Is this 2006 all over again or is this just fantasy?
Big Ten title hopes on the line. National Championship hopes too.
The only difference is divisional play in the Big Ten and this newfangled College Football Playoff thingy.
But, beyond that we’ve got ourselves the potential for one of the most important regular season games in Big Ten history on our hands. So, how do the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes take down the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines.
We’ve got five reasons for that plan to take fold.
Ohio State Has Offensive Firepower In Spades
How do you combat a really good defense? By having a really good offense of course.
It just so happens that Ohio State happens to have one of those…at least when you look at the whole season. The Buckeyes currently lead the Big Ten in scoring offense (43.8 points per game), rushing offense (263.1 yards per game) and total offense (493.1 yards per game).
But, it has leaned heavily on playing some sub par defenses this season. Ohio State has struggled with teams not named Rutgers, Nebraska and Maryland and when you take those results away, the Buckeyes offense is averaging just 26 points, 215 rushing yards and 380.6 total yards of offense per game.
Something has to give, but at least the Buckeyes know they are capable of going off against just about anyone at any point in time. If ever there is a game for the offense to go off, it has to be this one against TSUN.
The question is, which version will show up. If it is the one from earlier this season then the Buckeyes are going to win easily. If it is the one we have seen against Penn State, Northwestern or Michigan State, it won’t be a happy day in Columbus, Ohio.
Turnovers are Ohio State’s Speciality
Winning games like this often come down to turnovers and the ability to take advantage of the opportunities given. It just so happens that there isn’t a better team in the Big Ten at creating turnovers and not giving them up than the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is No. 1 in the Big Ten in turnover margin (+14) and are one of just two teams in the conference with a double-digit turnover margin this season. Packed in that stat are the 22 turnovers Ohio State has created, which is second in the B1G to Minnesota’s 23, and the fewest turnovers allowed in just eight so far this season.
A big part of Ohio State’s success, even in close games, has been its ability to take care of the football. Quarterback J.T. Barrett has thrown just four interceptions in 314 attempts so far this year, but it has been a hallmark of his time as the starter for his entire career. Barrett has committed just 18 total interceptions, with 10 of them coming as a freshman back in 2014.
It is also remarkable to see Ohio State’s secondary coming through given all the replaced parts to that group thanks to graduation and early entry to the NFL. To put it in perspective, last season’s experienced and highly touted group had just 21 turnovers in 13 games.
Michigan has given up just eight turnovers as a team this year, so you can bet the turnover situation is one to watch.
J.T. Freaking Barrett
Few players in Big Ten history have done what Barrett has done in his career. Unfortunately he wasn’t around to actually play in the National Championship game two years ago, but you bet he was integral to getting the Buckeyes that far.
He just so happens to be the same for this year’s version of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Barrett hasn’t exactly been the reason for OSU’s struggles as of late, passing for over 200 yards in five of the last six games. What has been the issue is turning that yardage in to point production, as Barrett has had just two games of more than one touchdown in the last six games and outside of a four-touchdown day against Maryland, he has just five other touchdown passes.
Of course, the passing game is but just half of the equation with Barrett and if there is anything that this season has taught us about Michigan’s defense it is that they don’t like dual-threat quarterbacks. Colorado’s Sefo Liufau had the best passing day by any quarterback up until Michigan gave up 289 yards to Maryland two weekends ago.
That happened to occur in less than a full game, as Liufau was knocked out with an ankle injury in the third quarter. It’s no coincidence that his team went from leading to suddenly in trouble and ultimately down to defeat when he left the game.
Michigan hasn’t faced a quarterback with the chops of Barrett since that Colorado game and that is advantage OSU.
So much is made out of home field advantage in pro football, but where the real home field advantage comes in to play is on the collegiate level. That has been the case for the Buckeyes under Urban Meyer to say the least.
Just take the month of November for instance — Meyer’s Buckeyes have lost just one game in the final month of the regular season since his arrival in 2012. That translates to an 18-1 record in November for OSU under Meyer.
As for this particular series? Michigan hasn’t won in Columbus since 2000 and you can bet the Buckeyes of 2016 know all about what is at stake in this game.
Interestingly enough, it hasn’t always been that way between the two as Ohio State owns just a 25-27-2 record at home all-time against Michigan.
These teams aren’t the old-school teams and you can bet these two teams have had the current 16-year streak drilled in to them. Will home cooking matter? If this game is close, you can bet the crowd is going to help the Buckeyes in a big way.
Don’t be surprised to see said crowd effect Michigan’s offense once or twice…or more and that would have a big effect on this game.