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One of the most fierce rivalries in college football will kickoff Saturday when the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes visit the 13th ranked Michigan Wolverines. Since originally opening up as three-point underdogs over the summer, the Buckeyes have rattled off a season to remember coming into Saturday’s matchup currently sitting at 11-0. For a team with lofty expectations like Michigan, their 9-2 record to this point in the season has been deemed an underachievement, making this game essentially their Super Bowl. Let’s take a deeper look at what should be a Big Ten classic Saturday afternoon.
Saturday, November 30th, 2019 – 12:00 pm EST
Michigan +9, O/U 50.5 (via PointsBet)
After a Week 4 loss at the hands of Wisconsin, the Wolverines have stormed back this season, winning seven of their last eight with their only loss since coming in a tough environment on the road at Penn State. Following their loss to the Nittany Lions, Michigan immediately bounced back with a 45-14 throttling of the then top-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish and their once struggling offense has averaged 41.5 points per game. For Michigan faithful, it’s frustrating to think where this team could have been had this offense been present earlier in the season, as their defense has been one of the top-ranked in college football from the beginning. Through 11 games, the Wolverines rank 12th in the FBS averaging just 16.2 points allowed per game. The Wolverines’ secondary has been especially stout this season, ranking fourth in college football allowing just 161.1 yards per game through the air.
In the four seasons that Jim Harbaugh has been at the helm in Michigan, this Ohio State team is one of the scariest he has faced to date. With the most points scored (49.4) and the least points allowed (10.5) per game in the entire FBS, the Buckeyes are now a College Football Playoff (CFP) champion favorite, and for good reason. The last time we saw this Buckeyes team on the field was by far their hardest-fought victory of the season, a 28-17 win at home against Penn State that they failed to cover as nearly 19-point favorites. Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields had one of the more difficult challenges of his college career, throwing for just 188 yards and turning the ball over on a crucial late-game drive. If the Buckeyes hope to escape a showdown against the surging Wolverines with a victory, Fields and running back J.K. Dobbins will need to flip the script on their most recent (seemingly) pedestrian performance.
Looking at this game 10 ways to Saturday, I am struggling to find how this total is still hovering above 50. Michigan’s four-game run of lighting up the scoreboard has been impressive, but let’s keep it in context that they’ve been facing the likes of Maryland, Indiana, and a Michigan State team who had a hard time closing out Rutgers. With so much on the line for the Buckeyes, who need a win here and a win in the Big Ten Championship to secure the first or second seed in the CFP, I expect a conservative brand of football that leans on their defense and Dobbins to ground and pound the game home, just as they did against Penn State. In a game that I expect to dip below 50 well before kickoff, take the under early and often.