No. 8 Ohio State aims to continue dominance over Michigan

 

 

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No. 8 Ohio State (9-2, 7-1 Big Ten, CFP No. 9) at Michigan (8-3, 5-3), Saturday, noon ET (FOX).

Line: Ohio State by 11 ½.

Series record: Michigan leads 58-49-6.

WHAT'S AT STAKE?

The Buckeyes need to win and beat No. 5 Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game to keep their hopes alive to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines are playing for pride, after losing five straight and 12 of 13 to their rivals, and to improve their postseason positioning.

KEY MATCHUP

Ohio State defense vs. Michigan's running game. The Buckeyes are giving up just 114 yards rushing per game, ranking 12th in major college football. Ohio State has allowed only one of its last six opponents to run for 100 yards. Michigan averaged just 88 yards rushing in losses to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State. In wins over eight teams with losing records, the Wolverines ran for 234 yards on average.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ohio State: J.T. Barrett. The dual-threat QB, who is 35-6 as a starter, needs a victory to tie Art Schlichter (1978-81) for the most victories by a QB. Barrett also holds 35 school records and five Big Ten marks.

Michigan: RBs Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. To pull off one of the biggest upsets in series history, the two running backs may have to team up to do something like Tshimanga Biakabutuka did in 1995 when he ran for 313 yards against the Buckeyes.

FACTS & FIGURES

The Buckeyes are enjoying the best stretch of success in the series since Michigan went 13-0-2 to open the series from 1897 to 1918. ... The Wolverines went 11-4-1 in the rivalry from 1988-2003. ... Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has as many Big Ten losses (three) in six seasons as Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has this year. ... The Buckeyes have clinched the East Division title, setting up a matchup with the Badgers on Dec. 2 in Indianapolis for the conference championship and a possible spot in the playoffs. ... Ohio State RB Mike Weber has 270 yards rushing, 13.5 per attempt, over the last two games to nearly match his production from the first seven games this season. ... Michigan LB Khaleke Hudson leads the Big Ten with eight tackles for losses, a single-season record for college football's winningest program.


Ohio State looks to keep playoff path open against Michigan

By ANDREW SELIGMAN ,  AP Sports Writer

Here's what to watch in the Big Ten this week:

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 8 Ohio State (No. 9 CFP) at Michigan.

Ohio State and Michigan will have a tough time matching last year's thriller, a 30-27 classic between storied rivals that the Buckeyes won when Curtis Samuel swept in for a 15-yard touchdown in the second overtime.

The game had huge conference championship and College Football Playoff implications. Penn State wound up meeting Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. But Ohio State got a spot in the playoffs.

The stakes aren't quite as high this time.

Ohio State needs a Hail Mary heave to make the playoffs, something no two-loss team has done, and Michigan is out of contention. Even so, Urban Meyer's and Jim Harbaugh's crews should have no problem getting motivated for the 114th meeting between these teams. Ohio State can also clinch the Big Ten East title outright with a win (or losses by both Michigan State and Penn State), and the Buckeyes have a date with Wisconsin in the conference championship game.

"The more experience you have with it, you understand the excitement of it, you understand the intensity of it, you understand just how important it is," Harbaugh said. "How immense the stage is. You come to embrace that. I would even say having experienced this, players who've played in it — after they're done with their playing career their appreciation for it and their understanding of how big it is grows even more after they've played."

BEST MATCHUP

Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett vs. Michigan's defense.

Already holding just about every school passing and scoring record, Barrett has a chance to make some more Buckeyes history. At 35-6 as a starter, he would join Art Schlichter as the winningest quarterback in school history if Ohio State beats Michigan. The Buckeyes boast the Big Ten's top offense, while the Wolverines' defense ranks second in the conference.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Big Ten West champion Wisconsin extended its best start to 11-0 with last week's victory over Michigan. The Badgers come into Saturday's game at Minnesota with a school-record 14 consecutive Big Ten wins. ... Northwestern, which plays struggling Illinois, has won six straight — its longest streak since a seven-game run in 1996. The Wildcats' 25 victories in the past three years are the most for them over three seasons since the 1903-05 teams won 26. ... The Wildcats' Justin Jackson joined Wisconsin great Ron Dayne as the only Big Ten running backs with four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He is also the ninth FBS running back to do that. ... Indiana's 41-0 thumping of Rutgers last week was the Hoosiers' first shutout in a Big Ten game since a 10-0 victory over Michigan State in 1993. ... Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue each need a win to become bowl-eligible.

LONG SHOT

Minnesota opened as a 16-point underdog against Wisconsin. Manhandled 39-0 by Northwestern last week, the Gophers are going against a team eyeing big things. The Badgers (No. 5 CFP) have their sights set on a conference championship, not to mention a playoff spot.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Penn State RB Saquon Barkley.

The Heisman Trophy candidate could be playing his final Big Ten game when the Nittany Lions visit Maryland. Barkley hasn't said if he'll forgo his senior season to enter the NFL. If his college career is winding down, he's had a spectacular run. Barkley ranks No. 2 all-time in rushing at Penn State and is its all-time leader in rushing touchdowns.