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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

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

Greg Schiano out at Ohio State, Michigan’s Mattison reportedly in

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In terms of rivalries, there is no more intense in the Big Ten than Michigan an Ohio State. It’s one that lives on in the fans, players and coaches for 365 days a year.

On Jan. 7, 2019 things got a whole lot more interesting for the next 365 days that’s for sure.

First, news broke that defensive coordinator Greg Schiano will not be back with the Buckeyes under new head coach Ryan Day. Many believed this past season wasn’t up to par for the Buckeyes and Schiano seemed likely to take the fall for that.

OSU finished this season ranked 72nd in total defense after back-to-back seasons in the top 10 of that category nationwide. The Buckeyes gave up over 400 yards of total offense this year as well.

So, who will replace Schiano? In a really interesting twist, multiple reports have come out stating that Day has his replacement ready — in the form of Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison.

According to Mike Sullivan of 97.1 The Ticket, Mattison’s contact with Michigan was about to be up and that Harbaugh chose not to renew his deal.

Thus, he is a free agent and Day has chosen to scoop him up.

Mattison is very familiar with this rivalry, having served as Michigan’s defensive coordinator under Brady Hoke (2011-2014) and then accepting just the defensive line coaching position on Jim Harbaugh’s staff.

His defenses were very consistent in his four seasons as defensive coordinator. Michigan was never worse than 31st in the country in total defense and peaked at No. 6 in his final season at the helm of the Wolverines defense.

Coaches plying their trade on both sides of the rivalry is nothing new, but it is a rarity overall.

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Buckeyes Football

BREAKING: Urban Meyer announces retirement

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Last week, FootballScoop.com reported that Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer would be stepping down by the end of the 2019 season and likely by the end of this season.

They also reported that Ryan Day would take over as the new head coach once that happened. 

After a weekend in which the rest of the media attempted to discredit the report, it is now exactly what is happening. 

Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com broke the news early this morning.  In the report, Lesmerises notes that Meyer is being forced to step down due to complications from a cyst on his brain. 

The Rose Bowl game against Pac-12 champion Washington will be the final game he will coach at Ohio State. 

Additionally, Ryan Day, who replaced Meyer as interim head coach while he was serving a three-game suspension to start the year will take over as the full-time head coach starting next season. 

More information will be made available at a news conference scheduled for 2pm ET. 

Meyer has had one of the most successful tenures as a head coach in Buckeyes history. He’ll retire having never lost to Michigan (7-0), won three Big Ten championships and with an 82-9 overall record at the helm of the Scarlet and Gray. 

OSU athletic director Gene Smith is the one who decided Day would get the job on a permanent basis, seeing what the Buckeyes did under his leadership in that three-game stint earlier this year and hoping to ride the wave of young coaches making big splashes. 

His rise up the coaching ranks comes just as the Buckeyes are putting up some of the most dynamic numbers in the pass game that college football has ever seen. 

Star quarterback Dwayne Haskins could potentially top the 5,000-yard and 50 touchdown marks in the upcoming Rose Bowl game. 

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Buckeyes Football

Talking10 Podcast Episode 100: Something, something Urban Meyer

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Ohio State made its decision on Urban Meyer. Andy and Phil are here to break it all down for you and give you the truth in a hazy situation. What better way to celebrate episode 100 of the podcast than to spend 50 minutes breaking down a mess of a situation in Columbus, right?

We’ll talk our reactions to the press conference, break down the actual findings of OSU’s investigative report and we’ll even talk how the media-at-large and the OSU media handled the fallout from Wednesday night’s press conference.

Don’t forget you can listen to the podcast each week via Radio Public and other podcasting apps. 

Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @talkingB1G

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Buckeyes Football

Urban Meyer and OSU AD put on suspension following investigation

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The media stakeout of the Ohio State Board of Trustee’s meeting can now end. It only took 12 hours or so, but answers finally came. 

According to multiple reports, including from the AP, OSU head coach Urban Meyer is suspended for the first three games of the season. In addition, athletic director Gene Smith will serve the same suspension from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16 — both will not receive pay during that time frame as well. 

Both came under fire as this story unfolded. It began just prior to the Big Ten media days in late July, the story that Zach Smith had been arrested for criminal trespassing in April of this year broke and Meyer fired Smith on Monday morning of the start of Big Ten media days.

Brett McMurphy then detailed in an exclusive report that Smith had previously been “arrested” back in 2015 for a second allegation of domestic abuse against his then-wife Courtney Smith. 

Meyer was questioned about that arrest and allegation from 2015 at media days and struck out against reporters repeated questioning. He would deny knowing of the arrest report back in 2015. 

However, further reporting by McMurphy put that denial in to further question and Ohio State decided to get to the bottom of it. 

Once Meyer was put on paid administrative leave, he would put a statement out admitting to knowing about the 2015 incident and alerting athletic administrators of the domestic abuse allegations. 

Meyer has stayed silent since that statement and awaited the outcome of the 14-day inquiry in to whom knew what and when and what action was taken. 

That investigation ended this past Sunday, with the committee verbally advising the Board of Trustees on Monday morning of its findings. Two days later, the Board of Trustees would come to meet publicly and then behind closed doors to discuss what would happen to Meyer and others involved in this situation. 

Meyer’s suspension is for the first three games, and on the field that is a big hit with three FBS games coming at the start of the season. OSU kicks off the year against Oregon State, plays a Big Ten contest against Rutgers and a massive game against TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

We will have more on this situation and the reaction to what Meyer and Smith had to say on the talking10 Podcast tomorrow. 

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