Ohio State hosts Michigan in the biggest game of the year Saturday.
Sometimes the obvious course of action is best: That’s the approach ESPN’s College GameDay crew will take in Week 13 for The Game between the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines and the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday.
The sporting world’s most prestigious rivalry has more at stake than ever before, with both teams hoping a win translates to a shot at a Big Ten title and a spot in the College Football Playoff.
A loss ruins both ambitions.
Rece Davis, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, David Pollack and others will preview the epic matchup before a noon kickoff, rolling out a five-hour special edition beginning at 7 a.m. ET for the first time.
Here is everything to know about the broadcast and the biggest college football game of the year.
College GameDay Week 13 Info
Date: Saturday, Nov. 26
Time (ET): 7 a.m. to noon (kickoff at noon)
Location: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Watch: ESPN (game on ABC)
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Ohio State. Michigan.
All eyes are on The Game. pic.twitter.com/sZBFlNuYkt
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 23, 2016
This has been a lopsided rivalry over the years, with Ohio State winning 11 of the last 12 meetings. Head coach Jim Harbaugh’s arrival at Michigan brought plenty of hype, but his debut in The Game left many disappointed, as the Buckeyes cruised to a 42-13 win last year.
Interestingly, Michigan is sitting in a better position entering Saturday. If the Wolverines win, they’ll head to the conference championship game in Indianapolis. Simple. But thanks to a loss to Penn State, Ohio State isn’t as fortunate—to reach the Big Ten title game, Urban Meyer‘s team must win and have Michigan State upset Penn State.
Good luck figuring out which way Saturday swings. Both teams rank tops in the Big Ten in total offense and defense. An evenly matched game has the Wolverines feeling confident compared to past years.
“It’s No. 2 vs. No. 3. We’ve never been in this position before. This is unreal,” Michigan offensive lineman Erik Magnuson said, according to Stats LLC (via ESPN.com). “A lot different than in the past when it was like ‘hopefully, we can pull out a big upset.’ … Now now.”
Michigan shouldn’t have any problems offensively, even if Harbaugh won’t reveal who gets the start under center. Wilton Speight threw 15 touchdowns to four interceptions before suffering an injury. John O’Korn has one start under his belt, throwing for two scores with no picks. Both guys have reinforcements in the form of a rushing attack that is averaging 5.2 yards per carry with 39 total touchdowns.
More than anything, Michigan believes it can turn this rivalry around by focusing on run defense. The unit got embarrassed last year, coughing up 369 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in last year’s rout.
“A team running the ball on you, that’s all pride,” Wolverines tackle Ryan Glasgow said, according to ESPN.com’s Austin Ward and Dan Murphy. “I’m going to move you, or you’re going to move me. It’s a big pride thing.”
The Buckeyes enter the game boasting 30 scores on a 5.7 per-carry average in large part thanks to leading rusher Mike Weber, who has 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. Don’t forget dual-threat quarterback J.T. Barrett, who has 722 yards and eight running scores of his own.
Call it a war of wills, as minuscule differences and a few key moments here and there are sure to decide the outcome. Given the playoff implications, the rest of the college football world will watch with bated breath.
Fans will too.
Fans will want to pay attention to how Corso picks before the game. According to ESPN.com’s Rachel Margolis Siegal, Corso is 15-6 when picking Ohio State and 7-3 when picking Michigan.
Which team will win?
Which team will win?
As for Las Vegas, oddsmakers have installed the Buckeyes as seven-point favorites, according to Odds Shark.
The spread seems reasonable enough. Both teams look identical in many ways, minus one—quarterback. Even if Speight is healthy enough to start, he is a junior with minimal experience in this rivalry on the road. Compare that to Barrett, who has two of these contests under his belt, and one can see where oddsmakers have laid it down.
It’s best to choose the obvious when picking this game, too. Ohio State has dominated this rivalry for years, and while Michigan has improved, the Buckeyes have a clear advantage at the most important position of all and are playing at home. Look for Ohio State to pull away late.
Prediction: Ohio State 30, Michigan 27
Stats and information courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
Follow Chris Roling (@Chris_Roling) on Twitter.