Last Call: Final Thoughts, Questions and Players to Watch Entering Ohio State’s Rivalry Game with Michigan

By 11W Staff on November 26, 2022 at 7:30 am
C.J. Stroud vs. Michigan

Game Day has arrived.

11-0 (8-0 B1G)



After a literal year of anticipation for Ohio State’s shot at revenge against Michigan, the Buckeyes will finally get that opportunity today when they host the Wolverines at the Shoe at noon.

Considering we’ve already published more than 35 articles about this game, there’s only so much more we can say before The Game actually begins this afternoon. But as we count down the final hours and minutes before the Buckeyes’ regular-season finale, we gather to share some final thoughts, burning questions and the players we think most need to step up for Ohio State today as the Buckeyes chase their first pair of Gold Pants in three years.

Final Thoughts

The most important game of Ryan Day’s career

Whether Ohio State wins or loses today’s game will define Day’s legacy through his first four years as the Buckeyes’ head coach.

Day has won 45 of his first 49 games as Ohio State’s coach and has already led the Buckeyes to two Big Ten championships, two College Football Playoff berths and a national championship game appearance. That said, the No. 1 criterion to being a successful Ohio State coach is beating Michigan – and there's a big difference between 2-1 and 1-2.

While Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer both won national championships at Ohio State, they’re both remembered just as much for their dominance over Michigan. If Ohio State loses today, Day could be viewed as more akin to John Cooper (who went just 2-10-1 against the Wolverines) than Tressel, Meyer or Woody Hayes.

In terms of job security, Day isn’t going to be on any hot seat if Ohio State loses today. But he will feel heat from the fanbase if the Buckeyes lose to their rivals for the second year in a row. And while Day has objectively been one of the most successful coaches in college football over the past four years, he has to win the rivalry game more often than he doesn’t if he’s going to be considered an elite coach.

– Dan Hope

Ohio State has waited 365 days for this

The Buckeyes have heard a wide variety of criticism since falling to Michigan for the first time in 10 years last November. They've been called soft and have had their toughness questioned, basically the biggest insult a football team can suffer. 

Today, they have the chance to rectify that. Michigan will come into this contest heavily reliant on the running game offensively, and running back health questions aside, Jim Knowles and OSU's defensive line and linebackers can win over a lot of hearts in Ohio by stifling what's been a prolific rushing attack for the Wolverines in 2022, while also taking back control of the narrative. 

Offensively, C.J. Stroud can win the Heisman with a prolific performance. But Stroud and the passing attack will be bolstered even further by an efficient rushing attack, which was not present in Ann Arbor last season. 

Legacies will be created or broken Saturday. It's up to OSU to decide how fans will remember what’s setting up as the biggest rivalry game of the decade.

- Garrick Hodge


How effective will Ohio State’s run game be?

TreVeyon Henderson, Miyan Williams and Chip Trayanum have all dealt with various ailments that have kept them off the football field at least once this season, which leaves Dallan Hayden as the only “healthy” scholarship running back on Ohio State's roster. I put quotation marks around the word healthy because, at this point in the regular season, even Hayden is probably pushing through some bumps and bruises – because everyone is.

Day said this week that Henderson and Williams were working their way back to full strength, and he hopes they will be available for the Buckeyes on Saturday. If they play, how effective will they be, and how much will the Ohio State offense rely on them to tote the rock? Furthermore, if Henderson and Williams lack efficiency, will Day feel comfortable handing the ball to Hayden – a true freshman – in the most important game of the year?

- Chase Brown

Will Blake Corum have a major impact?

It might not impact Ohio State’s game preparation, but the health status of the nation’s fifth-leading rusher is no small storyline entering Saturday. A healthy Blake Corum is Michigan’s best offensive player, biggest playmaking threat and a bona fide Heisman Trophy contender. Hell, Corum alone has nearly twice as many rushing yards as any Buckeye this season. But even if Corum’s healthy enough to play on Saturday, he won’t be 100%. After suffering a knee injury last week, Corum played just two snaps in the second half against Illinois, and reports say he was wearing a knee brace in practice this week. 

We all know what Michigan did to Ohio State on the ground last year, and if the Wolverines approach those numbers again on Saturday, it could be another long day for the scarlet and gray. Corum’s effectiveness, no matter what the state of his injury, could go a long way in determining the final result of The Game.

– Griffin Strom

Players to Watch

C.J. Stroud

The last time Ohio State and Michigan were both unbeaten in 2006, Troy Smith threw for 316 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Buckeyes to a 42-39 victory. That performance won Smith the Heisman Trophy, and Stroud has a great chance to follow in his footsteps if he can deliver a similar performance and lead Ohio State to a win today.

Against a defense that ranks No. 1 in the country in yards allowed per game, Ohio State is going to need Stroud to be at his best to win today. And beyond the Heisman and Ohio State’s championship aspirations, Stroud will have extra motivation to win what will likely be his final game against Michigan after losing his first game against Michigan last year.

I’m expecting Stroud to deliver both with a productive day passing the ball and by making some key plays with his legs as he showed he could do against Northwestern. While Ohio State has been hesitant to use him as a runner due to the risk of injury, the Buckeyes will do whatever they need to do to win today, and they might need Stroud to be a dual-threat to bolster a running game that’s been inconsistent throughout the second half of the season.

– Dan Hope

Zach Harrison

In his fourth season with the Buckeyes, Harrison is playing the best football of his collegiate career. With that said, the 6-foot-6, 272-pound defensive end could be the difference-maker for the Buckeyes in The Game this season, as he has been in plenty of other contests for Ohio State in 2022, including the Rutgers, Iowa and Maryland matchups.

Harrison's primary impact can come in the run game as the Wolverines have relied heavily on Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards to reach this point of the season at an undefeated 11-0. However, it wouldn't shock me to see Harrison make a few plays as a pass rusher, too. Perhaps even recording a strip-sack on an unsuspecting J.J. McCarthy as he roams the pocket and attempts to scramble. Regardless of how he does it, I expect Harrison to have a massive game against Michigan, finishing up his fourth regular season with a signature performance that will be remembered for ages.

- Chase Brown

Dallan Hayden

I spotlighted Hayden last week, and the true freshman ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns against Maryland. Depending on how limited TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams are on Saturday, the Buckeyes may need a similar performance from the first-year rusher in order to exact revenge on the Wolverines. Ohio State couldn’t get anything going on the ground in last year’s rivalry matchup. Suffice to say that can’t happen again if the Buckeyes expect to get the edge on the nation’s No. 1 total defense. It might not be optimal given his relative inexperience, but Hayden just might be Ohio State’s best option in the backfield. In a rivalry that frequently features breakout performances and legend-making moments, look for Hayden to have one in his first appearance in The Game.

– Griffin Strom

Whoever plays right guard

Considering Matt Jones was on crutches following the Maryland game after suffering a lower-body injury last week, his status for Saturday will certainly be in question. If Jones can't go, the question remains who would fill in his spot? The two options would be Enokk Vimahi, who has been working at guard all season albeit in a backup capacity, or Josh Fryar, who was impressive in his lone start at right tackle in the Indiana game but has only played at tackle this season. 

Right guard has also been the weak point on Ohio State's offensive line this season at times, so regardless of which of the three play, it would bolster the Buckeyes' offense and running game to get a solid performance from whoever lines up at that spot against Michigan. 

- Garrick Hodge

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