Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ohio State-Michigan pregame notes

ANN ARBOR. MICH. -- Some notes and observations before Ohio State and Michigan meet at Michigan Stadium:

-- Ohio State can clinch its second straight outright Leaders Division title with a victory. If Ohio State loses and Wisconsin defeats Penn State, the Buckeyes and Badgers share the title. The Buckeyes, though, have already earned a spot in the Big Ten title game because they defeated Wisconsin on Sept. 28.

Ohio State would become the final outright Leaders Division champion. The Big Ten is ditching the silly name and moving to an East-West format when Rutgers and Maryland join the conference next season.

-- Michigan has played some awful football against Ohio State in recent years.

The Buckeyes have won eight of the past nine meetings by a combined 278-169. Michigan's lone victory during the stretch was a 40-34 triumph in 2011, Brady Hoke's first season with the Wolverines.

-- Speaking of Hoke, the Michigan coach is starting to feel some pressure -- and justifiably so. Michigan AD David Brandon has endorsed Hoke multiple times this week, including on his blog. Blog endorsements are signs of the times, but if Michigan gets crushed today and stumbles early next season, Brandon might want to delete that blog post.

Hoke isn't in the same situation as Bo Pelini, who provided memorable meltdowns during and after Nebraska's loss to Iowa on Friday. But Michigan's inability to flourish in a soft Big Ten along with Ohio State's dominance could put Hoke in a perilous spot next year.

-- The mood in Ann Arbor is festive despite Michigan's struggles.

Ohio State fans are roaming the streets. Michigan fans are blasting music from cars and houses. Barbs are flying. Alcohol is flowing. Memories are being rekindled.

This Pennsylvania native and former Penn State beat writer is experiencing the Ohio State-Micigan rivalry for the first time. Penn State abandoned its biggest rivals to join the Big Ten, so it's the first Division I rivalry game I have covered since Indiana-Purdue in 2000. Safe to say "The Game" is slightly bigger than whatever bucket the Hoosiers and Boilermakers try to obtain.

-- A scout from the Cleveland Browns is expected to attend the game. Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde would fill one of the franchise's biggest 2014 needs.  

Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier and Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan are the top 2014 draft prospects involved in the game. Shazier, a junior, has the option of returning to Ohio State for his senior season.

-- Prediction: Ohio State 49, Michigan 20. If Hyde wasn't suspended for the first three games, he would be a serious Heisman Trophy candidate.

-- Guy Cipriano | @newsheraldguy


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