Ohio State coach Ryan Day speaks in a direct manner fitting his Northeast roots. His bluntness often cuts to the core.
After the Buckeyes beat Notre Dame in their season opener, the theme of the win was Ohio State showing grit, a more refined defense and some of the toughness perceived to be missing from the previous edition of the Buckeyes. “We wanted to be known as something other than talented,” Day said postgame.
Will that end up happening in 2022? The ultimate referendum looms this weekend. The stakes will be historic, as Day’s No. 2 Buckeyes (11-0) and Jim Harbaugh’s No. 3 Wolverines (11-0) are both undefeated heading into The Game for the first time since 2006. A potential Big Ten title, a College Football Playoff bid and bragging rights from a rivalry at full tilt are at stake.
Ultimately, the judgement of success of this Buckeyes team will come down to how it responds to last year’s 42-27 loss to Michigan, with the Wolverines ending an eight-game losing streak in the rivalry. Both teams rank in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense and scoring defense this year, a testament to the caliber of game we can expect on Saturday.
Who will win? ESPN spoke to 15 coaches and NFL scouts familiar with the teams to break down the matchup. Ten picked Ohio State to win, five predicted Michigan and no one forecast a blowout.
“Ohio State’s passing game is as good as college football has seen,” said one coach. “Michigan’s run game is as good as anyone has seen.”
The theme of the picks drilled down to belief in a more talented team (Ohio State) or a team that some — though not all — believe can execute better overall, in part, because of complementary football and balance in all three phases.
Here are the 11 biggest things to watch from the coaches and scouts who’ve studied Ohio State and Michigan.
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