Michigan and Ohio State square off on November 25th, 2023 from Ann Arbor. The game will be a noon broadcast on FOX. Here is why we like the Buckeyes to win 33-17.
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It’s that time of year again, The Game – Michigan vs. Ohio State, the greatest rivalry in all of sports.
This year’s game kicks off at high noon from Ann Arbor on FOX and national media fundamentally does not understand this year’s matchup. The narrative from most pundits is that UM will run over the Buckeyes for a third straight year. Colin Cowherd says he plans to bet big on Michigan as a 3.5 point favorite. The FOX Sports playoff predictor has Michigan, not Ohio State, advancing to the CFP.
The run game stupid. The team that has won the rushing battle in this rivalry has won the last 20 games. The last time Ohio State beat UM despite being out rushed was 1994 – 29 years ago.
Because Michigan’s OL has won the Joe Moore award the last two seasons, and because they used all that beef up front to mash the Buckeyes in 2021 and 2022, many in the press assumes the Game will go the same way this season.
But, as Lee Corso likes to say, “not so fast my friend.” Chat GpT is less than reliable with current events because the LLM is trained on old information. The same is true for most of the lazy punditry surrounding the Game. Most college football talking heads haven’t noticed the change in Ohio State’s play over the last three weeks.
Yes, Michigan is 2-0 against the Buckeyes since COVID. But since 2000, Ohio State is 17-5 in the rivalry and Harbaugh’s combined record is 2-5.
Prior to the 2021 loss, Ohio State had won 4 straight in Ann Arbor.
Michigan’s offensive line is over rated
This isn’t the group that won the Joe Moore award last season. While the guards are solid, the 2023 version of Michigan’s offensive line is in deep deep trouble at the tackle position. LeDarius Henderson (an ASU transfer) and Miles Hinton (a Stanford transfer) have both spent time at left tackle and have both missed time in recent games. Henderson didn’t travel with the team to Maryland and Hinton left the game in College Park with what looked like a nasty knee injury. Henderson, the preferred starter at LT, was a guard at ASU and has struggled in pass protection (presumably because he lacks the athleticism to play LT against elite DEs). Hinton hasn’t excelled in pass pro either and despite UM’s assurances that he will play is likely out for the Game.
UM’s right tackle, Karsen Barnhart, struggled so mightily in pass protection versus Penn State’s defensive line that UM ran the ball on 32 consecutive plays to end the game to protect JJ McCarthy from injury. Barnhart’s lack of athleticism caused JJ McCarthy to take punishment that has many speculating the UM signal caller is at less than 100% heading into the Game.
In the Michigan viewing guide season preview, we had this to say about the UM tackle situation:
UM’s OL play has been fantastic in seasons past, winning the Joe Moore Award for best offensive line in the country two years in a row. However, Corum’s success this season will hinge on how well Arizona State transfer Ladarius Henderson holds down the left tackle position (Henderson is small to play tackle and has primarily started at guard) and whether Stanford transfer Drake Nugent can fill the big void at center left by Rimington Award winner Olu Oluwatimi. There have been some early signs that this year’s UM offensive line isn’t what it used to be, and that the group could actually be a weakness for the Wolverines.
Keep a close eye on the Michigan offensive line in this year’s rivalry game against Ohio State. The Buckeyes return one of the highest rated defensive lines in school history, with book-end 5 star starters in Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau. How well Michigan’s new starters at tackle hold up could decide the Big Ten East and the Big Ten Champion this season.Streaming stadium michigan football preview
The Buckeye D line is full of NFL talent
All of this begs the question: who plays tackle for UM in the Game?
Based on the depth chart, we predict that it will be a banged up Henderson at LT and Barnhart staying on the right side. For the first time since 2019, the Buckeyes are likely to hold an advantage in the trenches when UM has the ball. Ohio State boasts and all NFL defensive line that goes deep across the entire front. Jack Sawyer has been coming on in recent weeks to match the star power of his counterpart JT Tuimoloau.
If you’ve watched the Buckeyes closely in recent weeks, the emergence of Sawyer has pushed the play of the Buckeye D line to new heights. Up until the last few weeks, Sawyer was viewed as an under performer, and that is the version of this Buckeye team pundits are banking on. Those who watch the games see the long promised dominance of the 2021 recruiting class coming together at the right time.
To me, this means that Michigan will not be able to just lineup and “man ball” their way to victory against the Buckeyes. The interior of the OSU defensive line with Tyleik Williams and the trio of Mike Hall, Ty Hamilton, Hero Kanu is more than up to the challenge of handling Michigan’s veteran guard play. Michigan will be forced to throw the ball, and when they do, that Buckeye D line is going to eat with the pass rush.
If UM has to throw the ball after falling behind, things could get ugly.
Treveyon Henderson is a game changer
In last year’s game, UM was the far healthier team. The Buckeyes featured a very banged up Matt Jones at guard and an injured Dawand Jones at RT. The running back room was decimated, with Treveyon Henderson, Miyan Williams, and Evan Pryor all out for last year’s Game.
This year is completely different. The OSU offensive line is coming together and has stayed healthy. Rather than make Henderson play through an early season injury, Day and Hartline sat him until he was 100%, a decision that has paid dividends. When Henderson is healthy, he is the best back in college football.
Dallan Hayden is another running back to watch for OSU. Many in the media have wondered why Hayden hasn’t played more in previous games despite showing promise when he has been the featured back. Ostensibly, Hayden’s lack of playing time was due to the staff’s desire to preserve his redshirt, but I think it could have been designed to have Hayden fresh for the Game.
With 2 premier healthy running backs in Hayden and Henderson, the Buckeye pass and run game has a new dimension. It allows the OSU offense to take pressure off of Kyle McCord and avoid what could be a devastating Michigan blitz package. There are only so many defenders on the field. With Marvin Harrison Jr. drawing attention, Emeka Egbuka (a future first round draft pick) available, and Cade Stover at TE, UM will struggle to contain the Ohio State offense as long as they are not one dimensional – something the Buckeyes will avoid thanks to a healthy Henderson. I expect Henderson to give the Buckeyes momentum with some big plays early, as well as to sink in the dagger with a long TD late that blows things wide open.
That dagger will cement OSU’s rushing lead, and with it, the Game.
The Cheating factor
Who knows how much of a factor Michigan’s sign stealing operation had on game outcomes. Some say it had little impact, other that it was worth 20+ points a game.
I fall somewhere in the middle, but this much I do know; Conor Stalions will not be in the ear of the UM offensive and defensive coordinators during the Game as he has been in season’s past. If Stalions offered no advantage to the Wolverines, why did he stand next to the UM play callers during games?
TCU beat Michigan in last year’s CFP by beating them at their own game when it came to signs.
Further, some have speculated that JJ McCarthy, who is struggling going into the Game, is missing his coach after Harbaugh’s suspension.
I wonder whether McCarthy is banged up after Penn State, or if he isn’t the same QB without the opponent’s play calls. Should UM lose to Ohio State this year, it will give Buckeye fans an excuse for the previous two losses.
Watch the Game on FOX
The following live-TV streaming services carry FOX affiliates nationwide. Sling TV only carries FOX in select markets.