LAST WEEK RECAP
Michigan finished up the road portion of their regular season schedule with an impressive 39-14 disassembly of the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington.
NEXT UP: vs. Ohio State: 1st, 36.2
PREGAME SP+: Ohio State by 11.0, Michigan Win Probability 26%
The Buckeyes’ SP+ rating score (36.2) is 59% higher than #10 Michigan’s (22.7). On the other hand, Michigan has beaten the SP+ projected margin in 8 consecutive games. The Wolverines have outperformed the projected margin by an average of 14.5 points since Week 4 @ Wisconsin, and by an average of 21.4 since Week 8 @ Penn State.
Michigan Offense (26th) vs. Ohio State Defense (1st)
With just under 5:00 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Ohio State’s Sevyn Banks returned a blocked punt for a touchdown to increase the 2018 Buckeyes’ lead over Michigan to 15 points 34-19. This is the moment the wind left the sails for the Wolverines and for the fan base. With 19+ minutes remaining in game time, I did not believe the Michigan offense would be able to change gears to the hurry-up passing attack necessary to come from behind. That need to be able to change gears on offense, I believe, led to the January 10th hiring of Josh Gattis as offensive coordinator. The early season transition costs were steeper than I predicted, and a Big Ten Championship berth is not possible. However, those transition costs were absorbed to buy the chance for success in this game vs. Ohio State. In that regard, Gattis and Jim Harbaugh have this unit peaking at the right time with added flexibility to exploit scoring opportunities against the Buckeyes.
Michigan Defense (5th) vs. Ohio State Offense (5th)
Like Harbaugh and Gattis, Don Brown and his staff designed a sharp transition triggered by the 2018 Ohio State game. The defensive evolution also came with significant cost. Wisconsin exploited major mistakes in the run game in Week 4, and Penn State did so through the air in Week 8. But, as October turned into November the Michigan defense re-emerged as a top-tier unit. The Wolverines drowned Notre Dame in a first-half rain storm and the Irish could only muster 180 total yards. Indiana’s passing attack leads the Big Ten in 2019, but barely crept over 200 yards passing last week versus Michigan. Don Brown does not have to be perfect in this game, but he will have to utilize every tool in his belt to bottle up JK Dobbins and Justin Fields on standard downs. If Michigan can force the Buckeyes into passing downs (2nd & 8+ or 3rd/4th & 5+), the Wolverines’ speed personnel can attack Ohio State from all angles.
PREDICTION: The Wolverines and Buckeyes share 3 SP+ top-25 opponents: Wisconsin, Penn State, and Indiana. Michigan’s resume also includes victories over 2 more: Iowa and Notre Dame. I believe this particular version of The Game sets up much more evenly than most analysts. The Wolverines are averaging 26.8 points in 5 games against current SP+ top-25 defenses. The 4 top-25 offenses have scored an average of 22.8 points against Michigan’s defense. Ohio State is better than those other teams, but this isn’t the same Michigan team either.
Michigan 30 Ohio State 27 (PRESEASON Michigan 37 Ohio State 33)
MICHIGAN RESUME UPDATE (11/26/19), 9-2
- SP+ Overall: 10th (same), 22.7
- SP+ Offense: 26th (↑8), 35.0
- SP+ Defense: 5th (same), 12.7
- SP+ Special Teams 52nd (↓3) 0.3
- CFP Rank: 13th (same)
- AP Poll: 10th (↑2), 913
- Coaches’ Poll: 11th (↑1), 893