The Wolverine

December 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 64 of 67

DECEMBER 2018 THE WOLVERINE 65 I t's time for Michigan to do to Ohio State what Ohio State has done to Michigan for so long. Since Jim Tressel took the reins in Columbus in 2001, the Buckeyes have dominated this rivalry. They are 15-2 in that span, have won 13 of the last 14 games and have slayed the Wolverines in all six games under Urban Meyer. They have made this series absolutely mis- erable for Michigan. How has Ohio State done this? As the favorite. The Buckeyes have been the favorite 13 times in 17 games against Michigan since 2001 and 12 times in 13 games against Michigan since 2004. Not once in those games did Ohio State lose, and in more than half of those games, the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines by double digits. There were instances when this was in jeopardy and the Wol- verines were on the verge of an upset. In 2005, Michigan led by nine points with less than eight minutes remaining. In 2013, Michigan lined up for two after pulling within one point with 32 seconds left. In 2016, Michigan seemed to have stopped J.T. Barrett just shy of the first-down marker on fourth down in overtime. However, Troy Smith led the Buckeyes to two scores to complete the comeback in 2005, Devin Gard- ner's two-point pass was picked off in 2013 and the officials granted Barrett a questionable first down in 2016. Ohio State was just able to hold off the Wolverines each time. Ohio State's recent stretch of dominance in this rivalry has not been the result of plucky upsets and scrappy underdog play. The Buckeyes have mostly just been the better team, particularly since 2004. As the Wolverines struggled to find stability during their transition from the end of the Lloyd Carr era to Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, OSU was vying for championships on an annual basis. Even when things seemed rocky after Tressel's resig- nation in 2011, Meyer fell into the Buckeyes' lap the following offsea- son, and until recently, the Buckeyes had been humming. When they have been the better team, they have proved it on the field. Now it's Michigan's turn to do the same. As of the date of this writing, the Wolverines have won nine straight games after a season-opening loss to undefeated Notre Dame, including a three-game stretch where they out- scored Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State by a combined 74 points and outgained them by nearly two yards per play (1.95). Only Ala- bama and Clemson have been play- ing better football than Michigan, and as a result, the Wolverines are currently in control of their College Football Playoff destiny. On the other hand, Ohio State, for the first time in a while, is showing cracks after a turbulent offseason. Though the aerial attack has ex- ploded with quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the ground game has been stagnant for much of the season without the threat of Haskins' legs. Further, the Buckeyes' defense has been susceptible to big plays. They are tied for 108th in allow- ing plays of 30 yards or more and 115th in defensive explo- siveness. This has permitted teams like Minnesota and Ne- braska to give them scares in the Horseshoe, while Purdue blew them out in West Lafayette. Accordingly, Michigan by almost all accounts has been considered the better team this season even though they have identical records. As of this writing, S&P+ ranks U-M fourth and OSU eighth and projects that the Wolverines will outduel the Buckeyes by 4.5 points on the road. Vegas agrees, with Westgate's SuperBook listing U-M as a 3.5-point favorite as of Nov. 12. Assuming there are no signifi- cant swings between Nov. 12 and Nov. 24, the Wolverines will be the favorite against Ohio State for the first time since 2011 and second time since 2004. This is Michigan's chance to re- turn the favor. This is Michigan's chance to prove on the field that it is the best team, just like Ohio State had done for more than a decade and half. The Buckeyes refused in those situations to allow the Wolver- ines to experience the sweet taste of success, triumph and glory. Now the Wolverines can be just like them and deprive them of the same. And odds are that those will all be on the line Nov. 24. Unless Michigan beats Indiana and Ohio State falls to Maryland, who has been mired in controversy and turnover after the tragic death of Jordan McNair, "The Game" will decide the Big Ten East champion. The winner will head to Indianapolis to face Northwestern for the conference title and potential CFP berth. There's no better time than for Michigan to show why being the fa- vorite matters in "The Game." ✦ INSIDE THE NUMBERS   DREW HALLETT 'The Game' Of Favorites Michigan should head into its regular-season finale with Ohio State favored for the first time since 2011 and just the second time since 2004. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Staff writer Drew Hallett has covered Michigan athletics since 2013. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @DrewCHallett.

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