Ohio State is on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff rankings and has two more chances to impress the selection committee. The seventh-ranked Buckeyes will try to avoid a catastrophic loss when they host rival Michigan on Saturday. The Wolverines are one win away from bowl eligibility and are likely fighting for the future of coach Brady Hoke, who has been under fire all season and is dealing with a new athletic director.
Ohio State already clinched its spot in the Big Ten championship game but still needs to win two more and get some help from either the selection committee or an opponent of Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Mississippi State and TCU. The Buckeyes have dominated the rivalry over the last decade and pulled off a 42-41 victory at Michigan last season. “Winning the last game always means a lot,” Hoke told reporters. “I don’t think there’s ever a time with any senior class going out, in my experience, in this game when it hasn’t meant something. You want to be able to go back and say, ‘In my senior year we beat Ohio.’”
TV: 12 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Ohio State -21
ABOUT MICHIGAN (5-6, 3-4 Big Ten): Losses to rivals Ohio State and Michigan State have, among other defeats, put Hoke on the hot seat, and the team is on pace to miss a bowl game for the first time in his four-year tenure. “I think I have said it, I have never been worried about a job,” Hoke told reporters. “I am worried about the job we do for those kids.” The Wolverines had a chance to gain bowl eligibility last week but lost 23-16 at home to Maryland when they surrendered a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (10-1, 7-0): The Buckeyes have won a record 23 consecutive conference games and are bidding to become the first team in Big Ten history to complete three straight undefeated and untied seasons in conference play. Ohio State has surged since conference play began behind quarterback J.T. Barrett, who set the school record and is tied with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota for the national lead with 42 touchdowns, but he’ll be starting his first Michigan game. “We just make a huge deal out of rivalry games,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer told reporters. “I want the players to take ownership in the program, part ownership in the game. This is not another game. This is the game.”
1. Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliot has gone over 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the last three games – his second such streak of the season.
2. Wolverines QB Devin Gardner has eight TD passes and 14 INTs.
3. The Buckeyes have officially won 10 of the last 12 in the series, not counting a victory they had vacated in 2010.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 45, Michigan 30