For the second time in as many years, Ohio State and Michigan will meet as undefeated foes.
They have traveled different roads to 11-0 but have reached the same destination.
Michigan’s schedule provided the path of least resistance, with a non-conference slate of East Carolina, UNLV, and the First National Bank of Wichita. The only real difference from that with Ohio State’s schedule was a quick stopover in South Bend so that the Buckeyes could put the echoes back to bed.
The Wolverines went on and shot some fish in their non-conference barrel, while their conference schedule didn’t get interesting until the last two weeks when they traveled to Penn State and Maryland.
But it did finally get interesting.
Michigan has won their 11 games this year by an average of 29.3 points per game. The margin the last two weeks, however, has been just eight points per game.
A 24-15 win at Penn State a week ago featured Nittany Lions’ head coach James Franklin’s patented decision making, and yesterday’s 31-24 win at Maryland featured the Terps’ patented mistake making.
But even those two teams always had the correct number of players on the field in the game’s biggest moments, unlike the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Buckeyes’ average margin of victory this year has been 24.3 points per game. They have two wins over currently ranked opponents, but neither Notre Dame nor Penn State will provide the kind of test that Michigan is preparing.
The Wolverine defensive line is the only giant blue wall in the state of Michigan based in reality. They are the truth. Six of the Wolverines’ 11 opponents have been held under 100 yards rushing this year. They have size, depth, and determination.
Penn State is the best defense that Ohio State has seen so far this season, but the Michigan defense will be the most talented.
Likewise, the Wolverines have yet to face an offense or defense as talented as the ones the Buckeyes will be bringing with them from Columbus.
Ohio State receivers Marvin Harrison, Jr. and Emeka Egbuka combined for 16 catches, 245 yards, and two touchdowns a year ago against the UM defense. Michigan also hasn’t faced a tight end as good as OSU’s Cade Stover, or a running back as good as TreVeyon Henderson.
After 11 games for both teams, it will be the 12th game that tells the story. We think we know who these teams are at this moment, and we do — but we’re about to know them even better in less than a week.
And we’re going to know them as something much more or much less. That entire judgment will be handed down because of one game. But that’s okay because this is what everyone has signed up for.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how either team got here. It only matters that they made it.
They can pull into the parking lot and shut off the car and the car can still be rattling and smoking and there may even be a banging sound coming from the trunk, but none of that will come into play when the two teams line up against each other on the field.
In a down year for the Big Ten, Ohio State and Michigan stand on top of the heap, readying for an almost-all-hands-on-deck battle for King of the Mountain.
They say it’s not the destination, but rather the journey. There are two teams, two universities, two rival nations that would unpolitely disagree.
The destination is the only thing. The journey is the necessary evil before the necessary evil.
After Ohio State’s win over Minnesota on Saturday night, head coach Ryan Day offered up a “no comment” when asked at what point during the game against the Gophers his mind turned to Michigan.
Following the Wolverines’ 31-24 win over Maryland on Saturday, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh offered up even fewer words, but for vastly different reasons.
Until the game is over, both coaches will let their players do their talking on the field, literally and figuratively.
The one-game season is finally upon us.
And there is no longer any reason to stay quiet.
Unless you’re obligated to do so because of an ongoing NCAA investigation, of course.