions. RB Ezekiel Elliott has rushed for over 1000 yards and averages 5.89 yards per carry. The primary receivers, Devin Smith, Michael Thomas and freshman Jalin Marshall have combined for 22 receiving TDs. Marshall is also a dangerous punt returner. OSU leads the Big Ten in scoring at over 44 points per game and are 2nd in total offense at over 511 yards per game.

The Ohio defense plays a very aggressive style that is prone to making big plays. But they also give up big plays. DE Joey Bosa leads the conference in sacks and tackles for loss. He is the likely winner of the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award. LB Joshua Perry is the team’s leading tackler. The secondary leads the Big Ten with 17 interceptions. Freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger has made 10 of 16 field goals this year but has missed half of his attempts over 28 yards. Punter Cameron Johnston has put 61% of his kicks inside the 20.

On paper, it looks like an impossible task. Ohio is a 20- point favorite and seemingly have every advantage. But don’t count out the Wolverines. This team has underperformed in 2014. The story was similar last year and Michigan played its best game of the year. Of the goals that the team set at the beginning of the year, all that is left is The Game. Sorry, Mark, but THIS-IS-THE-MOST-IMPORTANT-GAME-ON-THE-SCHEDULE. Michigan will need to play very strong defense and hold the Buckeyes below their season average. The Michigan offense will need to do exactly what it did last year, take advantage of the aggressive Ohio defense with screens, draws and double moves. Ohio has turned the ball over 20 times this season. If Michigan can win the turnover battle and show all those plays that we have been holding back for this game, it could be 1996 all over again. In rivalry games, especially this rivalry, it is a one-game season. Michigan will play their best game of the year on Saturday.

Michigan leads the overall series 58-45-6.

The Wolverines are a 20 point underdog.

Tim's Prediction


Steve's Prediction


Craig's Prediction


Great Moments in Wolverines - Buckeyes History

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