A combined record of 15-1. Ranked second and sixth in the nation respectively. Top offenses and defenses in the nation. Two brilliant head coaches. A College Football playoff berth and Big Ten Championship on the line. 2016 is shaping up to be the best version of the historic Michigan-Ohio State rivalry ever.
Aside from a recent Penn State upset of Ohio State, 24-21, both teams have been dominant in the Big Ten and in the polls all season.
Second-ranked Michigan has been the cream of the crop in college football this year. Their 8-0 record has been attained as easily as ever seen with the fifth ranked offense and second ranked defense in the nation. Heisman candidate Jabril Peppers has literally been all over the field for the Wolverines, and coach Jim Harbaugh has been all over the headlines for his new style and eccentricity of coaching and recruiting. They have won handily and gritty, beating Rutgers University 78-0, and edging out ranked opponent Wisconsin 14-7 in a hard fought game.
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, they are the best team in the nation with an overall rating of 94.68 and up until the Ohio State matchup on November 26, they seem to have an easy road to stay undefeated.
Sixth ranked Ohio State has been dominant for the most part, but has sprinkled in a hiccup here and there. Their lone loss to a tough Penn State team who was playing in Happy Valley at nighttime was a recipe for disaster for any team, but they have also shown some signs of vulnerability in games versus Northwestern where they only won 24-20. On the other hand, they have shown dominance and grit, winning easily versus schools like Rutgers (58-0) and ranked Oklahoma (45-24), while also pulling out a workmanlike victory over Wisconsin much like Michigan did.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett is one of the best in the nation and weapons like Curtis Samuel on offense and Marshon Lattimore on defense make it hard pressed for any team to stop and score on them. Future Hall of Fame coach Urban Meyer has only lost twice since he’s been in Columbus and has a championship pedigree that one- ups him over Harbaugh.
Unlike Michigan, Ohio State has a couple more tough tests before their final game versus that other school with a matchup Saturday night versus ninth ranked Nebraska and one in a couple weeks versus Michigan State.
If Ohio State and Michigan can get through these next three weeks unscathed, then it will set up not only the premier matchup of the college football season, but one of the premier regular season matchups of all time.
Having been matching up since the year 1897, Ohio State and Michigan serve as the fabric and exemplar of what college football is all about.
Every year these two teams go head-to-head and for many years, it has been the deciding factor for the Big Ten Championship. 68 times this game has decided the conference champion and 24 times this game has been a winner-take-all game where the teams either finish first or second or they tie for the conference title.
They have both been ranked in the top ten while playing each other 20 times and 10 times ranked in the top five, but the only time in their long and historic history that they have been ranked 1 and 2 was in 2006.
Overall, Michigan holds the all time lead with a 58-48-6 record versus Ohio State, but the series has belonged to Ohio State the past 16 years, as they have won 13 of those games including seven in a row from 2004-2010.
Unless Alabama gets upset by an SEC team, which could happen with a matchup this week versus LSU and on November 26th against eleventh ranked Auburn, this will likely be the eleventh top 5 matchup between the two teams. If Alabama loses one of their remaining games, there’s a shot that it will be the second 1-2 matchup in rivalry history.
Whatever the case may be, these two teams are among the elite in the country and are two of the most talented each program has seen in their respective histories. This matchup will be a classic display of amazing college football and will showcase what this game is all about with the most electric atmosphere and players all on one field, fighting for three things: School pride, a Big Ten Championship and a College Football Playoff berth.
May the best school win.
Who do you think will win this year’s matchup? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3.