NFL scout makes prediction for Ohio State vs. Michigan after analyzing pro talent
A pro-centric look at 'The Game' provides a lot of insight entering Saturday
Alabama looks two touchdowns better than everyone else. The playoff may have to invite a two-loss team, that’s how watered down the group of contenders appears to be. The Heisman Trophy race, supposed to be one of the best in years, has been the Lamar Jackson show, containing little intrigue.
Saturday, however, college football may deliver some drama, when Ohio State hosts Michigan in what is basically a playoff elimination game.
If Ohio State, which has won four in a row and 11-of-12 in the rivalry, wins, it likely wouldn’t claim the Big Ten East — Penn State owns the tiebreaker — but would have four wins over top 15 teams, meaning the Buckeyes’ spot should be safe. If Michigan wins, it would claim the Big Ten East crown, and might even reach the playoff if it doesn’t win the Big Ten title game.
The loser is almost certainly done.
The showdown in Columbus, despite both teams struggling on Saturday — Ohio State edged Michigan State, 17-16, and Michigan trailed at halftime against Indiana before pulling out a 20-10 win — has all the makings of a memorable afternoon. The stakes are the highest in “The Game” since 2006, when Ohio State was ranked first in the nation and Michigan second. Two 10-1 teams with championships aspirations, and only one will still have them by 4 p.m. Saturday.
The coaches, Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and Urban Meyer of Ohio State, will be featured prominently. Meyer has led the Buckeyes to five straight double-digit win seasons and a national title in 2015, while Harbaugh has delivered immediate results, somehow surpassing the enormous hype that accompanied his hiring.
On the field, the best matchup could feature two Metro-area standouts. Jabrill Peppers, the Wolverines’ do-it-all Heisman Trophy candidate from Paramus Catholic, should match up with Buckeye wide receiver/running back Curtis Samuel, a Brooklyn native who has emerged as the their top playmaker, producing 14 touchdowns and 1,440 total yards. Both possess NFL skill sets, and are used all over the field.
After all, this outcome will likely come down to which unit — Ohio State’s offense that scores 43.8 points per game or Michigan’s defense that allows only 10.9 points, lowest in the nation — controls the game.
The sport sure could use a classic, because unless the regular season turns out to be deceptive, Alabama will likely cruise to a second straight national title. And college football may get one Saturday at The Horseshoe. The stakes couldn’t be higher.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany wanted the New York market. Rutgers wanted the Power Five conference’s money. The marriage made sense for both parties. Neither could have imagined the fit would be this terrible.
Since joining the Big Ten in 2014, Rutgers has won four times in 24 league contests. It has been particularly ugly this year.
In four games against the Big Ten East’s four powers — Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State — Rutgers has been out-scored 224-0. It has been out-gained 2,258 to 382. It already has set a Big Ten record this year — for the number of punts (89 by Michael Cintron).
Simply put, the Scarlet Knights don’t belong on the same field as those schools. This isn’t a knock on Chris Ash, a young energetic head coach who has gotten off to a strong start on the recruiting front. He was dealt a difficult hand.
Rutgers belongs in the American Athletic Conference, where it could compete, and possibly in its best years, challenge for the league crown. That’s not going to happen in the Big Ten. Finishing in the middle of the league would be an achievement. Hopefully the New York market — which rarely has shown much interest in Rutgers to begin with — is making these ugly games worth it for Delany.
Tom Herman can still coach, huh?
There was this silly notion that losses to SMU and Navy had dimmed the Houston coach’s star, that a few defeats had changed the fact he’s won 22 games in two seasons with the Cougars and is on the cusp of producing back-to-back double-digit win years at the AAC school for the first time in school history. Thursday night seemed to change that narrative, when the Cougars dominated Louisville and Heisman Trophy favorite Lamar Jackson, 36-10.
Herman can basically name his number at Texas. After the Longhorns lost to perennial punching bag Kansas on Saturday for the first time since 1938, there were reports coach Charlie Strong was fired, though the school said in a statement he will be evaluated after the season. LSU and Oregon might also have openings, and Herman only enhanced his value by engineering the upset of Louisville.
The Post’s top 10
1. Alabama (11-0) (Last week: 1)
Only Ole Miss has legitimately pushed the Crimson Tide, the lone opponent to lose to Nick Saban’s powerhouse by a single score. Alabama — which has outscored 11 opponents 443-125 — has shown no signs of slowing down.
2. Ohio State (10-1) (2)
Urban Meyer has now produced five double-digit win seasons in five years in Columbus, and has Ohio State on the cusp of reaching the playoff for the second time in three seasons.
3. Michigan (10-1) (3)
The Wolverines have managed just 162 yards through the air the last two weeks. Jim Harbaugh, at the age of 52, could probably do better than the quarterbacks he’s trotted out there lately.
4. Clemson (10-1) (4)
Even in an ACC Atlantic-clinching 35-13 victory over Wake Forest, there were consistency concerns, mistakes that would cost Clemson against a better opponent. The Tigers still haven’t clicked.
5. Wisconsin (9-2) (6)
The Badgers are a lesson in the importance of preseason polls. They weren’t ranked, and now are within two wins of a possible berth in the playoff.
6. Washington (10-1) (7)
The Huskies rebounded nicely from the USC loss by crushing Arizona State. Now they have to beat Washington State, win the Pac-12 championship game, and cross their fingers.
7. Oklahoma (9-2) (8)
The Sooners are undefeated in eight Big 12 contests despite allowing 30.1 points per game, which illustrates the weak state of the conference.
8. Penn State (9-2) (9)
One more win, and the Nittany Lions will reach 10 victories for the first time since 2009. James Franklin deserves National Coach of the Year consideration.
9. USC (8-3) (10)
A Colorado loss against Utah and the Trojans would remarkably be Pac-12 South champions after a 1-3 start. Clay Helton knew what he was doing after all.
10. Colorado (9-2) (NR)
Colorado is one win away from going from worst to first in the Pac-12 South, already with five more wins than it managed a year ago.
Dropped out: Louisville (9-2)
Heisman Watch (in predicted order)
QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
The Heisman remains his to lose, though Jackson cost himself votes Thursday night, when he produced a season-low 244 all-purpose yards in an ugly 36-10 loss to Houston.
CB/S/LB Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
This is his chance, Saturday against Ohio State, for his Heisman statement, the time for the dynamic New Jersey native to make a lasting impression on the voters.
QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Barrett made up for his worst passing performance of the season with one of his best rushing efforts, running for 105 yards in Ohio State’s 17-16 win over Michigan State.
QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
The problem with Watson’s season is simple. He set such a high standard last year, anything less would be deemed a step back. After all, he’s produced 32 touchdowns and led Clemson to a second straight ACC Atlantic crown.
QB Jalen Hurts, Alabama
The true freshman has already set an Alabama record for most rushing yards by a quarterback with 803, and has also thrown for 19 touchdowns.