Michigan vs. Ohio State is the real game of the century for 2022

Michigan and Ohio State are only No. 3 and No. 2, respectively, in the latest Associated Press and College Football Playoff rankings, meaning Saturday’s game isn’t technically a “Game of the Century.”

But it is so.

Each team goes 11-0 in The Game (Noon, FOX) for the first time since an actual Game of the Century on Nov. 18, 2006. No. 1 Ohio State and coach Jim Tressel beat No. 2 Michigan and coach Lloyd Carr, 42 -39, in a classic film at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. The Buckeyes then lost the BCS national championship game to Florida.

MICHIGAN VS. OHIO STATE: REALLY NO NEED FOR HATE?

Saturday’s game is only the fourth time both sides have gone into their final regular-season game with unblemished records. Ohio State won the first of those games, 20-9 at home, in 1970 to avenge a bitter loss the year before. That’s when Michigan freshman coach Bo Schembechler, a former Ohio State assistant under coach Woody Hayes, and his No. 12 Wolverines (7-2) beat the No. 1 and defending champion Buckeyes (8- 0) annoyed. 12, at Michigan Stadium.

The two have been closing out the regular season together since 1935. There was no game in 2020 due to a COVID outbreak with Michigan. This was the first time since 1917 that the two had not played. Michigan leads the emotional streak that began in 1897, 59-51-6.

The 2022 winner will take over the Big Ten East and reach the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 3 to play a three- or four-loss West champion in Indianapolis and likely advance to the college football playoffs. Barring a big surprise on December 3rd, this will be the Big Ten title game.

The state of Ohio is already looking to Michigan after the
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh (left) and Ohio State coach Ryan Day will meet for the third time as head coaches when Michigan plays Ohio State on Saturday. Each has beaten the other once in the series. (Getty Images).

“Winner takes East,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “Sieger takes everything right there. It’s the kind of situation where you can show how strong our team is.”

Michigan-Ohio State Matches Super Powers, Super Heroes

This game is such a superpowered matchup that the loser could still reach the CFP Final Four by a loss. Or “superheroes,” as a nearly Harbaugh explained on Monday.

“I think you have two teams, it’s like two superheroes going at each other,” said Harbaugh, who is from Toledo, Ohio and has been following the Michigan-Ohio State game for as long as he can remember. He attended high school in Ann Arbor when his father, Jack, was an assistant coach under Schembechler in Michigan. Harbaugh then started as quarterback at Michigan from 1984–86, beating Ohio State 2-1 in his final two seasons.

“We’re so excited for that – to be tested,” said Harbaugh. “See what we’re made of.”

Harbaugh, who left the San Francisco 49ers to become Michigan’s coach in 2017, has by definition not done much in the Ohio State Series. He’s 1-5 in there as head coach. He won his first as head coach last season, 42-27, when he led Michigan to its first Big Ten title since 2004.

“Both teams are 11-0 and I know our 11-0 really means nothing now,” he said. “It’s all about 1-0.”

Usually close to the media, Harbaugh was all but beaming on Monday as he discussed the game… happy.

“We have a great group of players who are happy warriors and they are on a happy mission,” he said. “It’s a tight-knit team that paid the price. To date, they have accepted every challenge. They attacked it and were willing to play every single game for 60 minutes. And I love this team. I think they’re made of the right material.”

Wolverines survived a fright Saturday from Illinois

Michigan had just enough stuff to win in its closest game yet on Saturday when Jake Moody launched a 35-yard field goal, leaving :09 in a 19-17 win over the unranked Illinois in Ann Arbor .

“I’ve watched Michigan football since I was a kid — see myself as a historian,” said Harbaugh, 58. “I’m nominating him for legendary status.”

Michigan Wolverines running back Blake Corum gains some of his 108 yards in a win over Illinois in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Saturday before injuring his knee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

And the Wolverines did that in the second half without superhero Dam Blake Corum. Corum injured his left knee late in the second quarter after gaining 108 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown and two catches for 39 yards. He was not left out of Saturday’s game as Harbaugh said his knee was “structurally good” on Saturday.

“Anyone on the sidelines will do anything to play,” he said.

But Michigan offensive lineman Ryan Hayes may have inadvertently leaked more specific information during press interviews Monday.

“He’s a great player,” he said of Corum. “But I think everyone else will just level up with him and I think we’re up to the challenge and we will.”

Still, Harbaugh often sounded like a kid on Monday — like he wanted to play.

“Try it,” he said. “I will say that to all our players. It is a honor. Congratulations on stepping into this position. you paid the price You’ve done the work. Now let it rip. Do you have it.”

Michigan-Ohio State features Heisman Battle

The game will feature two Heisman Trophy favorites. Ohio State sophomore quarterback CJ Stroud is ranked No. 1 in the nation with 183.3 on 204 completions in 307 attempts for 2,991 yards and 35 touchdowns against four interceptions.

And Michigan’s Corum is the No. 3 rushing rusher in the country with 1,457 yards, 245 carries and 18 touchdowns. Ohio State junior wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. is ranked No. 8 in receiving yards with 1,037 on 65 catches and 11 touchdowns.

“They have players with Heisman habits. We have players with Heisman habits,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no question CJ Stroud and Marvin Harrison Jr. have Heisman habits. Great players. It’s like superheroes. It is through a strong opponent that you find out who you are.”

DON’T FORGET YOUR NEW HELMETS, BUCKEYES

Michigan second quarterback JJ McCarthy is ranked No. 26 in the nation for efficiency with 165 of 247 passes for 1,952 yards and 14 touchdowns with two interceptions. He led the game-winning drive on Saturday, completing 3 of 5 passes for 16 yards with a 4-yard rush. He will start his first Michigan State game against Ohio on Saturday.

“Do it,” Harbaugh said he would tell him. “It’s pretty cool to get out of the game he had – comeback in the fourth quarter, last-minute win. That doesn’t happen that often to quarterbacks. Being in this situation for the first time and winning it. He has it. Try it out. You don’t need to tell him more.”

Does Michigan have it all?

Harbaugh almost predicted a win against Ohio State.

“I think you’ll find that we’re carved from the right stuff,” he said. “We know it’s our toughest test of the year and I think we’ll find that we’re carved from the right stuff.”

But really, he’s just grateful.

“There’s no need to hate or be scared or angry or anything like that,” he said. “It’s about being thankful for — it’s Thanksgiving week. You know, grateful for the opportunity, those circumstances, grateful to be tested against this opponent at this point. It is going to be great. Be thankful for this experience. It’s a real honor to be in this position, to challenge yourself physically, mentally and emotionally.”

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