The stage is set for The Game between Ohio State and Michigan in Week 13. As usual, more than pride is on the line for both programs. Besides bragging rights, the most important immediate fallout is that the winner makes the Big Ten Championship on December 2nd.
Let’s dive into the Big Ten Championship scenarios and what each team needs to clinch their appearance in Indianapolis.
Big Ten Championship Clinching Scenarios
We already know that the Iowa Hawkeyes will represent the Big Ten West. They clinched their berth Saturday with a 15-13 win against Illinois. Beating Nebraska on Friday would give Iowa a 10-2 overall record and a 7-2 conference mark.
MORE: Big Ten Standings
However, rivalry weekend will determine Iowa’s foe at Lucas Oil Stadium. Both Ohio State and Michigan are 11-0 overall and 8-0 in the Big Ten. Considering the Hawkeyes ‘ offensive struggles, whoever faces Iowa will be a significant favorite.
Michigan, an early favorite as they host Ohio State on Saturday, has to win to earn the Big Ten East crown. Ranked 11th in offensive scoring and first in defensive scoring, the Wolverines are powerhouses on paper.
However, head coach Jim Harbaugh won’t be on the sideline due to the sign-stealing scandal, and the team barely beat Maryland this past week.
The Wolverines have beaten Ohio State two years in a row, and neither game was particularly competitive by the end of the fourth quarter. Michigan will again have offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore as the acting head coach and play-caller. Moore has led the team to victories over Penn State and Maryland with Harbaugh out on gamedays.
Harbaugh will be eligible to return to the field for the Big Ten Championship, barring further suspension.
The key for Michigan is getting QB J.J. McCarthy back on track. He threw only eight passes against Penn State in a run-oriented game plan but struggled against Maryland. He appeared to suffer an ankle injury against the Terrapins.
Ohio State Buckeyes
While Michigan has its own hands full with more than The Game, the Buckeyes might have more on the line than its top adversary. Sure, making the Big Ten Championship is important, but head coach Ryan Day is looking to avoid his third straight loss to Michigan after the program’s dominant run in the rivalry suddenly stopped in 2021.
The Buckeyes won the inaugural College Football Playoff, and a win would put them back in the mix to win the final four-team iteration before it expands. Ohio State was on the cusp of making the title game last year but missed a game-winning field goal against Georgia in the final seconds. Michigan and Ohio State were only a few plays away from facing each other in the title game, but both lost.
Day’s Buckeyes have overcome several tough challenges this season, whereas Michigan has largely won against lower competition. Their last-second win against Notre Dame was a tough gut check, and the team had to develop first-year starting QB Kyle McCord. Since he’s been uneven, McCord’s play might be the key to this matchup.