Ohio State vs. Michigan: Will the 2022 edition of The Game signal a changing of the guard in the Big Ten East?

No. 3 Michigan battles No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday in one of the most intense annual rivalries in all of college football — The Game. Bragging rights, a Big Ten East championship and a possible College Football Playoff berth will all be on the line when the Wolverines and Buckeyes take the field.

Something else of great importance may also be up for grabs this weekend in Columbus, Ohio. A second straight win by the Wolverines and coach Jim Harbaugh would mark a sea change in the division. Ohio State will no longer be considered the class of the Big Ten East. That nickname would then belong to the corn and blue.

This is the first time since 2006 that both teams in this storied rivalry will be 11-0 in The Game, and this matchup comes a year after Michigan snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Buckeyes en route to the first of the college football playoff. appearance. It’s the second straight year that the winner will be 60 minutes away from a Big Ten Championship game from reaching the four-team field. That matters, especially to a team like Michigan that has been “the chaser” for so long.

The Wolverines were 6.5 point underdog, according to Caesars Sportsbook, go into last year’s game in Ann Arbor, Michigan and are 7.5-point dogs before their trip to hostile territory this weekend at The Horseshoe. A win would not only mean Michigan owns Ohio State, but it did so while receiving very little confidence from the oddsmakers in Las Vegas.

Harbaugh was asked this week what that monumental win last season ultimately meant for the program.

“This is where we are now,” Harbaugh said during his press conference. “And like I just said, those are my thoughts on it. It’s just a real honor. It’s a real honor to be in this position, to be able to test yourself physically, mentally, emotionally. We know it’s the toughest test And I think we’re going to find that we’re made of the right stuff.”

That sounds a lot like he understands that he’s almost even with Buckeyes coach Ryan Day, despite the fact that this 2022 Michigan isn’t as talented as his opponent, on paper, like last year.

The Buckeyes are ranked third in the 247Sports team talent rankings behind Alabama and Georgia, while Michigan is 14th. Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud is the second-leading passer in the Big Ten with 271.9 yards per game, while Michigan’s JJ McCarthy ranks 10th (177.5 YPG). Ohio State’s defense ranks third in the conference in opponent third-down conversion percentage (30.41%), while Michigan is fourth (30.41%). Ohio State is the Big Ten’s leading team in yards per carry despite massive injury problems all year (5.53), while Michigan is second (5.51) despite having a superstar, which Heisman hopeful running back Blake Corum.

Catch my drift?

If Michigan can win the longest game in series history since 2006 and win another Big Ten East championship, it will be considered the East’s seed. It would show that while they are viewed as the underdog team, by many accounts, they have what it takes to overcome those shortcomings to reach ultimate success not just in The Game but throughout the season with a target on their back.

Simply put, Michigan would prove to be a better and more consistent program on the rise, while Ohio State is, at best, stuck in neutral.

That’s pretty remarkable considering this Wolverines schedule was reeling before last year’s remarkable College Football Playoff run.

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