Ohio State, Michigan set for huge battle
Ohio State and Michigan always have a lot on the line in their annual showdown, but this year there are Big Ten and playoff implications all over the board.
COLUMBUS, OHIO >> Besides having national playoff implications, this year’s Ohio State vs. Michigan game is full of questions, story lines and intriguing matchups.
Can Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett solve Michigan’s best-in-the-nation 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 Ohio’s State’s 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 Saturday afternoon after No. 2 Ohio (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) State 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,” Ohio State 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.”
LET’S GET PHYSICAL >> Peppers said he has watched other teams, including Penn State, Wisconsin and Northwestern, give the Buckeyes problems by getting extra physical. He and the Wolverines plan to test their rival in the same way.
“We’re going to see how they respond with physicality,” Peppers said. “We come with bad intentions. It’s never our intention to hurt anyone, but when we hit you, we want you to feel it.”