It has been seven years — 2,551 days, to be exact — since Michigan has won against Ohio State. It hasn’t been since the year 2000, 6,576 days ago, that the Wolverines found a victory in Ohio Stadium.
Both of these runs will come to an end Saturday.
Ohio State and Michigan come into “The Game” with equal 10-1 records, but they couldn’t be more different in terms of momentum.
Sure, the Wolverines stumbled slightly in a 31-20 win against Indiana, but came in previously with back-to-back 42-7 wins, and three of their past four victories coming against then-ranked opponents.
Michigan has a well-functioning offense for the first time in the Harbaugh era. It comes in No. 24 in points per game, and in the top 50 in yards per game. Both junior quarterback Shea Patterson and senior running back Karan Higdon have been impressive for a large part of the season, and that is enough for the Wolverines to hold a huge advantage this time around.
If a team led by John O’Korn can lose to Ohio State by only 11, a legitimately strong offense will find ways to score.
This is especially true with the Buckeyes being ranked in the bottom half in yards allowed, most recently giving up 535 total yards and 51 points to Maryland.
Looking strictly at numbers, Ohio State has an opportunity to exploit Michigan’s putrid red zone defense, which is the third-worst in the nation, allowing points on 94.7 of trips.
But the Wolverines allow the fewest trips (19) to the red zone of any team in college football. And, even if they did allow more, Ohio State has the 11th-worst red zone efficiency anyway, lacking the capability to exploit one of Michigan’s only flaws.
I can throw all the raw numbers that show Michigan as the better team coming into the game, because on paper, they are.
The counter to Ohio State’s lackluster play against the Terrapins is that the Buckeyes were overlooking Maryland with Michigan lurking around the corner.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano even said the Buckeyes are “as ready” for Michigan as the team will ever be less than an hour after getting torched in College Park, Maryland.
Ohio State will play up to Michigan, there is no doubt about that. But Michigan has been looking forward to this game for just as long as the Buckeyes have.
With the “Revenge Tour” that redshirt senior defensive lineman Chase Winovich started against Wisconsin, Michigan has dominated the Badgers, Spartans and Nittany Lions.
Ohio State is the last, and most important, team on the list for the Wolverines, and they come in as the favorite to take the Buckeyes down on the road.
As much as the Buckeyes look forward to Michigan week, the Wolverines appear more motivated than ever to make a statement on Saturday.
There is no stat that truly favors the Buckeyes in this matchup.
Any number of offense that Ohio State holds over the Wolverines, Michigan counters it with a top-tier defense the Buckeyes simply do not have.
Michigan didn’t give up 51 to Maryland. Michigan didn’t have a lapse in its season like Ohio State had at Purdue. Michigan isn’t far outside the College Football Playoff looking in.
Simply put, the Wolverines have been every bit as consistent as the Buckeyes haven’t been, and that consistency will help them stay composed in college football’s biggest rivalry.
Ohio State’s best chance is to make this game a shootout. For how much Patterson has impressed, he is no Dwayne Haskins, and the Ohio State redshirt sophomore quarterback already showed a little bit of what he could do against the Wolverines last season.
But again, the chances of the Buckeyes making this game a shootout are slim to none.
Michigan’s pass defense is the best in the country, and has given up more than 200 passing yards only once — 209 yards to SMU in Week 3.
Sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins had a career day against the Terrapins, but with redshirt junior running back Mike Weber coming back, the momentum in the run game will be stalled, especially playing against the No. 14 rush defense in the NCAA.
Winovich’s injury status will be a big storyline coming into the game, but Michigan’s defense goes past one man, and it might just come out that much more motivated if it has to play without its most vocal leader.
Anything can happen when it comes to an Ohio State-Michigan game.
For the Buckeyes to pull the upset, they need to be a team that they have not been all season. For Michigan to win, it simply needs to do what it has done in its previous stops on the tour.
I’d put my money on the Wolverines coming out, playing as the better team that they are and finishing their tour that they are so clearly motivated to finish.
Ohio State has the recent history, but this is Michigan’s best year to end the losing streak.