Ohio State vs. Michigan: 3 storylines to watch

Buckeyes seek sixth straight victory in series

Former Ohio State Buckeyes wished the current players well this week in advance of The Game. The themes of the videos they posted to Twitter were familiar:

• “It’s more than just a game. It’s more than just a rivalry,” linebacker Bobby Carpenter said. “It is the hardest-hitting, most physical football game you will be a part of.”

• “People remember what you do in this game,” offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said, “so go out there, fear no man and dominate the team up north.”

“It’s another opportunity to come together as one,” linebacker Raekwon McMillan said, “and showcase what we’re all about as a family at The Ohio State University.”

THE RIVALRY: Five things to love | Meyer on this week’s game | By the numbers | Meyer vs. UM

No. 9 Ohio State (9-2, 7-1) plays Michigan (8-3, 5-3) at noon Saturday at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. The enthusiasm on both sides for this rivalry hasn’t dimmed even though Michigan has beaten Ohio State only twice in the last 14 meetings. The Buckeyes have won five in a row against Michigan.

Here are three storylines heading into the 114th matchup in the series:

1. Quarterback health: Wilton Speight started the first four games for Michigan. John O’Korn started the next four. Brandon Peters has started the last three.

Peters suffered a concussion last week against Wisconsin. Speight suffered three fractured vertebrae in September against Purdue and has been doing non-contact drills. O’Korn likely will start if the other two aren’t healthy.

Ohio State is preparing as if it doesn’t matter who starts at quarterback.

“They’re just going to come out and play hard-nosed offense,” defensive end Tyquan Lewis said. “They don’t change much.”

2. Running games: The Buckeyes have topped 300 yards rushing in their last two games against Michigan State and Illinois. Michigan has rushed for a total of 218 yards in its last two games against Maryland and Wisconsin but topped 700 yards in the two games prior to that against Rutgers and Minnesota.

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Stopping the run is Ohio State’s No. 1 priority, defensive end Sam Hubbard said.

“When you go into someone’s house, you’ve got to run the ball and stop the run and especially in this game,” Hubbard said. “Historically, it’s been run the ball downhill, and whoever’s tougher and whoever can stop the opponent from running the ball is going to have the upper hand. We’re focused on stopping the run and getting them into third-down situations.”

3. Coaching matchup: This is the third time Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has coached against Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh in the rivalry. The Buckeyes dominated Michigan 42-13 two years ago in Ann Arbor and won 30-27 in double overtime last season on Curtis Samuel’s 15-yard touchdown run.

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Both coaches have pushed the importance of the rivalry. Even this season, with Ohio State having already clinched the Big Ten East Division and Michigan struggling, the game is as big as usual. Harbaugh said it means more to the guys who have played in the game.

“The more experience you have with it, the more you understand the excitement of it, the intensity of it,” Harbaugh said. “You understand how important it is and how immense the stage is. You come to embrace it.”

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