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No matter the nickname you have historically placed on Michigan versus Ohio State, this year has another layer: College Football Playoff Play-in Game.
The winner will remain unbeaten, move to the B1G Title Game (as a heavy favorite), and be a near-lock to be selected to CFP. The loser can enjoy knowing it heads to the Rose Bowl against USC or Oregon. Sure the loser still has a path to the playoff, but it will need some help.
FanDuel is giving you a gift for this game. You don’t even have to get the winner right to get the bonus put into your account. Open an account in any legal state, deposit at least $10, and then bet $5 on either team, and you get $150 back. That is a win even if you end on the wrong side of The Game.
Another great aspect of this deal is that you do not have to bet the spread. You can bet straight winner/loser on the money line and enjoy the game knowing you are winning. Of course, we want to win the front end and not just the bonus.
So what is going to happen?
Usually, it is easy to look at recency and extrapolate: analyze the trends and determine how that will help in the upcoming game.
The problem is that both teams did the absolute minimum last week to get here unblemished.
The narrative will be that Michigan escaped with a win against Illinois. The 19-17 margin did come on a last-second field goal. Michigan lost running back Blake Corum and struggled without him. The passing game looked like it always does, which is suspect. The defense turned in its usually dominant performance.
The final score for Ohio State was a more convincing 43-30 over Maryland. Folks, it was a 33-30 game with less than one minute to play. The Terps shredded an Ohio State defense that had otherwise looked pretty solid all season.
Neither of those programs win the perception battle there. In my opinion, anyways.
The two things that will determine this game though were mixed in there.
Blake Corum and the Michigan passing game.
Corum gave a brief update that his knee is ‘structurally good’ but that it is ‘bothering him.’ He added that it is ‘fine’ and that he ‘will be back.’
All of that is great news for his long-term situation. However, leaving the game and needing an X-Ray on an undisclosed injury is worrisome. The update is simply too vague. When?
Corum has piled up 1,457 yards and 18 touchdowns, helping the Wolverines to go 11-0. The potential Heisman candidate is in the Top 5 of each of those stats. When he went down, the offense stalled.
The Michigan passing game has been pretty average all year. And pretty much the whole time Harbaugh has been in Ann Arbor. If this game is indeed on the shoulder of JJ McCarthy, at least he is confident.
“We’re better than last year,” he told reporters after beating Illinois. “We’re hungry and we want it more than anything so we’re gonna give it everything we got.”
Michigan won 42-27 last year. In Michigan. It didn’t make the trip to Ohio State in 2020, citing a COVID outbreak. The stadium will be plenty hostile, and CJ Stroud will be looking to have his Heisman moment.
I am a believer in defense winning championships. While pundits make noise about Michigan playing a light schedule, the differentiator game that will be cited is Ohio State beating Notre Dame. That was on Sept. 3. Marshall beat Notre Dame the next week. Stanford has beaten ND, too. Just because the Irish now-downed Clemson does not mean it is a relevant comp.
“Our identity is a smash-fest,” McCarthy added. I dig it, and I buy it.