2018's version of ‘The Game' will take place at noon this Saturday, pitting the 10-1 Michigan Wolverines against the 10-1 Ohio State Buckeyes. Top 10 teams in every ranking, the matchup between bitter rivals needs no hyping on an annual basis but this year's matchup may have more riding on the line for both squads since the start of the College Football Playoff.
This story is brought to you by Eckrich, the Official Smoked Sausage of the College Football Playoff.
With the winner heading to the Big Ten Championship game against Northwestern and likely a spot in the College Football Playoff, the yearly meeting between these perennial powers takes a whole new level of excitement in 2018.
For Michigan, it's simple: protect QB Shea Patterson and let him carve up the Big Ten's 13th-ranked coverage unit in our PFF coverage grades.
– Patterson ranks fifth in deep-pass passer rating at 132.5
– Patterson and Haskins have the same amount of big-time throws (PFF's highest-graded throws) despite Haskins throwing nearly 200 more passes
– Ohio State's back seven ranks second to last, in front of only Illinois in the Big Ten in coverage grade
For Ohio State, it's not quite as simple for Dwayne Haskins: Michigan's secondary allows the fewest amount of yards after the catch as a team, an area that the Ohio State passing attack relies on.
– Haskins' grade drops drastically from 89.4 in a clean pocket to 49.5 when under pressure
– Haskins has just 2 touchdown passes under duress
– Michigan's top three cornerbacks have allowed a combined 135 yards after the catch on a combined 96 targets (1.40 YAC per target)