You often hear, “the most anticipated matchup.” Well, this could actually be the most anticipated game of the season between two undefeated teams, the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes and the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines. This big-time regular season finale decides who will face the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten title game. If either the Buckeyes or Wolverines win out, then a spot in the College Football Playoff is likely.
Michigan’s recent lack of protection
The Wolverines can handle business if the offense does a good job of protecting quarterback J.J. McCarthy. He’s been sacked 10 times in his last five games compared to three times in his first six; he’s also been pressured on 46 of his dropbacks compared to 32 in those same splits. A factor in their offensive line issues is right tackle Karsen Barnhart. Out of qualifying tackles, Barnhart grades out 609th out of 667 players, allowing 21 total pressures this season but 10 in just his last three games alone. It’s why we saw Michigan revert to a heavy dose of the run game against Penn State with 32 straight run plays.
The protection goes beyond Barnhart. Both LaDarius Henderson and Myles Hinton have been playing through injuries. If the Michigan offensive line is not where it needs to be, McCarthy could struggle for the second straight week. He’s coming off his worst performance of the season, completing 52% of his passes with zero touchdowns and one interception.
Ohio State grades as the seventh-best pass rush team in the country. The Buckeyes may not get home with many sacks (just 21 total), but the pass rush does create stress to the opposing quarterback with pressure forcing hurries and scrambles.
COLUMBUS, OHIO – NOVEMBER 26: Marvin Harrison Jr. #18 of the Ohio State Buckeyes makes a touchdown catch during the second quarter of a game against the Michigan…