No. 2 Ohio State (11-0) travels to Michigan Stadium to face No. 10 Michigan in the latest chapter of “The Game.” The Buckeyes are looking to continue their perfect season and hand the rival Wolverines their eighth straight loss in the series. Game time is scheduled for noon on FOX.
This will be the first-time experience for Ohio State coach Ryan Day. He was the offensive coordinator the last two seasons, but this is a rivalry game that can define a coach’s legacy. The Buckeyes lead the nation in scoring offense (49.4) and scoring defense (10.5), but this has always been the game that defines their season.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is 0-4 against the rival Buckeyes as a head coach, but the Wolverines are peaking at the right time. Shea Patterson has nine touchdown passes in his last two games, and the Wolverines have won by an average margin of 30 points over their last four games.
But you can throw those records out the window. “The Game” is on, and Michigan and Ohio State should be another classic. With that in mind, here’s everything you need for Saturday’s matchup:
Ohio State vs. Michigan odds
Spread: Ohio State -9
Point total: 55.5
Moneyline: Ohio State -110, Michigan -110
Ohio State is a 9-point favorite, according to odds at Sportsbook Review, and 60 percent of the wagering has come in favor of the Buckeyes.
Ohio State vs. Michigan all-time series
Michigan leads the all-time series 51-47-4, but Ohio State has roared back into the rivalry by winning the last seven meetings and 16 of the last 19 since 2000, including last year’s 62-39 blowout victory at Ohio Stadium.
Three trends to know
— Ohio State is 7-3 against the spread this season, but they have failed to cover each of the last two weeks against Rutgers and Penn State. The Buckeyes are 3-1 against the spread as road favorites.
— The Buckeyes have won the last three meetings in Ann Arbor by an average of 13.7 points per game. Ohio State averages 38.3 points per game in those meetings.
— The Wolverines are 0-8 as an underdog under Jim Harbaugh, and that includes a 1-1 against-the-spread record as a home underdog. Michigan is 30-4 at home under Harbaugh, but two of those losses are to Ohio State.
Three things to watch
Patterson lets loose
Ohio State has the No. 1 pass defense in the FBS at 126.2 yards per game, and defensive end Chase Young is a game-plan wrecker who leads the nation with 16.5 sacks. Expect Harbaugh to go right at that with Patterson, who has grown comfortable in offensive coordinator Josh Gattis’ offense. That has peaked the last two weeks with 750 passing yards, nine touchdowns and one interception. Patterson took six sacks in those two games, so he will have to avoid the fatal turnover with little margin for error.
Justin Fields factor
Michigan ranks second in the Big Ten in pass defense (161.1), and this is the most aggressive defense the Buckeyes will face. Dwayne Haskins cut up Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown’s defense with crossing routes last year, and Fields offers the added dimension in the running game. The Wolverines have allowed just nine passing touchdowns this season, but they have been a little more giving against the run (14 touchdowns). If the Wolverines can slow down the 1-2 punch of Fields and J.K. Dobbins in the backfield, then they will have a chance.
Nico Collins vs. Jeff Okudah
Watch the matchup between Michigan receiver Nico Collins — who leads the Wolverines with 20.9 yards per catch — and Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, who has three interceptions this season. Michigan’s receivers have to win one-on-ones with the Buckeyes’ secondary consistently and quickly to take the pressure off Patterson. The Wolverines had some success with that last season before the game got out of hand.
Stat that matters
It still comes down to running the ball and stopping the run in “The Game.” In the last four meetings, Ohio State averages 47.3 attempts for 262.5 rushing yards per game — an average of 5.6 yards per carry. Michigan averages 36 attempts for 102.3 yards per carry, an average of 2.8 yards per carry. The Wolverines need to be able to establish a running game in order to Ohio State down on both sides to have a chance.
Ohio State vs. Michigan prediction
This could play out like the 2017 game, where Michigan took a 14-0 lead before the Buckeyes settled in and tied the score at halftime. Patterson will make a few big plays in the passing game, but Young and a deep defensive line will eventually get home and force some errant throws. Ohio State will wear on the Wolverines with a relentless running game, and Dobbins will break the game open in the second half. The Buckeyes will take on one more touchdown in the fourth quarter to complete a perfect 12-0 regular season.
Final score: Ohio State 36, Michigan 24