Michigan football: Wolverines-Buckeyes for B1G crown seems inevitable
Well, it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion at this point: Michigan and Ohio State’s annual regular-season-ending rivalry fiesta will ultimately decide the champion of the Big Ten and, quite likely, the conference’s representative for the College Football Playoff.
It’s too bad that Michigan, No. 5 in the initial Playoff rankings, and Ohio State, sitting at No. 2, can’t play twice this season: Once on the final Saturday of November, and then again for the Big Ten title on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis. They are clearly the 2 best teams in the league and, obviously by their rankings, among the best in the country.
Michigan is coming off a field goal-friendly 29-7 home win over Michigan State. Ohio State had some trouble in Happy Valley before sneaking out with a 44-31 win over the No. 13 Nittany Lions. Michigan, despite some stalls on offense vs. the Spartans, continues to grow stronger each week. The past 2 weeks, vs. Iowa and Penn State, have exposed some flaws in Ohio State.
If basing on a common, top-level opponent, then comparing each team vs. Penn State would serve as the logical standard of measure. The Wolverines looked much better at home vs. Penn State when compared to the Buckeyes’ performance this past Saturday, leaning — at least from this point of view — the Big Ten title odds toward the Wolverines. With that said, it looks like both teams will be undefeated when they meet Nov. 26 at The Shoe in Columbus — and we could end up seeing something comparable to 2006, when No. 1 OSU battled No. 2 UM (42-39W) in one of the greatest games in college football history.
The Wolverines will be at Rutgers this weekend before hosting Nebraska and currently No. 14-ranked Illinois. Then it’s off to take on the Buckeyes for all the chips.
There is not a game on the Wolverines’ schedule, other than Ohio State, that presents a chance of a loss. According to ESPN’s FPI, Michigan has a 16.7 percent chance of running the rest of its table, a 49.9 percent chance at making the CFP and an 8.9 percent chance of winning the national title. ESPN gives Michigan roughly a 20 percent shot at winning the Big Ten, but it looks like a postseason appearance could happen.
Predicting Michigan to win out the rest of its schedule wouldn’t be crazy. UM’s offense has never looked better under coach Jim Harbaugh, whose Wolverines are winning games by 29.5 points, the third-best margin of victory in college football.
Guess who’s winning by the most each Saturday?
Here come the Buckeyes
Ohio State puts up points by the bunch and leads the nation in winning margin (32 PPG) and wins by 35.7 when at home. Like Michigan, OSU has all kinds of firepower at skill positions and features 2 of the best running backs in the nation with TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams. They’re both 500-yard rushers and touchdown-makers. Williams has 10 and Henderson has 6.
Michigan’s Blake Corum has 14, but who’s counting?! Right?
While both teams can throw the ball, this year’s UM-OSU could easily be settled on the ground.
There is no doubt that Ohio State, despite a hiccup vs. PSU, will be undefeated going into Nov. 26. The Buckeyes will be at Northwestern this weekend, then they’ll host Indiana, travel to Maryland and have Michigan at their place to end the season. Other than Michigan, there doesn’t look like there is much trouble on the horizon for Ryan Day’s juggernaut.
ESPN’s FPI basically guarantees a postseason spot for Ohio State (85.6 percent) and a conference title (68.6 percent). As usual, The Game will be a major determining factor for both teams — but typically, at least lately, it’s been more of a bragging rights and pride. Now that Michigan has stepped back into the national spotlight, these meetings will once again decide Big Ten championships and the pecking order in College Football Playoff bracket.
Ohio State has the edge with the numbers/predictions. Yeah, it’s a little easier — given their recent track record — to give the nod to the Buckeyes and assume they’ll have better chances to make the CFP when compared to Michigan. But for the past 2 seasons, Harbaugh has found something special with his roster. He’s had good teams during his 7 years but this year’s team has an “it” factor and confidence.
It was thought of during the preseason and it now it’s coming to fruition: The Big Ten’s regular-season champion will be crowned on Dec. 3. Given their current trajectories, it’s possible that Michigan and Ohio State find their way into the postseason and, in theory, could face each other twice in the same season for the first time.