Ohio State doesn’t know who Michigan’s quarterback will be.
Ohio State knows that the Wolverines’ offense has sputtered at times.
What does matter to the Buckeyes is their belief that Michigan’s offense will be at its best on Saturday in Ann Arbor.
“Absolutely,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “That's the history of this game. Both teams play their best.”
The Buckeyes remember 2013. Michigan’s offense had totaled only 67 points in its previous four games, but the Wolverines lit up undefeated Ohio State for six touchdowns. The Buckeyes needed Tyvis Powell’s interception of a two-point conversion to escape with a 42-41 win.
This week, on paper, the Buckeyes defense has the edge. Ohio State has been stout against the run this year, and its pass defense has steadily improved — the Iowa and Oklahoma games being the obvious and painful exceptions.
Michigan’s running game has flourished against the weaker teams on its schedule but been only ordinary against the best ones.
The Wolverines’ passing game has been woeful. It showed signs of life against Wisconsin last week under Brandon Peters until the redshirt freshman was knocked out with a concussion. After that, Michigan’s offense all but disappeared in a 24-10 loss.
If Peters can’t play, the Wolverines probably will have to turn to John O’Korn. Wilton Speight, last year’s starter, has missed the past seven weeks with a back injury but hasn’t been ruled out from returning.
Michigan’s quarterbacks have completed only 54.6 percent of their passes and have thrown eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions. O’Korn’s statistics — 53.2 completion percentage, one touchdown and five interceptions — are the worst of the three.
The Buckeyes say their defensive game plan won’t change much regardless of the quarterback. That’s because Michigan’s won’t.
“They do what they do,” defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “They run the ball downhill, get in a lot of tight-end and running-back sets and try to out-tough you. That’s their M.O., and they’re not going to change anything. They’re a great program like we are. We don’t change for other people.”
Michigan would prefer to throw as little as possible and rely on its running game. Michigan has several talented runners, led by Karan Higdon, who is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and has run for 10 touchdowns.
“Their tailback is an outstanding player,” Meyer said. “Their interior offensive line is really, really good. They do a very good job of moving and shifting and trying to create gap issues for you. We’re spending an incredible amount of time preparing for that.”
But Michigan is about trying to maul more than fool. Ohio State defensive end Tyquan Lewis said that Michigan relies on the power-run game more than any other opponent the Buckeyes have faced. Wisconsin, of course, awaits OSU next week in the Big Ten championship game.
Last week against Wisconsin, Michigan often used a fullback as a lead blocker. Ohio State relishes the challenge.
“I actually like contact,” Lewis said. “It definitely changes my mindset into being more aggressive, knowing that someone else is coming to get me instead of being one person. It definitely changes my mindset.”