‘We’re play­ing for it all, pretty much’

Lots at stake in must-win game for Michi­gan, Ohio St.

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Mitch Stacy

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.”

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