‘We’re playing for it all, pretty much’
Lots at stake in must-win game for Michigan, Ohio St.
COLUMBUS, OHIO — Besides having national playoff implications, this year’s Ohio State-Michigan game is full of questions, storylines and intriguing matchups.
Can Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett solve the Wolverines’ nation-best defense?
Will Michigan superstar Jabrill Peppers be able to shut down Curtis Samuel, Ohio State’s do-it-all hybrid back?
Will injured quarterback Wilton Speight be healthy enough to play for Michigan? If not, can backup John O’Korn rebound from a lackluster performance last week to hurt the Buckeyes’ ball-hawking defense?
If Ohio State triumphs, does it belong in the College Football Playoff even without a conference championship on its resume?
Most of those answers will become clear this afternoon after No. 2 Ohio State (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) and No. 3 Michigan (10-1, 7-1) tangle in Ohio Stadium in the 2016 version of the storied rivalry.
“The Game” hardly needs any more hype, but it returns to the national spotlight for the first time in a decade because the winner is likely to end up in the playoff, with the loser shut out.
“Yeah, we’re playing for it all, pretty much,” Buckeyes center Pat Elflein said. “The stakes are always pretty high for this game. Everyone knows you can save a season by beating this team, no matter what your record is, but definitely the stakes are higher.”
Michigan tight end Jake Butt, who graduated from the same suburban Columbus high school as Elflein, said he can’t wait to get on the field at Ohio Stadium.
“No. 2 vs. No 3, really everything on the line,” Butt said. “For both teams it’s an absolute must-win game, so it’s going to be a great atmosphere. Everybody is going to be tuning in to watch this.”