View from the other side: Michigan vs. Ohio State
Ohio State at Michigan
► Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
► TV/radio: Fox/950
► Records: Ohio State 11-0, 8-0 Big Ten; Michigan 9-2, 6-2
► Line: Ohio State by 8½
View from the other side
Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for the Columbus Dispatch (buckeyextra.com). He breaks down the Buckeyes for The Detroit News, answering five questions heading into Saturday’s Michigan-Ohio State game at Michigan Stadium. You can follow him on Twitter at @brdispatch.
► Question: What makes Chase Young, arguably the best defensive player in college football, so good and how does he most disrupt offenses?
► Rabinowitz: The defensive end has a rare combination of size, strength, quickness, sound technique and relentlessness. Last year he was very good, but he was playing on two sprained ankles. This year he's healthy and playing like a No. 1 overall NFL pick. He's practically unblockable one-on-one as a pass-rusher and has improved markedly against the run. He's the kind of player you look for before every snap, and you don't often say that about a defensive player. It should also be noted that he's not a one-man wrecking crew. He has plenty of help along the line and in the back seven, especially with Malik Harrison at linebacker and cornerbacks Jeff Okudah and Shaun Wade.
► Question: Did you anticipate any drop-off when Ryan Day took over as head coach after Urban Meyer retired? What kind of leader is Day?
► Rabinowitz: Meyer is a Hall of Fame coach so you expected some rookie mistakes from Day, but Ohio State hasn't missed a beat. Day is ultra-competitive like Meyer, but he's more approachable and laid-back in terms of personality. It was at least symbolic that when Day remodeled Meyer's office — actually, he had people do it for him — he had a fireplace installed because he wanted a homey feel. Day's motto for the year has been "Tough Love," and he preaches the toughness continuously but with sensitivity included as well. Meyer was so hard-driving that it's clear this team has responded to a different voice.
► Question: Dwayne Haskins was prolific last year as OSU’s quarterback and then Justin Fields transferred to Ohio State, and he’s been dynamic. How much has Fields changed this offense? What does he add?
► Rabinowitz: The biggest difference between Fields and Haskins is the run threat that Fields provides. He's not as elusive as Braxton Miller was, but he is extremely fast for his size. As a passer, he's got an NFL-caliber arm. He's particularly proficient on out patterns. He can throw the deep ball, but he's been a bit inconsistent on those. Haskins was a reluctant runner and certainly not an explosive one. Fields can make big plays with his arm and legs and hasn't gotten visibly flustered at any point. Given all the OSU blowouts this year, why would he get flustered?
► Question: The Buckeyes don’t seem to have any weaknesses — are there any, maybe one?
► Rabinowitz: It's nitpicking, but Fields does tend to take some unnecessary sacks and the offensive line has been occasionally susceptible to stunts. Fields has such confidence in his ability to avoid pressure that sometimes he gets a little lax in escaping the pocket. On defense, the Buckeyes are strong at all three levels and can mix and match scheme and personnel. I'm really not sure there's a discernible weakness on that unit. If I had to really reach for one, I'd say that the Buckeyes' desire to use their depth sometimes has their best players on the sidelines and sometimes the reserves' inexperience shows.
► Question: How do you see this game playing out?
► Rabinowitz: If the weather isn't a major factor, I think Ohio State's overall superiority wins out. I expect Michigan to play with a chip on its shoulder after what happened last year. The Wolverines have enough playmakers to stay in the game. But I think the Buckeyes' defense can harass Shea Patterson into mistakes. As well as Michigan has played defensive down the stretch, they haven't faced an offense that can hurt you in as many ways as Ohio State's. Michigan will need what Penn State got last week —winning the turnover battle and catching some breaks — but the Wolverines do have home-field advantage. The Buckeyes haven't played a really good team on the road yet. If the weather is a major factor, I think that's an equalizer. That favors Michigan.
Players to watch
► Justin Fields, QB: Ohio State’s quarterback has been extremely efficient during his first season with the Buckeyes after transferring from Georgia. Fields ranks third in the nation in points responsible for with 258, fourth in passing efficiency at 190.3 and tied for third with 33 touchdowns passes — he has only one interception this season. His 43 total touchdowns is third behind Jalen Hurts (47) and Joe Burrow (44). Fields’ 33 touchdown passes ranks fourth in single-season Ohio State history. He’s one shy of tying J.T. Barrett (2014) for third place.
► Chase Young, DE: Young is considered by many to be the best player in college football. The defensive end sat two games for an NCAA suspension but returned last week against Penn State and had a career-high nine tackles, four tackles-for-loss, three sacks and a forced fumble in the 28-17 win over then-No. 8 Penn State. Young has 16.5 sacks, which is an Ohio State single-season sack record (previously by Vernon Gholston, who had 14 in 2007). Young leads the nation with 1.83 quarterback sacks per game and is second in tackles for loss with 2.17. He also has gone 11 consecutive games registering a sack. In his 11-game streak, Young has a total of 20.5 sacks in his career and is the second player in program history, Mike Vrabel is the other to have 10 or more sacks in multiple seasons.
► J.K. Dobbins, RB: OSU’s running back is ranked No. 5 nationally with 131.5 rushing yards per game, despite only 57 second-half carries all season and four games with no carries in the second half. He ranks fourth nationally in rushing yards with 1,446 and also ranks eighth nationally with 6.6 yards per carry and is tied for seventh with 15 touchdowns. Dobbins has rushed for 3,902 yards during his career and is 59 yards away from passing Ezekiel Elliott for second all-time in rushing at Ohio State. Dobbins ranks fourth nationally with 14 rushes of 20 or more yards this season.
Facts and figures
► Second isn’t so bad: Ohio State has scored 21 or more points in the second quarter in seven of the last 10 games, and the Buckeyes’ average of 19.1 points in the second quarter is the best in the country. How huge is the gap? The Buckeyes have outgained opponents 2,007-472 in the second quarter. Against Miami on Sept. 21, Ohio State scored 42 second-quarter points — a single-quarter program record — and Fields accounted for all six touchdowns.
► Ranked again: The Buckeyes and Wolverines will be meeting for the 23rd time when both teams are ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press Poll. Ohio State is No. 2 and Michigan is No. 10. The Buckeyes lead in those games, 11-9-2. This also will be the 48th time the two have played at Michigan Stadium. Michigan has a 23-21-3 record against OSU in those games.
► Put it in the sack: Ohio State has 47 sacks on the season and needs just six more for a new single-season team record. The 2000 Buckeyes had 52.0 sacks. Michigan has 35 sacks this season, led by Josh Uche who has 8.5. Kwity Paye is second with 6.5.