Week 13 – Michigan at Ohio State

Posted Nov 21, 2012

Week 13 Fearless Prediction – Michigan at Ohio State

Michigan (8-3) at Ohio State (11-0) Nov. 24, 12:00, ABC

Here's The Deal: It's easy to think about what this game might have meant if Ohio State was eligible to play for a bowl or the Big Ten championship.

At best, the 11-0 Buckeyes would be deep in the hunt for the BCS championship and would almost certainly be no worse than second in the human polls. This rivalry of rivalries would've taken epic proportions with so much on the line in Urban Meyer's first season.

At worst, this might have been the first of two games in two weeks. The Big Ten screwed up when it not only put these two in separate divisions, but also put the game at the end of the regular season. If it was eligible, Ohio State would've already wrapped up the Leaders' spot in the Big Ten championship, and Michigan would be fighting for the Legends' berth, needing to win while hoping for an Iowa upset over Nebraska.

But no, Ohio State isn't eligible for anything other than watching next week's conference title game on TV, making this the team's bowl game and the tone-setter for 2013. This is the game Meyer has been talking about and pointing to from the day he was hired, and while it really doesn't matter if the Buckeyes win, if they finish as the only unbeaten team in college football, it's going to make for some interesting discussions and arguments.

However, Michigan does need this win. Iowa isn't going bowling and might ramp up its intensity for the home finale against Nebraska, knowing it can potentially play the spoiler role. With the Husker-Hawkeye game on Friday, the Wolverines will know exactly where they stand when they take the field in front of what's sure to be a frenzied Buckeye crowd.

Michigan failed against Nebraska, but the other two losses came against the two possible BCS championship combatants, getting blown away by No. 2 Alabama and fighting hard in a 13-6 loss to No. 1 Notre Dame. Ohio State obliterated Nebraska and got past Penn State, but that has been about it. It took overtime to get by a mediocre Wisconsin team last week and an awful Purdue team several weeks ago. How weak has the Big Ten been? There's a strong chance that even at 11-0, OSU might not be in the top two in the BCS because of the computers.

Why Michigan Might Win: All of a sudden, Michigan is throwing the heck out of the ball. With Devin Gardner taking over the reins for a banged up Denard Robinson, the offense has received a shot in the passing arm with seven touchdown passes and three of the four best passing games of the season. Ohio State was able to pick off Taylor Martinez three times, but the relatively untested secondary was bombed on by Indiana for 352 yards and three scores in a desperate comeback attempt, and Penn State's Matt McGloin threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns. Depending on how Michigan uses the two-quarterback system, a red-hot Gardner could push the OSU secondary while also offering a rushing element that IU and Penn State didn't.

Defensively, Michigan's secondary has been stellar with the No. 1 pass defense in the nation. The defense gives up yards, and it allowed five touchdown passes in the last two games, but it's not getting bombed on. The Buckeyes have an efficient passing game, but it's not going to push the ball down the field on the Wolverines.

Why Ohio State Might Win: Yeah, Gardner might be playing well, but now he's going to see more of a pass rush. Ohio State's defensive front has ramped things up to another level after sputtering a bit early on. There were six sacks against Cal, and the line got to Taylor Martinez, but it went two games in a row without a sack and appeared to be struggling. Then John Simon ramped things up, helping the line come up with four sacks in the win over Penn State, generated one of the team's two sacks and several pressures in the win over Illinois, and dominated Wisconsin. Simon cranked out four sacks on his own in the win last week, and this week he and the Buckeye line should be able to get to Gardner, even though the Wolverine O line has been solid in pass protection.

On the other side, Michigan's defensive front doesn't do too much to get to the quarterback and it has to show it can hold up against mobile quarterbacks. Air Force's Connor Dietz ran for 61 of the team's 290 yards on just 14 carries, while Taylor Martinez ran for an effective 58 yards and Northwestern's Kain Colter took off for 82. No one is gouging the Wolverine D, but decent running teams are getting 100-yard days out of their backs. Ohio State has a solid running back in Carlos Hyde, but the spotlight will be on … What To Watch Out For: Braxton Miller. He came up with a first season with a few fun moments, and then came the date with Michigan, blowing up for a season-high 235 yards and two scores, while tearing off 100 yards and a score on 16 carries. In an ugly year for the Heisman chase, Miller can make a big final statement if he can come up with the win and build on the 1,214 rushing yards on 13 scores. Miller was great in last year's game. Denard Robinson was better.

No. 16 has come up some legendary performances over the course of his career with more than his share of statistical jaw-droppers, but his 14-of-17, 167-yard, three touchdown, no pick passing day with 170 rushing yards and two touchdowns might have been his sharpest overall game. Now he's being used in a variety of ways, with an elbow problem limiting his throwing ability. After missing two games, he was used mostly as a runner against Iowa with 13 catches and 98 yards, while also catching two passes for 24 yards. The Wolverine coaching staff is going to get funky with the ways it'll use Robinson and Gardner, throwing several different looks and formations at the Buckeye D.

What Will Happen: Ohio State will come out supercharged from the start. Now that Meyer and the Buckeye coaches know a little bit of what to look for with Robinson and Gardner, the defense won't be surprised and should be able to keep the big plays to a bare minimum. Both offenses will struggle a bit, but Meyer will pull a few tricks out of his hat as the Buckeyes put together a tough win highlighted by a long Miller run as the exclamation point.

CFN Prediction: Ohio State 23 … Michigan 17
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Michigan -4 O/U: 54.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Beware of Mr. Baker, 1 – Life of Pi): 5