The Game lost a little bit of luster when Ohio State lost to Michigan State on Saturday evening, putting the Spartans solely in possession of their Big Ten East destiny. The winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game will have to hope Penn State pulls off an upset in East Lansing; otherwise, the winner of college football’s greatest rivalry will have only bragging rights and a better bowl placement to take away from it. But bragging rights are always enough in this rivalry. Let’s take a look at how the teams compare.
|Ohio State team stats & Michigan comparison|
|Ohio State | Michigan||Rank||Defense||Rank|
|Points Per Game||34.4 | 32.2||T36 | 51
||14.1 | 14.9||2 | 6|
|Rushing Yards||2,534 | 1,775||1,471 | 1,102|
|Rush Avg. Per Game||230.4 | 161.4||14 | 81
||133.7 | 100.2||30 | 4|
|Avg. Per Rush||5.5 | 4.2
||3.4 | 3.1|
|Passing Yards||2,131 | 2,505||1,807 | 1,792|
|Pass Avg. Per Game||193.7 | 227.7||100 | 60||164.3 | 162.9||T5 | 4|
|Total Offense||4,665 | 4,280||3,278 | 2,894|
|Total Off Avg. Per Game||424.1 | 389.1||48 | 72||298.0 | 263.1||8 | 2|
|Kick Return Average||23.4 | 30.7||32 | 2||16.2 | 20.3||5 | 44
|Punt Return Average||12.3 | 11.4||26 | 32||3.6 | 11.5||18 | 98
|Avg. Time of Possession||28:52 | 33:19||83 | 10
||31:08 | 26:41
|3rd Down Conversion Pct||38.0% | 44.0%||81 | 34
||33.0% | 23.0%||T23 | 2
|Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards||16-88 | 16-84
||T33 | T33
||32-181 | 29-224
||T14 | T25
|Touchdowns Scored||51 | 44
||19 | 17
|Field Goals-Attempts||7-12 | 14-18
||8-15 | 15-18
|Red Zone Scores||(35-44) 80%|(43-46) 93%||93 | 7
||(19-25) 76%|(21-25) 84%||23 | 64|
|Red Zone Touchdowns||(28-44) 64%|(32-46) 70%||(15-25) 60%|(8-25) 32%|
Ohio State is averaging 2.2 more points per game than Michigan and 35 more total yards per game. However, in Big Ten play, Michigan leads the conference in points per game (34.7) and Ohio State is second at 34.3, though the Buckeyes still have the edge in total yards.
Through the first 10 games of the season, Ohio State’s rushing game was one to fear with Heisman candidate running back Ezekiel Elliott. But he got just 12 carries against Michigan State on Saturday as Ohio State was held to just 86 yards rushing as a team. Quarterback J.T. Barrett got the majority of the carries with 14 for just 44 yards and that drew the ire of Elliott in his postgame comments.
“How we lost, I just feel like we weren’t put in the right opportunity to win this game, we weren’t put in the right situations to win this game,” Elliott said. “I don’t think Michigan State was better than us. They weren’t. We didn’t execute.”
Whether that earns him a punishment or an extra helping of carries this Saturday remains to be seen, but he’s still one of the best backs in the nation and he still ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 132.5 yards per game. He also leads the conference with 17 rushing touchdowns.
The passing game, on the other hand, has been wildly inconsistent this season. It ranks 100th nationally and 11th in the Big Ten, right in between two of Michigan’s last three opponents: Rutgers and Penn State. Those two managed just 201 combined passing yards against Michigan’s pass defense that ranks fourth nationally. Barrett doesn’t rank among the top 10 quarterbacks in the Big Ten in passing, and Ohio State’s leading receiver, Michael Thomas, ranks 10th in receiving yards per game (59.9).
Defensively, Ohio State is just a hair behind Michigan, ranking 30th nationally against the run and fifth against the pass. The Buckeyes do allow less than a point fewer per game, but that’s negligible. Two main differences between Ohio State and Michigan’s defenses are third down conversion and red zone defense. Ohio State ranks a respectable 23rd nationally, allowing opponents to convert third downs 33 percent of the time compared to Michigan’s 23 percent, which is second nationally. In the red zone, Michigan has done a much better job of forcing opponents to kick field goals. Both teams have allowed 25 opponent trips to the red zone. Ohio State has given up 15 touchdowns, while Michigan has allowed just eight.
Both teams are pretty good on special teams with dynamic return men. Michigan ranks second nationally in kick returns with the trio of Jourdan Lewis, Jabrill Peppers, and Jehu Chesson, all of which is a threat to take it all the way. Ohio State’s Dontre Wilson and Curtis Samuel rank 32nd in that regard. But Jalen Marshall’s 12.8-yard punt return average has the Bucks slightly ahead of Michigan in that category.
So what can we expect on Saturday? It’s too early for a prediction, but it’s a much more even matchup than any of us thought it would be entering the season. The status of Elliott and the psyche of a team that just suffered its first loss in 24 Big Ten games will play a major part in the outcome. Will they bounce back or will they crumble from their first experience of adversity? We’ll find out at high noon on Saturday.