Heading into Saturday’s game, it will have been 2,926 days since Michigan beat Ohio State.
This past year, the Wolverines were supposed to snap the losing streak and take back control of one of college football’s greatest rivalries.
Instead, Ohio State made a statement in its 62-39 victory against archrival Michigan. Though its chances at a spot in the College Football Playoff had been squandered thanks to its blowout loss on the road to Purdue, the Buckeyes still came together to take control of one narrative:
The Game belongs to Ohio State and has for most of the 21st century.
Aside from a close loss to Michigan in 2011, when Luke Fickell was serving as interim head coach, the Buckeyes have emerged victorious against the Wolverines every season since 2004.
After coming away with a 28-17 two-possession win in its first true 2019 test against No. 8 Penn State, Ohio State is traveling to Ann Arbor, Michigan, undefeated. Waiting for the Buckeyes will be head coach Jim Harbaugh and the 9-2 Wolverines.
Harbaugh has not found success against the Buckeyes since he took over as head coach in 2015. He came close in 2016 when J.T. Barrett and Curtis Samuel led Ohio State to a nail-biting 30-27 victory in double overtime.
Despite having home-field advantage, success will be difficult to come by for Harbaugh Saturday. Michigan will be facing the No. 6 total offense and No. 1 total defense in the country.
Against the Buckeye offense, the Wolverines present a solid matchup on paper, boasting the No. 4 defense in the country that allows 267 yards per game.
Michigan has matched up against four ranked opponents in Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa and Notre Dame over the course of 2019, and came away with victories against the latter two.
The best offense the Wolverines faced was the Badgers, who slot in at No. 37 in the nation in total offense. Wisconsin dismantled Michigan 35-14 and hung 359 rushing yards on the back of star junior running back Jonathan Taylor. A little more than a month later, Ohio State blew out the Badgers 38-7.
Much like this past year, when the Wolverines came into Columbus, Ohio, with the then-No. 1 total defense in the country and were blown away by quarterback Dwayne Haskins and the Buckeye offense, Michigan has not faced an offensive opponent of the same caliber as Ohio State.
It only gets worse when further analysis shows that Michigan is better at defending the pass compared to the run. Ohio State has the nation’s No. 4 rushing offense, averaging 282.7 yards per game. This is the mismatch the Buckeyes will exploit. While the Wolverines only allow 106 yards per game, they are not the best rushing defense Ohio State has faced.
Both Penn State and Wisconsin have better rushing defenses than Michigan, currently ranked No. 4 and No. 9 in the nation, respectively. The Buckeyes shredded both of those defenses on the ground, rushing for more than 200 yards against each team.
Ohio State will be able to run against Michigan just like it has done all season. In addition, this past week’s game against Penn State saw the release of Justin Fields from his cage in the pocket. His 21 carries for 68 yards had a major impact in spreading the Nittany Lion defense out and opening up the field for J.K. Dobbins and the passing game to flourish.
Simply put, Michigan’s defense is good, but the Buckeyes’ offense is great.
All the data shows that the Wolverines’ greatest strength won’t be enough to stop Ohio State, and that doesn’t even take into consideration how the Buckeyes match up against Michigan defensively.
There’s no single weapon on the Michigan offense that will effectively threaten Ohio State on defense. Penn State star wide receiver KJ Hamler is better than any receiver the Wolverines have. Ohio State held Hamler to 45 yards on three receptions. The same goes for running back. Taylor only rushed for 52 yards against the Buckeyes.
Even at quarterback, Penn State redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford and Wisconsin junior Jack Coan have comparable or better numbers than Michigan senior Shea Patterson.
This is the game for which Ohio State has been preparing all season. It has been a complete team that has overwhelmed every opponent it has faced. Michigan may play up to its competition and keep the game close for a while, just as Wisconsin and Penn State managed to do, but no team has been able to contend with the Buckeyes for four full quarters. The Wolverines do not have the strength to do so, much less win.
Ohio State will win Saturday. It is at its full strength, ready to make it 2,927 days since Michigan beat Ohio State come Sunday.