#3 Michigan vs #2 Ohio State (+3.0) 11:00 a.m. CT Saturday, November 25 on Fox
“The Game” has a lot weighing on it this season. Both Ohio State and Michigan are 11-0, with their sights set on the Big 10 Championship and more importantly, a spot in the College Football Playoff. Whoever wins this contest will play the 9-2 Iowa Hawkeyes in the conference championship game. Additionally, the winner of this game will likely clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff. While the Michigan and Ohio State’s rivalry will remain fierce in upcoming seasons, 2023’s iteration will be the last time it’s played on an annual basis for the foreseeable future. Next season, the Big 10 is expanding to 18 teams and abolishing conferences. Thus, Michigan and Ohio State will have the opportunity to meet in the Conference Championship but likely play every other season.
One of the biggest storylines in this battle is the absence of Jim Harbaugh. The Michigan head coach is missing his third straight game as a part of his suspension for sign-stealing. Michigan offensive coordinator, Sherrone Moore, will fill in for the suspended Harbaugh. In two games without Harbaugh, the Wolverines haven’t necessarily looked good. In both games sans Harbaugh, versus Penn State and Maryland, Michigan failed to gain more than 300 yards. The passing game has looked abysmal. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy, once a Heisman frontrunner, has thrown for 201 yards and an interception without Harbaugh on the sidelines. Running back Blake Corum has paced the offense. He’s rushed for 239 yards and four scores during the past two weeks.
And the typical dominant Wolverines defense hasn’t looked the same as it did earlier in the year. Of course, Michigan’s easy schedule to begin the season skewed some statistics, nevertheless, allowing 24 points to the Maryland Terrapins isn’t the best look. Maryland sustained multiple long drives against the Michigan defense, scoring three times on drives longer than 70 yards. However, the Terrapins shot themselves in the foot with multiple bad turnovers, a safety, and a few drives for negative yardage.
Despite the numerous playmakers on offense, the Buckeyes offense is so-so. Ohio State averages 429.3 yards per game, 35th in college football. Led by first-year starter Kyle McCord, the offense has better as of late but is up for its biggest challenge of the season. The Wolverines allow only 9.3 points per game and 234.8 yards per game, both the best in the nation. The Wolverines will be tasked with slowing TreVeyon Henderson, Emeka Egukba, and Marvin Harrison Jr. Henderson and Harrison Jr. have already surpassed 1000 total yards, while Egbuka has had a bit of a down year, he is still a bonafide star on the outside.
While the Wolverines' defense is incredible, the Buckeyes' defense is no slouch. The Ohio State defense ranks just below Michigan in most defensive categories. The Wolverines allow the second-fewest points per game and the third-fewest yards per game. Stopping Corum will be key for the Buckeyes. Corum has been heavily involved as of late and that likely won’t change.
Michigan leads the series 60-51-6 all-time. Although Michigan has the better record, Ohio State has dominated as of late. Dating back to 2000, Ohio State is 16-5 in “the Game.” However, there has been a shift in the 2020s. Michigan has won both matchups this decade. Michigan won 42-27 in 2021, then 45-23 in 2022. And a third straight win might be in store for the Wolverines.
My pick: Michigan wins 21-20
#14 LSU vs Texas A&M (+11.5) 11:00 a.m. CT Saturday, November 25 on ESPN
The sole reason this game is highlighted is because of Jayden Daniels. Despite an 8-3 record, the star quarterback is a Heisman finalist lock. And he should be more than just a Heisman finalist. Daniels should be a shoo-in. He ranks third in the nation in passing yards and first in passing touchdowns. The dual-threat quarterback also ranks in the top 25 in rushing yards. And not just for quarterbacks. The LSU phenom ranks 21st in all of college football, with 1,014 yards on the ground. He ranks first amongst signal callers. Daniels has also recorded 10 scores on the ground.
While defeating the 7-4 Aggies might not mean much for the Tigers in the grand scheme of things, an exceptional game by Daniels would further cement his Heisman status. Texas A&M has the best defense in the SEC, only allowing 286.5 yards per game. For reference, the Tigers average double the amount of yards that the Aggies allow. One of these squads will break, whether it be Texas A&M defensively or LSU offensively. Daniels hasn’t passed for less than 200 yards in a game this season. Conversely, the Aggies have only allowed three 200-yard passers this season.
Even though the season may be concluding, a new era is upon us in Aggieland. Head coach Jimbo Fisher, who had signed a 10-year $75 million contract in 2017, was bought out just two weeks ago. The Aggies end the season against LSU, before playing in a bowl game next month. It’s expected that Texas A&M will hire their next head coach in early December, before their bowl game. Beginning the season ranked in the top 25, the Aggies have certainly disappointed this season. However, a win this weekend and the Aggies may find themselves back in the top 25 before the postseason.
My pick: LSU wins 45-30