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Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines: Preview, predictions and prognostications

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When: 12 p.m. ET, Saturday 11/28/2015
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
TV: ABC
All-Time Series: Michigan 58-46-6
Last Meeting: Ohio State 42-28, in 2014
Line: Michigan -1.5

“The Game.”

That pretty much says it all for these two football programs, as the only rivalry that really competes in college football is the Iron Bowl.

Seasons are made or lost by the fate of this game, and that could be the case for both teams this year thanks to the losses at home for both to Michigan State. If the Spartans take care of PSU, this game will simply decide which teams stays in the Top 10 of the CFP rankings and in position for a major bowl game, perhaps even the Rose Bowl.

That means this game looks like an old school rendition of the 10 Year War, and it just so happens that an up-and-coming Michigan coach (like Bo Schembechler in 1969) has a chance to really re-kindle this rivalry with pure fire against a seemingly dominant head coach at OSU (like Woody Hayes, again in 1969).

So who will emerge in this East Division battle? Let’s count to 5 and find out.

1 Burning Question: Will Ohio State bounce back with authority, or is this team fundamentally flawed?

To say that Ohio State had a bad day against Michigan State last Saturday would be putting it kindly. 132 yards of offense and five first downs was all the Buckeyes could muster against the weather and a tough Spartans defensive front, which was scheming to stop J.T. Barrett runs and Ezekiel Elliott runs. The coaching staff never made the necessary play calling adjustments to burn MSU with the passing game, which led to the first loss in 23 games for this squad.

The dysfunction came out strong in the postgame as well, with Elliott ripping on his coaches’ play calling and two other non-senior players acknowledging that they were going pro next year. It all fell apart for the defending national champions and that can be a difficult thing to bounce back from.

However, there’s no better motivation than Michigan week, one would think, for the Ohio State football program. If these highly-talented players want to end their Ohio State careers with a perfect record against the rival, then bouncing back quickly and coming together as a team and a coaching staff will be vital. After all, this game features an opponent with arguably more talent than what MSU had last week (thanks in large part to injuries), and this game is in front of 110,000 hostile fans rather than a home crowd.

But can this team full of star athletes finally jell together and make something great happen? Time is running out, and Michigan certainly must hope that the Spartans did not “wake up” a slumbering giant at the worst time possible for the Wolverines.

2 Key Stats:

— 14.1 (OSU) and 14.9 (UM): That’s the scoring defense in points per game for both squads. The biggest cause for the resurgence in the Wolverines under Jim Harbaugh in year one of his tenure has been a tough and effective defense. Michigan has ranked in the top 10 nationally all season in total defense and scoring defense, but Ohio State has also been a team carried by the defense this season. Unlike the surprising 2006 game where two solid defenses (statistically) folded against good offenses, this game looks like a true Big Ten slobber knocker. That makes field position and small victories key to winning this year’s version of The Game.

— 93.5% (UM) and 79.5% (OSU): That’s the red zone offense scoring numbers for both teams. Michigan has been deadly efficient all season in the red zone, racking up 43 scores in 46 possessions, with 32 touchdowns and no turnovers. Meanwhile, Ohio State has struggled at times in the red zone, including three missed field goals and three turnovers. In a game which could be dominated by big defensive plays, as indicated above, this could be a huge edge for Michigan. Although the Buckeyes have admittedly been much more efficient with J.T. Barrett at quarterback in the red zone, OSU cannot afford mistakes in this game with 110,000 fans bearing down on them.

3 Key Players:

Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State RB: As if there were any other choice, given his comments to the media following the MSU loss. Elliott is the most compelling player in this game, not simply because he a driving force in putting the Wolverines away when this game was close last season. He will look to add to his conference-leading totals of 1458 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. If he receives a ton of touches and is effective, Michigan will have trouble keeping up as evidenced two weeks ago in the Indiana game when Jordan Howard became an unstoppable force.

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan DB: Clearly the centerpiece of the 2015 recruiting class that Brady Joke and Jim Harbaugh brought into Ann Arbor, Peppers is proving himself to be a defensive force each and every week. Despite not bringing down any interceptions yet this year, he has largely shut down passing games and receivers on his side of the field with 10 pass break-ups already this season. Add to that his occasional touches on offense and his punt returns (11.4 yard average), and this is a player who could be the next nightmare for the Buckeyes. Shades of Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard, perhaps, but to be that great he must begin making a huge impact in this most important of games.

Joey Bosa, Ohio State DE: Bosa had three offsides penalties against MSU, including during a critical fourth down on the game-tying drive. Look for Michigan’s offensive line to also scheme to put Bosa off kilter because no college line can effectively block him. Michigan QB Jake Rudock has had an effective season thanks to the line providing him with plenty of time, but that may not be the case this weekend with Bosa either making plays or opening opportunities for OSU’s other defensive linemen. This will be a star’s final regular season game before heading to the NFL, so kick back and enjoy watching the potential spectacle and Michigan’s number one priority when scheming on offense.

4 Bold Prognostications:

— Ohio State won’t attempt any field goals. The Buckeyes are one of the many college teams struggling with executing field goals this season, sitting on 7 of 12 on the season. Neither Sean Neurnberger nor Duke transfer Jack Willoughby have been able to find a groove, and Urban Meyer has clearly had enough, going for fourth downs more frequently in November. That continues here, as OSU will try to win with nothing but touchdowns.

— Michigan won’t break 75 yards rushing. The Ohio State defense has consistently taken one side of the opposing offense away this season, and I expect this week Luke Fickell and his staff will have the team geared to stop the run, in what looks like a field position and defense battle. With the athletic defensive line and solid crew of linebackers crowding the line, don’t expect many running lanes for De’Veon Smith or escape routes for Jake Rudock scrambles.

— 21 points will be sufficient to win. Not since Jim Tressel roamed the sidelines has this game ever been a defensive slugfest, as the loser has scored 34, 21, 28 and 41 points over the past few seasons. That trend ends this year, as three touchdowns will be sufficient against either of these great defenses to win The Game.

— Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller will have pass attempts. Although the poor offensive performance can likely be blamed on play calling and schemes, J.T. Barrett did not find a way to execute anything effectively last weekend. That means Cardale Jones should see some playing time, even if just to keep Michigan off-guard. Braxton Miller will also finally throw the ball one more time, as Urban Meyer pulls out all the stops to welcome Jim Harbaugh to the rivalry. I suspect one or both of these players will also throw an interception accordingly, if you want a REALLY bold prediction.

5 Staff Predictions:

Andy: Ohio State 27-17  (82-23 overall; 50-54 ATS)
Dave: Ohio State 21-20  (86-19 overall; 56-47 ATS)
Greg: Michigan 31-24  (79-26 overall; 61-42 ATS)
Matt: Ohio State 24-21  (83-22 overall; 58-45 ATS)
Phil: Michigan 21-17  (38-14 overall; 19-30 ATS) *joined in Week 5

Dave is a FWAA member and a Columnist focusing on Big Ten football for talking10. Before joining talking in 2014, he was a Featured Columnist for three years at Bleacher Report and previously wrote for seven years on SouthernCollegeSports.com. He was born in Hawkeye Country and went to college in Columbus, so there's plenty of B1G running through his blood. Dave is a patent and trademark attorney in his day job. If you have any questions in those areas or about his latest articles, please contact him on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

Buckeyes Football

Top 25 Players in the Big Ten for 2017: No’s. 10-6

We are almost done with our 2017 preseason Top 25 players list. Who made it inside the top 10, but just out of the running as the best player in the conference heading in to the season?

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It is almost time for pads to start popping and helmets to start cracking together…and that means football season is right around the corner. Here at talking10 it also means the release of our annual Big Ten Preseason Top 25 Players list.

Top 25 List: No’s 25-21 | No’s 20-16 | No’s 15-11 |

We’re 10 players deep, with 15 to go on the countdown. Let’s just hop right back in to the Top 25 players list as the season grows closer and closer.

Don’t forget to follow our staff of Andy Coppens, Phil Harrison, Philip Rossman-Reich and Zach Worthington on Twitter for their breakdowns of the Top 25 and their individual lists.

No. 10. — Akrum Wadley, RB (Iowa)

2016 Season Stats: 1,081 yards, 10 TD’s, 6.4 ypc; 36 receptions, 315 yards, 3 TD’s
Best Game: 23 carries, 115 yards; 5 receptions, 52 yards, 1 TD

Patience has certainly paid off for the now-senior running back for the Hawkeyes. Wadley showed flashes of brilliance early in his career, but he had to share the spotlight with others. That included fellow 1,000-yard back LeShaun Daniels last season.

Wadley comes in to 2017 as the lone featured back for the first time in his career and it could be a very interesting season ahead. He also come back as one of just three returning running backs to crack double digits in rushing touchdowns last season. If Iowa is going to weather the changes at quarterback in 2017, it will do so on the back and legs of Wadley. If history tells us anything, he’s likely up to the challenge.

No. 9. — Clayton Thorson, QB (Northwestern)

2016 Season Stats:  3,128 yards, 58.6 comp. %, 22 TD’s, 9 INT’s
Best Game: at MSU – 27-35 passing, 281 yards, 3 TD’s, 1 INT

Few quarterbacks came in to 2016 as a bigger question mark than Clayton Thorson did entering his sophomore season. After becoming one of just four quarterbacks to top 3,000 yards passing in 2016, the questions have turned in to just how good can Thorson really be. Well, considering he went from mistake-prone and INT-prone to one of the coolest passers in the league, it is safe to say he is high up on our list heading in to 2017.

This season, it may be a case of Thorson also needed to add a bit more to the ground game. He picked up just 98 yards on 97 carries last season. That was following a promising start to his career with his feet. Northwestern doesn’t need him to be J.T. Barrett on the ground, but expanding that part of his game to go with the established passing attack could give Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats plenty of ammo on offense.

No. 8 — Rashan Gary, DE (Michigan)

2016 Season Stats: 24 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 6 QB hurries
Best Game: vs. UCF – 6 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 1 sack

Michigan snapped up the No. 1 player in the 2016 recruiting rankings, so expectations were high for Gary. He rose to the occasion and got himself in to the mix on a loaded and deep Wolverines defensive line. He showed power off the edge and a capability to be very disruptive at the line of scrimmage. Gary’s game is far from perfect, but if he works at the rate he did in 2016, look for him to be one of the best pass rushers in the Big Ten when 2017 is all said and done.

His length, athleticism and strength at his age are just incredible. Will he be able to live up to the hype and the increased attention on and off the field in 2017? That’s his real challenge.

No. 7. — J.T. Barrett, QB (Ohio State)

2016 Season Stats: 61.5 comp. %, 2,555 yards, 24 TD’s, 7 INT’s; 845 yards, 9 TD’s rushing
Best Game: vs. Nebraska – 65.1 comp. %, 290 yards, 4TD’s passing; 39 yards rushing

It is hard to believe that one…J.T. Barrett is still in college football, and two…that is hasn’t won a Heisman Trophy yet. We’re pretty sure if you asked 2014 versions of ourselves if that was possible we would’ve told you you were nuts. But, we are blessed with one final season from Barrett in the OSU colors.

Some of those same 2014 folks would be surprised to see him this low on the list. There’s no doubt that the talent is there, but his passing numbers have steadily declined and somehow Barrett has actually become a less accurate passer over time. Still, he’s arguably the most dangerous dual-threat quarterback in the league and one of the best on-field leaders as well. His intangibles and ability to literally will a team to victory can’t be overlooked and that’s why he’s in our top 10.

No. 6. — Tegray Scales, LB (Indiana)

2016 Season Stats: 126 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 TD, 1 FF, 2 PBU, 4 QB Hurries
Best Game: vs. Penn State – 9 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 1 sack

No player benefited more from a coaching change in 2016 than Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales did. Tom Allen’s unique 4-2-5 system actually made Scales the focal point of the defense and he delivered in a big way. The stats are certainly impressive, but it is the how it all happened that makes him one of the most intriguing players to watch this upcoming season.

Don’t be surprised to see his name mentioned with some of the best in the country at linebacker. He simply makes plays and does it wherever and however asked to by the coaching staff. A sign of his quality? Two his best games came in losses to Penn State and Northwestern, where Scales did everything he could to will his team to victory but just couldn’t get the offensive help needed. He’ll have more parts around him this season and that should make things really fun to watch.

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Buckeyes Football

Every Big Ten East Division team’s biggest question after spring football

Spring Football has come to an end, and the East division has stolen all the attention, but did all the questions get answered?

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Michigan’s trip to Rome is in the books, which means the Big Ten has finally and officially wrapped up spring football. Hooray!

But, along with the official end of spring football comes a lot of reflection. Programs will turn to meetings to discuss players, positions and coaching ideas going forward, while the fans will look forward to what the fall may hold for their team.

For us here at talking10, it is time to reflect and ask the tough questions after 15 practices and nationally televised spring football games (if you want to call them that). So, what are the big questions being asked across the Big Ten?

Last week we took a look at what is being asked around the Big Ten’s West division. This week it is the Big Ten East division’s turn on the hot seat. Can the division that has won the conference crown every year since the new divisions went directional and not ‘Leaders’ and ‘Legends’ on us maintain its hold on the B1G title?

Let’s look across the B1G East division, shall we?

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Badgers Basketball

2017 talking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards Special

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The Big Ten may have its awards, but what is the point of watching endless hours of Big Ten basketball without putting our two cents in, right?

Welcome to the 2017 taking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards special. Our hope is to educate you on the names that dominated our conversations and the hardwood across the Big Ten this season.

So, sit back and enjoy our special for your viewing pleasure.

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Buckeyes Football

Michigan Wolverines @ Ohio State Buckeyes: Preview, Predictions & Prognostications

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J.T. Barrett, Ohio STate Buckeyes

When: Sat. Nov. 26, 2016; 12 pm ET
Where: Columbus, Ohio; Ohio Stadium (104,944)
TV: ABC
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 58-47-6
Last Meeting: Ohio State 42-13 win, in 2015
Line: Ohio State (-6.5)

The Game. It hasn’t had this much national significance since the memorable 2006 showdown of two undefeated teams sitting at #1 and #2 in the country. Although there have not yet been any countdown clocks put in the bottom corner of our cable screens, the full press is on with BTN airing a documentary remembering the 2006 game and all other media outlets posting long-form stories about Jim Harbaugh, Urban Meyer, and the state of this historic rivalry.

All in all, it’s a fun time to be a Wolverine or a Buckeye.

Michigan finally broke the hex Michigan State had on them a few weeks ago, and this series with OSU has been even more lopsided. Ohio State is 13-2 in the rivalry since Jim Tressel’s first season of 2001, and Michigan has not won in Ohio Stadium since 2000. If the Wolverines want to change that and begin to even up the series in current times, a better effort will be needed than what was shown the past two weeks against Iowa and Indiana. However, Michigan does appear to have the defense to stifle this Buckeye offense and keep the offense close, even if that unit is led by backup QB John O’Korn.

The Buckeyes come into this game with a strong defense of their own, albeit filled with young talent that sometimes plays inconsistently. The Wolverines have a huge edge in upperclassman and senior leadership, and it would be a good way to leave this football program if the OSU hex can be cast aside just like the MSU hex was earlier in 2016. That’s always easier said than done, especially when looking at an opponent like Urban Meyer and his Buckeyes.

Who will emerge from this huge spotlight game in the East Division, to win outright or share the division championship with Penn State? Let’s take a look at the keys to The Game, 2016 edition.

1 Burning Question: Will these Defenses Take Over and Decide this Showdown?

Michigan and Ohio State bring two of the best defenses in the country into this regular season finale. To this end, Michigan ranks 1st nationally with only 246 yards per game given up, while OSU is 4th nationally at 280 yards per game. These two also rank in the top 3 nationally in scoring defense. That would seem to add up to a defensive slugfest, much like when both of these teams took on Wisconsin in the month of October (the Badgers having a similar defense).

Of course, that was also the story when Lloyd Carr and Jim Tressel brought their teams into the 2006 game, which ended up in a 42-39 shootout, surprisingly. Perhaps nothing can be taken for granted with these two, especially when you consider that Ohio State has also scored 42 against the Wolverines in each of the last three meetings.

However, there are signs that this won’t end up anything like that 2006 contest.

J.T. Barrett may be a perfect fit for the Buckeye offense, but his throws have been inconsistent in quality this season, plus he does not have great proven receivers like Troy Smith relied on a decade ago. The Wolverines have given up more than 14 points only twice: against Colorado and Michigan State. So even though OSU has broken the 50-point mark four times in 11 games, and has only been held under 30 points three times, Michigan should be able to load up against the run game and make it tough for Ohio State to move the ball and achieve the normal point production.

Michigan does not have a Chad Henne either, as John O’Korn did not look great in admittedly unfavorable snowy conditions last week. Whether he starts or a dinged-up Wilton Speight does, one would figure that the Wolverines won’t find much room to throw against the ball-hawking OSU secondary. Despite Michigan’s hot start with many blowout wins at home, the team struggled against better defenses like Wisconsin and Iowa. OSU has not surrendered more than 24 points in any game, plus this unit boasts one of the best turnover margins in college football (+14). If Ohio State can get pressure by just rushing the defensive line, this will turn into a bunch of short drives for Michigan as well.

If one of these defenses is not as good as expected, then this game could turn lopsided very quickly. If both defenses are championship-caliber as advertised, then the game will potentially be decided by small things like mistakes and special teams play. Every score would be critical if this comes to pass and the defenses dominate.

2 Key Stats:

— 21.1% and 5.0%. That’s the third down conversation rate for opponents against Michigan, overall and then in third-and-long (8+ yard) situations, respectively.  The Buckeyes and the Wolverines both hold opponents under 30% conversions on third downs, but Michigan is a step ahead when a deep dive is taken into the specifics. For example, in those third-and-long situations, Michigan is nearly flawless at stopping opponents, while OSU gives up a more reasonable 21% conversions. Thus, a key for OSU will be avoiding any negative plays and keeping “on schedule” so as to avoid the third-and-long conundrum entirely. Michigan simply needs to force OSU into this situation to make the game easy to control.

— 90 and 44. That’s the number of 10+ yard runs achieved by Ohio State and Michigan in 2016, respectively.  Just looking at the overall offensive run statistics, the Wolverines and Buckeyes look pretty even on paper. To this end, OSU averages 263 yards on the ground while UM averages 235, easily the best two marks in the Big Ten. However, Ohio State has generated this offense using twice as many explosive run plays as Michigan. Considering that the running game and defense appear to be key in this game, breaking off more big runs could make all the difference. To this point, the Buckeyes have shown much more capability in that regard.

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3 Key Players:

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan LB/DB/KR/RB/etc.: A lot has been made about Peppers and the incredible number of positions Michigan has used him at during the season. Indeed, his return game prowess demands the Heisman candidate be listed as a key player in this contest. But during the Indiana game, Peppers took 45 snaps at his (new) primary position of linebacker, which more than doubles his season average for snaps at that position.  That is likely more indicative of what Michigan plans to do with Peppers against the Buckeyes than scheming against the Hoosiers. Peppers likely will serve two roles: bring pressure to disrupt J.T. Barrett on occasion, and cover OSU’s best weapon Curtis Samuel on most plays. If Peppers is successful in this defensive role, Ohio State will need to prove it can rely on other athletes to make plays and generate scores, not something seen often from the Buckeyes so far in 2016.

Curtis Samuel, Ohio State H-Back: If Peppers is mentioned because he must likely contain Curtis Samuel (along with star CB Jourdan Lewis), then it is no surprise to see the best player on the Buckeye roster listed as a key contributor in this game. Ohio State has fluctuated back and forth almost every other week between giving more touches to RB Mike Weber or Hybrid-Back Samuel. Last week against MSU and the Maryland game included heavy doses of Weber, which means Samuel could be the centerpiece of offensive game plans against the Wolverines. No other receiver has really distinguished himself for OSU, and Samuel provides the best potential for busting big plays running or passing if he gets to open space. Samuel also plays a key role in the return game, just like Peppers. If Michigan wants to keep OSU’s score in the 20’s or less, Samuel (who has 650 rushing and 790 receiving yards to go with 14 touchdowns) must be contained as the first step.

Malik Hooker, Ohio State S: Despite J.T. Barrett’s struggles with finding touch on deep passes in 2016, Michigan comes into this game with bigger question marks at quarterback: either start John O’Korn, who went a paltry 7 for 16 passing last week for fewer than 100 yards, or a dinged up Wilton Speight. The Buckeye defense has been generating sufficient pass pressure with rushing four linemen only, which frees up linebackers like Raekwon McMillan and safeties like Hooker to roam around and help with the aggressive man-to-man pass defense OSU plays. That scheme is the formula which has produced 17 interceptions and 6 pick-sixes for the Buckeyes in 2016. 5 of those interceptions and 2 scores have come from Hooker, making him the most dangerous man to the Michigan QB. If Hooker and the Silver Bullets improve on their already-amazing +14 turnover margin thanks to Michigan mistakes, that will likely be what turns this rivalry contest.

 4 Staff Predictions:

Andy: Michigan 28-17
Dave: Ohio State 24-14
Phil H.: Ohio State 27-24
Philip R.: TBD
Zach: TBD

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