Ohio State faces big expectations, big test against Michigan


By Jim Naveau - Staff Columnist



COLUMBUS — It’s no secret Ohio State football fans might be a bit spoiled by the success the Buckeyes have had over the years.

OSU is 10-1 going into today’s rivalry game against Michigan. A lot of places 10 wins would be greeted as a gift from heaven.

Not at Ohio State. Not when an undefeated season and a trip to the College Football Playoff are the goal from day one of every season.

Not when that one loss was a 29-point thumping by Purdue, a team which needs to beat Indiana today to become bowl eligible. Not when the defense can’t stop giving up big plays.

There has been more than a little grumbling about the shortcomings of this year’s Buckeyes in their fan base.

That is no surprise. But you don’t have to travel very far to find football programs that would take 10-1 with a few imperfections any season.

Some of the teams that would be absolutely thrilled with 10 wins regularly show up on the Buckeyes’ schedule because they’re in the Big Ten.

It starts with Indiana and Purdue, who have never had a 10-win season.

Minnesota has one 10-win season and Rutgers has two. Illinois has three seasons of 10 wins or more, Northwestern has four, Maryland has seven and Michigan State and Iowa have eight. Wisconsin has 12 seasons of 10 or more wins.

Michigan and Penn State have double-figure wins in 23 seasons. Nebraska has done it 26 times and Ohio State leads the Big Ten with 27 seasons of 10 wins or more.

If Ohio State (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) beats Michigan (10-1, 8-0 Big Ten) today, that would be 14 wins in the last 15 years over its biggest rival. If OSU would go on to beat Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game, that would be three Big Ten championships in five years.

But if those wins would not be followed by an invitation to the College Football Playoff, many Ohio State fans would be disappointed.

The Buckeyes play to a tough crowd. And they have a tough assignment today against Michigan.

Michigan’s only loss was 24-17 to unbeaten Notre Dame in its season opener. It ranks No. 1 nationally in total defense (234.8 yards a game) and has not given up more than 24 points in a game this season.

Ohio State has quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who has thrown for more than 400 yards in four games. Michigan has a defense that has given up more than 200 yards passing only one game this season.

Ohio State has J.K. Dobbins (915 yards rushing) and Mike Weber (712 yards). And Michigan has a defense that has held eight opponents to fewer than 150 yards rushing.

Quarterback Shea Patterson (2,177 yards, 18 touchdowns, 4 interceptions), a transfer from Mississippi, has brought stability and consistency to that position for Michigan. Patterson and Karan Higdon (1,106 yards rushing) operate behind an offensive line that is much improved since former OSU assistant Ed Warinner became the Wolverines’ line coach this season.

The match-up that might be most important, though, is Ohio State’s defense against Michigan’s offense.

The Buckeyes’ defense has given up too many points and far too many big plays and that is a problem that has not been fixed. It might be wishful thinking to imagine that problem can be corrected against the best team on the schedule.

The prediction: Michigan 35, Ohio State 28.

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By Jim Naveau

Staff Columnist

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

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