It’s Michigan. It’s Ohio State. It’s The Game. And everything — the Big Ten East Division crown, a spot in the College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes demons that dog Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Heisman Trophy hopes of Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud — is on the line.
You couldn’t ask for the stakes to be higher in this bitter rivalry, which has been tilted overwhelmingly in Ohio State’s favor for the better part of the past two decades. Michigan hasn’t beaten Ohio State since 2011, and the Wolverines have won just two of the last 19 meetings. One victory, though, would change so much for the Wolverines and Harbaugh, who have lost the last two contests by a combined 52 points.
Harbaugh, a former star quarterback for Michigan, has never beaten Ohio State as a coach in five attempts (the teams didn’t play in 2020), and though he has guided his program to four 10-win seasons in seven years, he has yet to win the big one. Here is his chance.
The winner will advance to the Big Ten Championship game, and will be a heavy favorite to win the conference title. The loser will have to settle for a meaningless bowl game. No. 2 Ohio State (10-1, 8-0 Big Ten) is the considerable favorite, a loaded group offensively that is coming off a 56-7 beatdown of Michigan State, features arguably the top receiving core in the nation and is fourth in the country in points scored, with 47.2 per game.
But the game is in Ann Arbor. And No. 5 Michigan (10-1, 7-1) has rebounded well from blowing a big lead in a loss at Michigan State on Oct. 30. The Wolverines have a lights-out defense that may be capable of slowing down the Buckeyes’ potent attack and a stout running game that averages 218.4 yards a contest.
All eyes will be on The Big House at noon Saturday.
Here is a look at three other games with playoff implications:
No. 3 Alabama at Auburn, 3:30 p.m.
One-loss Alabama has everything to play for and Auburn coach Bryan Harsin could be one-and-done on the Plains after a mediocre first season, now that the Washington job is open and he is a rumored candidate. But this is the Iron Bowl, which gives Auburn extra incentive. The teams have split the last four meetings and the Tigers, who enter the showdown with three straight losses, would like nothing more than to knock the Crimson Tide out of the CFP mix. Injured Auburn quarterback Bo Nix tossed gasoline onto the fire when he suggested Alabama gets preferential treatment from officials.
No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 7 Oklahoma State, 7:30 p.m.
Cinderella (Cincinnati, of course) may finally get that long-awaited invitation to the ball, but the Big 12 champion looms as a potential impediment, especially if Oklahoma State can snap Oklahoma’s six-year Bedlam dominance. The Cowboys already own a high-caliber win over No. 8 Baylor, and could wind up facing the Bears again in the Big 12 Championship game. Win out, and one-loss Oklahoma State would have a strong argument.
No. 6 Notre Dame at Stanford, 8 p.m.
The Fighting Irish are looming in the shadows, if others slip up. They lack a major win, but they do own victories over five teams with records currently above .500, including an impressive 41-13 blitzing at No. 14 Wisconsin. The committee has given name brands the benefit of the doubt in past years, so you can never count out Notre Dame as long as it finishes strong against the underwhelming Cardinal.