The Battle of the Big Ten

By Sam Raudins.

The year is 1897. Ohio State and Michigan face each other for the first time in a game that would become known as the “Toledo War.” Michigan prevails 34-0.

The year is 1919. The Buckeyes clinch their first victory in the series, bringing home a 13-3 victory.

The year is 1969. Ohio State is undefeated under Woody Hayes, holding strong to a twenty-two game winning streak. The Wolverines manage an upset 24-12.

The year is 2013. The Buckeyes barely hang onto their lead by intercepting a two-point conversion with thirty-two seconds left in the game.

The year is 2016. All eyes are on Ohio State and Michigan as they gear up for the biggest game in college football this year.

As the Battle of the Big Ten approaches, it appears that there is no clear victor. Both teams are coming off of major blowouts: Ohio State destroyed Nebraska, who was ranked tenth prior to the game, 62-3, while Michigan did the same to Maryland 59-3. However, Michigan just suffered their first loss to unranked Iowa, 14-13. Now, the teams are even. Ohio State is now ranked second in the nation, while Michigan fell to fourth.

Ohio State has had a slow start to the season. Despite annihilating Bowling Green at the home opener, the games that followed showed fans a team they were wary of. Games against seemingly irrelevant teams were too close for comfort; games against relevant teams like Wisconsin and Northwestern had the Buckeye fanbase sweating, and a flat out loss to Penn State left players, coaches, and spectators nervous.

However, the game against Nebraska showed a rejuvenated Ohio State offense. J.T. Barrett had reliable protection in the pocket, Mike Weber tore up the field with 11 carries for 72 yards, and a pass game finally existed, as J.T. Barrett threw for a whopping 290 yards. This carried over to the following game against Maryland. The Buckeyes appear to be back in their groove, and with that, the statistics show that Ohio State and Michigan are bound to be a tough match-up.

Quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Wilton Speight are very similar players according to the Buckeye and Wolverines’ respective statistics as of November 5. Barrett has a 63.9% passing completion percentage with 227 attempts, while Speight is just below that, with 62.8% completion and 207 attempts. The Buckeyes’ leading rusher Mike Weber has racked up 140 carries, while the opposing leading rusher De’Veon Smith only has 109. Ohio State is definitely the rushing team, while Michigan relies heavily on passing. Receiver Amara Darboh averages 17.6 yards per reception, while Ohio State receiver Curtis Samuel averages 13 yards per reception. Each team has differing offensive strong suits, but Ohio State and Michigan are fundamentally very similar teams.

Defensively, Michigan is competitive. The Wolverines’ opponents only convert on third downs 19% of the time, while the Buckeyes’ have allowed their opponents to convert on 32% of their third down conversion attempts. However, Ohio State’s defense has the second-highest amount of defensive touchdowns in all of college football with six touchdowns so far. Michigan only has two. The Buckeyes are engineered to score on both sides of the ball, a weapon that will prove extremely useful against That Team Up North in The Shoe.

Michigan has averaged 48 points per game, only allowing their opponents 10.6 points. Overall, the team has gone 9-1. Ohio State, on the other hand, has averaged 44.8 points per game, letting their opponents score 13.8 points. After losing to Penn State, the Buckeyes are 9-1. However, this loss is not devastating. Penn State has become a worthy competitor of any top ten team and is currently ranked ninth according to the Associated Press poll. After Michigan’s loss to Iowa, Penn State looks even better, seeing that Penn State killed Iowa 41-14.

Overall, Ohio State has the better quarterback and rushing game, while Michigan prevails in the passing game but scores more points per game. After analyzing the statistics, I predict the Buckeyes will be victorious. They are led by a seasoned, consistent quarterback and have an effective rushing game. As proven in the Nebraska game, the offensive coordinators have changed their play calling in a productive way, showing that Urban Meyer has both a flexible team and staff. The game will be tough; there’s no question about that. But, the young team has momentum after demolishing a top ten team and has shown vast improvements over the past few weeks, and it is sure to be yet another Ohio State v. Michigan that will go down in history once more. November 26, 2016 will not be a date soon forgotten.