Ohio State-Michigan may very well be a low-scoring recreation

Michigan operating again Blake Corum is preventing an damage heading into this yr’s Ohio State recreation. (Washington Publish illustration; Carlos Osorio/AP)


This column’s late-season slide continued final weekend with a 1-2 end (the Buffalo-Akron recreation was snowed out), so we’re right down to the ultimate week of the common season, championship week and the bowl video games to complete sturdy. At 23-23-1 on these picks, there’s nonetheless an opportunity to complete above water.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Michigan, below 57 factors, midday Saturday, Fox

For all of the discuss of Michigan’s weak schedule, it’s not like Ohio State has been all that challenged, significantly by groups with sturdy defenses. On common, the Wolverines’ opponents have a defensive SP+ rating of 63.3, whereas the Buckeyes’ foes have a mean defensive SP+ rating of 57.5. (SP+ is an opponent-adjusted measure of effectivity.) Michigan’s protection ranks fourth in SP+, and Ohio State’s is tenth.

Sure, on Oct. 22, Ohio State put up 54 factors on Iowa, which has the nation’s second-ranked protection by way of SP+. However let’s check out how that recreation performed out. The Buckeyes had an absurd six drives start in Hawkeyes territory — the byproduct of three Iowa turnovers, two turnovers on downs and a punt from their very own 2-yard line — and scored on all six. That sort of beginning area place, abetted by a horrible Iowa offense, is unlikely to copy itself Saturday in opposition to a Michigan protection that ranks fifteenth in red-zone landing charge allowed.

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Michigan, which runs the ball 61.5 p.c of the time (eleventh nationally), put up solely 27 factors on Iowa and bought outgained by the Hawkeyes’ terrible offense by way of yards per play (5.1 to five). In final weekend’s 19-17 win over Illinois (No. 3 in SP+ protection), Michigan was once more held effectively under its season common by way of yards per play, gaining solely 5.1 within the slender victory. One thing is likely to be damaged with its offense.

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Throw in potential accidents to Michigan operating again Blake Corum (national-best 19 touchdowns, No. 3 in whole yards) and Ohio State operating backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams, and this looks like a dead-under rock combat between rivals not all that accustomed to going through sturdy defenses.

Illinois (-14.5) at Northwestern, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Massive Ten Community

The 1-10 Wildcats have scored 9, three and 7 factors of their previous three video games. They rank 116th in offensive success charge. How are they going to attain in opposition to an Illini protection that enables 1.33 factors per drive (seventh nationally) and simply held Michigan, a Faculty Soccer Playoff hopeful, to a season-low 19 factors?

Northwestern isn’t a lot better defensively, rating 106th in success charge in opposition to the run, and Illinois operating again Chase Brown is No. 3 within the nation at 143.8 dashing yards per recreation.

It actually is so simple as “Wildcats bad.” Northwestern was in a position to put up 13 factors on Iowa’s sturdy protection Oct. 29, however one landing got here after the Wildcats began a drive on the Hawkeyes 34 and the opposite got here with no time remaining and the sport determined. We danger a letdown spot after Illinois let Michigan slip away final weekend (thanks partly to a no-call late within the recreation that left Coach Bret Bielema salty), however I believe the Illini end sturdy heading into their bowl recreation (and so they may nonetheless win the Massive Ten West with a win plus losses by Iowa and Purdue).

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No. 15 Notre Dame (+5.5) at No. 6 USC, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC

The Trojans’ protection has been getting by on smoke, mirrors and turnovers. USC has a national-best 18 interceptions and has recovered six of its opponents’ 9 fumbles. On offense, it has recovered its ballcarriers’ fumbles seven instances out of eight. Add all of it up, and the Trojans have come out on the great aspect of 13 of 17 fumbles, a extremely unbelievable charge.

Notre Dame has fumbled the ball solely 9 instances (tied for 14th) and runs it 42 instances per recreation, and whereas its dashing assault isn’t all that explosive (4.57 yards per carry), it has been efficient at shifting the chains, rating thirtieth in success charge.

USC’s dashing protection ranks 126th in success charge and 128th in anticipated factors added per rush, and the Trojans can’t intercept the ball if the Combating Irish preserve it on the bottom. Add in turnover luck finally operating out — USC has 4 one-score wins, video games by which it mixed for 10 takeaways — and I like Notre Dame to maintain it shut.

No. 16 Florida State vs. Florida, Florida State crew whole over 33.5 factors, 7:30 p.m. Friday, ABC

The Seminoles’ offense is beginning to hum, scoring 41, 45, 38 and 49 factors over its previous 4 video games, all victories, and averaging at the very least 6.7 yards per play in three of them.

The Gators’ protection will likely be shorthanded, significantly within the first half. Linebacker Ventrell Miller, a sixth-year senior and crew chief on protection, will miss the primary half after he was ejected for focusing on in opposition to Vanderbilt, whereas security Rashad Torrence II appears prone to miss the sport after struggling an damage in opposition to the Commodores.

Vanderbilt put up 31 on Florida final week, and it simply may have been worse — the Commodores had drives finish on the Gators’ 24- and 21-yard traces due to an interception and a fumble. The Seminoles ought to rating simply as simply Saturday.

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