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For the 118th time since they first met in 1897, The Ohio State Buckeyes will meet on the gridiron to take on That Team Up North (TTUN). The best rivalry in all of sports is here. Each team has a path to the Big Ten Championship, the College Football Playoffs and eternal glory. However, to reach their dreams, they must go through one another, and that's the way it should be. "The Game" has decided the Big Ten Championship 25 times throughout its history, and the winner has moved on to play in the Rose Bowl no fewer than 51 times.
Since the turn of the century, this has been a fairly one-sided matchup with Ohio State winning 17 of the 21 matchups, but their winning streak against TTUN was snapped last year at eight games in Ann Arbor, which is the second longest in series history. With that win last year, Jim Harbaugh cemented his spot as head coach for TTUN as long as he wants after being placed on the hot seat earlier in the 2021 season for his inability to win "The Big One". Many hope that the TTUN win was the start of a new 10-year war between the two rivals like we saw from 1969 to 1978 between legends Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes.
These two have not met in Columbus since 2018 due to the 2020 game being cancelled due to COVID-19 within TTUN's program. The 2018 game was one of the most lopsided of the modern era, with Ohio State posting 62 points. The Buckeyes have won nine of the last 10 games and haven't lost in Columbus since 2000, which was the final year of the John Cooper era and led the way for the introduction of Jim Tressel and the era of Ohio State football dominance.
Ohio State will defend home turf one final time this year with the No. 2 offense and the No. 10 defense in the nation. The Buckeyes will likely have almost everyone in the running back room back and healthy, with the exception of TreVeyon Henderson, who was once again wearing a walking boot at the end of the Maryland game last weekend. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the biggest question mark, Ryan Day will not give an actual injury report until the day of, and it seems the return of JSN is unlikely.
The defense has not had any injury problems this season, and they have been the key to success here in the back half of the season. Any Buckeye fan who has been watching recently could point out that this new Jim Knowles defense has won game after game for Ohio State.
TTUN will come to town featuring the No. 2 ranked defense and the No. 9 ranked offense in college football. Their biggest question marks coming in to Columbus come from the running back room. One of the nation's leading rushers in Blake Corum was injured a week ago against Illinois. He left the game in the first half, passed his medical tests at halftime and returned for just one play before being pulled in what nearly became an Illinois upset. Their backup running back Donovan Edwards has also been dealing with injuries the last few weeks and is also questionable to play at the time of this writing. TTUN was also without one of the best tight ends in America in Luke Schoonmaker, who also remains questionable at this time.
Injuries or not these, two teams will have to show up with whatever they have if they want to win. There will be no excuses, there can be no mistakes. If one of these teams is going to win "The Game", they will have to be perfect.
This is war, plain and simple. This will not be pretty. This will not be enjoyable. You will be stressed, and you will be on the edge of your seat for hours. These are two of the Top 4 teams in college football in the final week of November with everything on the line.
The biggest key to victory for both teams is the line of scrimmage. Both teams want to run the football and both teams are Top 20 in rushing the football this season. Whoever controls the line controls the game.
TTUN can not throw with any consistency, and that is the only spot on the field these two teams are different from one another. C.J. Stroud is one of the best quarterbacks in America, and he works with the best wide receiver group in college football. TTUN will look to slow the game down and kill Ohio State's momentum with longer drawn out drives. Ohio State is going to want this game to be high scoring, as that plays away from TTUN's strengths of running the ball. Ohio State's gameplan will be to force them to throw with J.J. McCarthy and allow a great secondary to get involved. Ohio State has been so slow out of the gate this season that I just don't see them putting their gameplan in to action right away, so after the first quarter, I expect this game will still be close, with TTUN leading somewhere around 14-7.
I believe quarter two will also belong to TTUN. If they come out healthy, they have the weapons to beat Ohio State. The Buckeyes have struggled against taller receivers this year, and Schoonmaker could have a career day. They also have a great wideout in Ronnie Bell, who is one of the best underneath receivers in college. They like to get him the ball close to the line of scrimmage and let his athleticism do the work. TTUN will lead going into the half somewhere in the neighborhood of 24-10.
Day is one of the best at turning around a team at halftime. We have seen it before, and we will see it again. Out of the half, Ohio State will finally get the ball moving, the defense will finally wake up, and we will find ourselves a ball game thanks to whatever adjustments Day and Knowles will draw up. OSU will be down somewhere around 31-24 with 15 minutes to go.
TTUN has only trailed in the fourth quarter once this season, and that was last week against Illinois. They will find themselves behind again, as Stroud's Heisman crowning moment will come in "The Game of All Games", as he will lead the Buckeyes to a 39-38 walk-off two-point conversion to win it all and send Ohio State to the Big Ten Championship. Ohio State will only lead once, but that one second will be good enough to win.
Score Prediction: OSU Wins 39-38
These teams are too evenly matched for this to be a blowout. TTUN has been dominant, and there is no denying it. With a one-point last second loss, I believe TTUN could still make the College Football Playoff and potentially setup a National Championship game rematch, but, I give Ohio State the win for one reason: This Buckeye teams needs it more.
After a year of hearing a lot of talk from their rivals, all the critics, all the noise, they need to win. TTUN feels content this season; they got the win last year, but they haven't won back-to-back against the Buckeyes in over 20 years.
Betting Line: Ohio State (-7.5), Over/Under (56)
Take the over and not the spread. This game should hit the over of 56 with no problems. Only one of the last 1- matchups hasn't hit over 56 points, so this seems like the safe bet. I do not like Ohio State being favored by a touchdown. These two teams have been freight trains on a collision course this season. Anything less than a walk off just doesn't feel right.
How to Watch and Listen
TV: 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX & Fox Sports App
- Gus Johnson (Play-by-Play), Joel Klatt (Analysis), Allison Williams (Sideline)
Radio: 97.1 (The Fan) FM/1460 AM
- Paul Keels (Play-by-Play), Jim Lachey (Analysis), Matt Andrews (Sideline)
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