Kercheval: Michigan Will Beat Ohio State In Columbus

Ben Kercheval believes Jim Harbaugh and Michigan will finally get over the hump against Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes

Ferrall On The Bench
November 07, 2018 - 9:02 am

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Michigan (8-1) is up to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and the Wolverines intend on staying there. They’ve won eight straight games – including blowout wins over Wisconsin and Penn State – and have a pair of lay-ups upcoming: at Rutgers (1-8) and against Indiana (4-5).

Then it’s off to Columbus to play No. 10 Ohio State (8-1) on Nov. 24. 

The Wolverines haven’t beaten the Buckeyes in Columbus since 2000. This could be the year that changes.

Maybe.

“Ohio State could play like dog crap for the entire season. You get them at home against Michigan, I think you can throw everything out,” CBSSports.com college football writer Ben Kercheval said on Ferrall on the Bench. “When you get them in that game, it is completely different. That being said, I think Ohio State has season-long issues that Michigan could exploit. Ohio State’s linebackers are really bad. If you don’t have good linebackers who (play) well in space, you’re not going to be good (in run support). Well, that’s what Michigan does as well as anybody in the country. They just pound you and pound you and pound you until they wear you down.”

Indeed, Karan Higdon and Chris Evans have combined for 1,214 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Shea Patterson has also been a threat with his legs, rushing for 187 yards and two scores to go along with 14 passing touchdowns and only three picks.

“They’ve been meeting him halfway at quarterback,” Kercheval said. “They’ve been letting him run a little bit, do the dual-threat stuff he likes to do. But at the same time, he’s still good enough to be a pocket passer where you can go through his progressions, hit his wide receivers – that offense has just really taken it up a click over the last couple of weeks. I think Ohio State’s defense is going to have a lot of problems with that.”

Ohio State has also had trouble blocking, as the run game has struggled mightily.

“That defense from Michigan travels really, really well,” Kercheval said. “I think this is going to be the year where they finally get over that hump and beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe. I do think it’ll be close. I do think it will be really tough because Ohio State really gets up for that game like no other. I just think Michigan is a more complete team.”

Scott Ferrall doesn’t disagree with any of that. But here’s the problem: Ohio State has won 13 of the last 14 matchups. The one year Michigan won? That was 2011, when Ohio State had an interim head coach (Luke Fickell), a true freshman quarterback (Braxton Miller), and the game was played in Ann Arbor. And it still look a late score to secure a 40-34 win.

That’s Michigan’s only win in the series since 2003.

“Here’s what I would be concerned about: how rent-free is Ohio State living in their head right now?” Kercheval said. “If you’re Jim Harbaugh going into the Horseshoe, are you guys going in relaxed, feeling confident, feeling like we can win the game, go out and play loose and have fun? Or are you going in there puckered up because you know what the record’s been against them? Normally, I would have fear that they would be puckered up, but Chase Winovich has been sort of the voice of that revenge tour. When they finally let it loose against Michigan State, I think that’s completely turned a corner for them mentally. I have more trust in them going into this game that they’ll be able to kind of get over that than maybe in the first few years that Harbaugh has been in Ann Arbor.”