ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Ohio State is two wins away from having a shot at winning a second national championship in five seasons and a third title this century.
Michigan is in the way.
The Buckeyes, ranked No. 1 in the College Football Playoff and No. 2 in the Associated Press poll, have won seven straight and 14 of 15 against the Wolverines in a dominating stretch that has taken a lot of suspense out of the series.
Ohio State is about a double-digit favorite to win today at the Big House where it is expected to set a school record with an eighth straight win in a rivalry that started in 1897.
The Buckeyes (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) have already clinched a spot in the conference championship game with first-year coach Ryan Day and will face No. 9 Minnesota or No. 13 Wisconsin next week in Indianapolis.
Make no mistake, they will take No. 10 Michigan (9-2, 6-2, No. 13 CFP) seriously because no one wearing scarlet and gray wants to give a desperate rival any satisfaction.
The Wolverines, meanwhile, acknowledge it gives them an added incentive to have an opportunity to spoil Ohio State's season.
“This is something that is not only important to them, but important to us,” Michigan tight end Nick Eubanks said.
The outcome is certainly important for Jim Harbaugh, who is winless in The Game as a coach after having some success in the series as a quarterback more than three decades ago.
Harbaugh is not in danger of losing his job if he falls to 0-5 against Ohio State, but a victory would without a doubt give him and college football's winningest program a much-needed boost.
A loss to close the regular season would define another year as something short of great even if the Wolverines win their bowl game to have a fourth 10-win season under Harbaugh.
Michigan's top priority might be trying to keep Ohio State defensive end Chase Young away from quarterback Shea Patterson.
The Heisman Trophy candidate has a nation-leading and school-record 161/2 sacks in just nine games.
Young had three sacks and six other tackles against Penn State in his return from a two-game NCAA suspension last Saturday.
Harbaugh seemed to hint Michigan is planning to do some things it hasn't before in its quest to beat Ohio State for the first time since 2011.
“Everything could be done,” Harbaugh said. “Anything could be changed. Anything could be added. Don't mind your opponents knowing that all things are possible – schematically.”
Ohio State at Michigan
When: Noon today
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
Records: Ohio State (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten, No. 1 CFP); Michigan (9-2, 6-2, No. 13 CFP)