Hate week is upon us and after narrowly escaping East Lansing with a win against a struggling Spartan team, the Ohio State Buckeyes are on a collision course against TTUN. This game is the definition of what a rivalry is and what it should be. High stakes, high reward, high pressure to secure another win in this series. Rivalry week is the best week in College Football. Hands down. This years installment of The Game will feature two Top-3 teams in the nation. This will be the second time in the series, where both teams are ranked, and in the Top-3. The last time? The last time this happened was ten years ago when The Game featured the #1 Ohio State Buckeyes at home against the #2 ranked Team Up North. This game was played in high stakes fashion as the 42-39 win helped the Buckeyes stay undefeated and into the BCS National Championship Game, coincidentally against an Urban Meyer coached Florida Gators team. Flash forward ten years later, we have another high stakes game with huge College Football Playoff implications. #2 Ohio State will be wearing the LeBron Soldier cleats against the newly minted, #3, Jordan Branded Team Up North.
Last week, we saw a Buckeye team that barely walked out of East Lansing with a win. A one point win. I am a strong believer in “a win is a win”, and no matter how ugly it was, it is still added into the win column. The Buckeyes gave up huge chunk plays, early and often, only to stiffen up in the red zone. The coaching staff leaned on J.T. Barrett to move the sticks and with help from Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel, they won the game. On TTUN’s side of things, they also won, but not as big as some thought they would win. They played at home and beat Indiana by 10, with a final score of 20-10. Yes, it is a double-digit lead and win, but TTUN could have scored more. I mean for what its worth, Ohio State faced the same team and beat them 38-17 after struggling in the first half. Indiana is a tougher team, and they tend to improve year after year. We cannot judge it accurately based on both teams’ performance against a 5-7 team, so we will just have to wait and see.
I cannot emphasize how great this rivalry has been to me as a die hard fan. I think back at it, I lived in Guam for most of my life and I was introduced to College Football in 2005 when I joined the USAF, and I have been a fan ever since. Now? You would think that I was from Ohio. The passion and the affinity I have for the Buckeyes is very hard and too difficult to explain in simple words. This rivalry has ruined holidays for me and it stresses me out. This week has killed my soul a little bit because I do not want to lose to TTUN. This year will break the record for Number of Times Major Rivals met ranked in the Top 5 (11), edging the Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas (10). This game, The Game, is usually a high-pressure game, with both teams clawing, fighting and scrapping the entire game for bragging rights. As long as I have been a fan, I have seen great games that add to the tradition for both schools. Seasons are made or ruined in an instant and during this weeks game, the emotion of the game will be electric because so much is on the line. I can’t undersell the importance of this game.
The Ohio State Big-3 on offense, J.T. Barrett, Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel will be leaned on heavily. I cannot emphasize this enough as Coach Meyer often shrinks down his playbook to do enough to win. During The Game, with the crew from College Gameday and with a laundry list of highly ranked and touted recruits, and a ton of talented blue-chip prospects, I would hope that the offense starts off strong and continues it until the end. A lot of eyes will be on this game and the stakes are the highest that it has been in a long time. J.T. Barrett will need to move the stick early and often against a team led by upperclassmen. Jabrill Pepper and Jourdan Lewis will look to shut Barrett down by pressuring him early and consistently. The Slobs need to almost play a perfect, penalty free football game, and this is where it gets interesting. Ohio State has two experienced Slobs in Senior Pat Elflein and Junior Billy Price. After those two, you have a Junior in Jamarco Jones, a Sophomore in Isaiah Prince and True Freshman Michael Jordan, who played High School Football up north in Plymouth. Jones and Prince are prone to penalties, often holding on to defenders to keep Barrett upright. Elflein and Price also tend to earn flags, so we will see if they could work as a cohesive unit to control the line of scrimmage and to protect Barrett. Mike Weber will also be leaned on and he is one of three starters for the Buckeyes, who played up north in high school. He needs to be fed like Zeke and Hyde to control the clock. I will say that Curtis Samuel will also need more than the 8 touches he had during the Spartans because things looked bleak for a little while before they went for two. Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson, and the rest of the Zone 6 will also need to get separation against the opposing Defensive Backs. The team cannot be one dimensional as TTUN ranks in the Top-5 in just about every defensive statistic in the nation. Ohio State is in the Top-5 in most rushing statistics this season. Hopefully, they play with passion because this game is really important. Maybe Coach Meyer and his staff have some bulletin board material because I saw an excerpt from an interview with Peppers with him saying that “Ohio State does not do anything over the top that they cannot handle” and that “it is nothing that we cannot handle.”. I hope they have some plays that they have stashed away, that will unleash havoc on those Wolverines.
The Basic Ohio State Defense needs to show up this week. Last week, the Buckeyes faced a pro-style offensive scheme, that is similar to or close to what TTUN runs. Two Tight End sets with a steady dose old school, big boy football. L.J. Scott nearly beat the Buckeyes by himself and the team needs to focus on wrapping up the ball carrier and not overpursuing or overshooting plays. We saw that a ton against the Spartans and they will need to play a flawless game like the offense to get the win. Jake Butt, Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson will be the trio of receivers that the Silver Bullets and the Scarlet Curtain will have to stop. The Rushmen will have to stop De’veon Smith and the Running Back platoon that TTUN has. This will be a test as the TTUN’s Offensive Line is pretty good. There are a lot of variables that could change with injuries, fights, and ejections. The biggest question would be which Quarterback will they face. John O’Korn played last week and he did good enough to win. Wilton Speight, the starter for the majority of the season, was injured during the loss at Iowa, and his status is unclear at this point. There are reports that he is out for the season with a broken collarbone, but his head coach refutes those stories. Mind games or not, we cannot take this team lightly, and I doubt that they would, but it wouldn’t hurt to know. Until we do, we will have to prepare for both. It will be interesting to see if Malik Hooker matches up against Peppers, since he plays both ways. I am sure that the jet sweep will be used a lot, stretching the defense to open up holes. You truly never know and hopefully a Buckeye legend or Senior Captain will inspire each unit to maintain the dominance.
Prediction: Buckeyes over Wolverines 24-21.