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Ohio State Take On Upstart Michigan Team In Return Of Rivalry Game

In this Nov. 30, 2019, file photo, Ohio State, left, and Michigan players line up at the line of scrimmage in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Paul Sancya
Associated Press

The Ohio State football team heads to Ann Arbor Friday for Saturday's game against arch-rival Michigan, a matchup that brings renewed excitement to the series that's been dominated by the Buckeyes for the past two decades.

It will also help decide who plays for the Big Ten and national championships.

Ohio State, now ranked 2nd in the College Football Playoff rankings, enters the game as a lock to make the four-team postseason playoff if they can beat Michigan and whichever team they would play next in the Big Ten championship. A loss means an appearance in a top bowl game on or around New Year's Day.

The same likely holds true for Michigan, which is currently ranked 5th and would almost certainly leap-frog Ohio State in the rankings if they can get a victory on Saturday.

Michigan has never made the college football playoff, while Ohio State has been there four times. The Buckeyes won the first ever playoff following the 2014 season.

In his six previous seasons at Michigan, head coach Jim Harbaugh has never beaten Ohio State. Ohio State has won 17 of the last 19 matchups, including a 2010 win that was later vacated because of NCAA violations.

Despite the disparity in success in recent years, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day says the rivalry remains just as important as ever.

"We always have one eye on them," Day told the media on Tuesday. "It's just the way we do our business in recruiting or...in the season. You can't be crazy about it otherwise you're going to get distracted from what the task at hand is during the season, but you know we always have an eye on them and as you know in the off season we have different things that we do, whether its in practice or in the weight room, that's dedicated toward this game."

The Saturday game marks the 24th time that the two schools have met with both ranked in the top ten.

On the field, the Buckeyes are led by what's considered the best wide receiver corps in the country with Chris Olave, Garrett Wison and Jackson Smith-Njigba. Throwing them the ball is Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback C.J. Stroud.

The Michigan offense is led by quarterback J.J. McCarthy. On defense the team has star defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who's considered by many to be a top prospect in next year's NFL Draft.

Saturday’s game comes a year after what many considered unthinkable when the pandemic led to the game being canceled for the first time in more than a century.