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Michigan vs Ohio State 2022: Preview, 3 bold predictions for The Game

Matt Johnson
Michigan vs Ohio State
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan vs Ohio State has arrived. The Game kicks off on Saturday and the stakes have never been higher for the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes.

Saturday’s matchup marks the first time since the 2006 Michigan vs Ohio State game that both rivals are undefeated and land in the top four of the college football rankings. If that isn’t enough a spot in the College Football Playoff 2022-’23 and the Heisman Trophy could be at stake.

Before diving into our Wolverines vs Buckeyes preview and bold predictions, here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s matchup.

Michigan vs Ohio State 2022 info

  • When: Saturday, November 26
  • Time: 12:00 PM ET
  • TV Info: FOX
  • Location: Ohio Stadium
  • Radio: WXYT-FM (97.1), WTKA-AM (1050), WWJ-AM (950)
  • Spread: Ohio State, -7.5

Related: Heisman Watch

The first Michigan vs Ohio State game was played on Oct. 16, 1897, a 36-0 victory for the Wolverines. They would go on to win 15 consecutive matchups against their rival, but the all-time series is much closer now with Michigan holding a 59-51-6 advantage.

Before the Week 13 college football schedule begins, let’s dive into our Michigan vs Ohio State preview followed by our predictions.

Key matchups to watch

Blake Corum vs Ohio State Buckeyes’ run defense

NCAA Football: Illinois at Michigan
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to know just how important running back Blake Corum is to the Wolverines’ offense, look no further than Week 12. The Heisman candidate erupted on the opening drive for a 37-yard run and then punched into the end zone from the 2-yard line, finishing the series with 44 yards.

On Michigan’s next possession, Corum received four touches and turned them into a combined 45 scrimmage yards. The Wolverines ended that series in a punt, with quarterback J.J. McCarthy throwing one incompletion and recovering his own fumble.

Illinois – the sixth-best run defense in the FBS (96.1 rush ypg) – contained the Doak Walker award finalist on the next two drives, but Michigan also limited his workload with just four touches. Corum erupted again late in the second quarter, gaining 36 yards on his first four touches.

  • Blake Corum stats (2022): 1,457 rushing yards, 5.9 yards per carry, 19 total touchdowns
    • Road: 4.9 yards per carry, 4 rushing touchdowns
    • November: 5.7 yards per carry, 4 rushing touchdowns
    • Between 40s: 7.3 yards per carry

Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury that caused his fumble inside the red zone and the Fighting Illini recovered. After he left the game, the Wolverines’ never returned to the end zone in a 19-17 victory. Based on Corum’s comments at a charity event he hosted, he should play Saturday.

Assuming Corum is healthy, he draws another challenging matchup. Ohio State ranks 13th in the FBS against the run, surrendering just 107.9 rush ypg. However, context plays an important role in that figure.

Because the Buckeyes have jumped out to big leads, opponents have to abandon the run game earlier. It’s evidenced by the fact that Ohio State ranks 82nd in opponents’ run play rate (53.8%). The defense does have the third-lowest yards per carry (3.1) allowed. Here is how Ohio State’s last five opponents have fared on the ground.

  • Iowa Hawkeyes: 35 carries, 77 yards, 2.2 ypc
  • Penn State Nittany Lions: 33 carries, 111 yards, 3.4 ypc
  • Northwestern Wildcats: 59 carries, 206 yards, 3.5 ypc
  • Indiana Hoosiers: 40 carries, 150 yards, 3.8 ypc
  • Maryland Terrapins: 31 carries, 84 yards, 2.7 ypc

Michigan, which boasts the 11th-highest rush rate (61.5%), should fare better at the line of scrimmage and Corum is the best running back Ohio State will face all year. If the Wolverines are going to win, Corum must eclipse 100 yards.

C.J. Stroud vs Michigan Wolverines’ secondary

Syndication: Journal Sentinel
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK / USA TODAY NETWORK

C.J. Stroud and the Buckeyes’ offense hasn’t been quite as explosive as fans are used to seeing, at least not lately. A variety of factors play into that and Ohio State is still winning games, but the overall effectiveness of the passing attack has dipped.

  • C.J. Stroud stats (Week 1-6): 207.57 QB rating, 70.6% completion, 289.5 pass ypg, 10.86 ypa
  • C.J. Stroud stats (Week 8-12): 156.9 QB rating, 61.9% completion, 250.8 pass ypg, 8.53 ypa

While Marvin Harrison Jr. is arguably the best wide receiver in college football and sophomore Emeke Egbuka will soon give the Buckeyes’ two receivers with 1,000-plus yards and 10 touchdowns, the continued absence of Jaxon Smith-Njigba has clearly had some influence as the season went on.

Stroud is now facing arguably the best pass defense in college football. Through 11 games, opponents are averaging just 161.7 pass ypg (4th in FBS), 5.3 yards per attempt (2nd in FBS) with a 53.6% completion rate (6th in FBS) and a 99.5 average QB rating (2nd in FBS).

There’s another element of strength vs strength in this matchup, with a focus on the trenches. Ranked 88th in their percentage of passing plays (45.27%), the Buckeyes have the fifth-lowest sack rate (2.09%) allowed this season. On the other side of the line is a Wolverines’ front with a 9.49% sack rate, 18th in the nation.

It is worth keeping in mind, though, the caliber of opponents Michigan faced until now. Of the Wolverines’ 11 victories this season, none came against a top-40 passing offense. In addition, the best quarterback Michigan has competed against in 2022, Taulia Tagovailoa, ranks 38th in QBR.

Ohio State is running an offense with plenty of NFL talent, including future top-10 picks and he did drop 394 yards and two touchdowns last year against the Wolverines. Whether we get the first-half or second-half version of the Buckeyes’ passing game will have a huge impact on the outcome.

Michigan Wolverines’ red zone offense vs Buckeyes’ defense

NCAA Football: Illinois at Michigan
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

As previously mentioned, neither offense comes into the matchup riding a wave of momentum. It’s especially true when looking at the Wolverines’ offense inside the red zone. On the road this season, Michigan ranks 49th in red-zone scoring rate (87.5%). Of Michigan’s 59 red-zone trips this year, only 64% ended in touchdowns.

Turning six potential points into three would put the Wolverines at a greater disadvantage on the road in Saturday’s matchup. Improving the red-zone touchdown efficiency will also be challenging against a Buckeyes’ defense that has allowed a 59% touchdown rate to opponents inside the red zone this season.

J.J. McCarthy boasts a 10-1 TD-INT ratio with a 158.3 QB rating in the red zone this season, but he has completed just 51.5% of his pass attempts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. If he falters as we saw vs Illinois, the potential inability to match Ohio State’s touchdown drives could swing a one-score game.

NFL Draft prospects to watch in Michigan vs Ohio State

  • Ohio State Buckeyes
    • C.J. Stroud, quarterback – Projected top-10 pick
    • Paris Johnson Jr., offensive tackle – Projected top-15 pick
    • Jaxon Smith-Njigba, wide receiver – Projected first-round pick
    • Zach Harrison, EDGE – Projected Day 2 pick
    • Luke Wypler, center – Projected Day 2 pick
    • Dawand Jones, offensive tackle – Projected Day 2 pick
  • Michigan Wolverines
    • Blake Corum, running back – Projected Day 2 pick
    • Mike Morris, edge rusher – Projected Day 2 pick
    • R.J. Moten, safety – Projected Day 2 pick
    • Mazi Smith, defensive tackle – Projected Day 2 pick
    • DJ Turner, cornerback – Projected Day 2 pick

Predictions for Michigan vs Ohio State

Blake Corum comes through with a 100-yard game

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If Corum is fully healthy, he can become just the third running back to rush for at least 100 yards vs Ohio State. This isn’t an airtight defense, it allowed some big plays on the ground to Michigan last season and there have been hints of those same problems in 2022.

Braelon Allen averaged 7.2 yards per carry with 165 rushing yards on Sep. 4 at Ohio Stadium. A few weeks later, freshman running back Kaytron Allen turned 12 touches into 76 rushing yards (6.3 ypc) with a touchdown against the Buckeyes’ defense. Even junior Evan Hull (122 yards, 4.1 ypc) found some success on the ground and he didn’t have a 20-yard run. It’s enough to suggest that Corum will have a strong game, if he is anything close to 100%.

Marvin Harrison Jr. scores two touchdowns

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch

For as much respect as we’ve given to the Wolverines’ defense, a lot of their talent is upfront. Safety R.J. Moten is a future NFL player and freshman cornerback Will Johnson is an emerging star, but there’s a difference between that and an elite NFL talent.

Harrison Jr. isn’t only viewed as a future first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, there’s a possibility he could be in the conversation for a top-3 pick. Keep in mind, this could be in a draft class with Caleb Williams and Drake Maye. This is a 6-foot-4 offensive weapon that is essentially unguardable, with the size and talent to best DJ Turner paired with the experience and separation ability to get past Johnson.

These are the games we look back upon years from now when a player is one of the best at his position in the NFL and marvel at what he did against college competition. On the big stage, Stroud should make sure Harrison has a bigger game.

Ohio State Buckeyes win on the final drive

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Home-field advantage and the raucous environment at “the Shoe” will inevitably have an impact on this matchup. Both teams are matched up well statistically, with small holes on their resumes and both sides of the ball that could swing the outcome.

All of it sets up for an all-time classic that should come down to the final minutes. In that situation, much like the NFL, the logical move is betting on the best quarterback to come out on top. Stroud is that player right now, giving Ohio State a significant advantage at the most important position.

We think this is a relatively high-scoring affair with the final drives determining the winner. At home in Ohio Stadium with a chance to win the Heisman Trophy, Stroud comes through with a game-winning drive that is capped off with celebration as senior Noah Ruggles drills the winner that clinches the Buckeyes’ spot in the CFB Playoff.

  • Prediction: Ohio State Buckeyes 34, Michigan Wolverines 31