In the eyes of one veteran NFL scout, Ohio State vs. Michigan boils down to two fundamental questions.

  1. Are the Buckeyes better since they have a more talented but inexperienced team, or does the edge go to the Wolverines' more experienced group that's not considered as fast and athletic?
  2. Which offensive line has the most success against two talented defenses?

CBS Sports granted anonymity to a longtime NFL scout -- who has seen Ohio State and Michigan play this season -- to candidly assess both teams' talent. The scout's conclusion: Ohio State has more overall team speed, but Michigan can win if it finds a way to run the ball to play keep away like Michigan State did while losing 17-16 to the Buckeyes last week.

The quarterbacks

Though there are questions about J.T. Barrett being a viable NFL starter, the scout believes he's an ideal fit for Urban Meyer's spread option offense. Barrett ranks 25th nationally in quarterback rating and 26th in completion percentage to go with 2,304 passing yards and 722 rushing yards.

"His legs can bail them out with some of his quarterback runs, and that's what you may need in a game like this," the scout said. "I think in some ways he's almost underappreciated because he's not a flashy player, but he can have some 'wow' plays. He's a little streaky. The other day (10 of 22 for 86 yards vs. Michigan State) I thought was weather-related. If I were ranking the quarterbacks who have a chance to beat Alabama, I would say [Clemson's Deshaun] Watson and then Barrett."

For Michigan, John O'Korn went 7 of 16 for 59 yards last week in his first start after replacing injured starter Wilton Speight. The scout chalked up O'Korn's poor numbers to his debut at Michigan, difficult weather that lent itself to running the ball, and a not-so talented offensive line. Speight reportedly practiced on Tuesday and it's not clear if he will play.

"I think [O'Korn] can grow from that game," the scout said. "I think he's probably on par with Wilton Speight, but he just doesn't have a season of experience at Michigan under his belt. If Michigan can run the ball, he'll probably have a chance to play well enough to win. If they can't run the ball, that won't bode well."

The offensive lines

Jim Harbaugh teams are built to run the ball. Michigan does that -- at times. The Wolverines rank 25th nationally in yards per carry (5.2), but that number is somewhat inflated from beating up on some weaker defenses.

The two highest-ranked rush defenses Michigan has faced (No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 26 UCF) held the Wolverines to 2.9 yards per carry. Two weeks ago, Iowa's 46th-ranked rush defense held Michigan to 98 yards on 35 attempts. Ohio State allows 3.4 yards per carry (17th in the country) but gave up 236 yards to Wisconsin and 207 to Michigan State.

"Michigan has a veteran offensive line with three seniors, but it's sort of an ordinary bunch," the scout said. "I can't find a scout in the business that has said, 'You need to see this guy.'"

Ohio State averaged 5.7 yards per carry (11th in the country). Michigan is sixth in rush defense at 3.0 yards per carry allowed. The Buckeyes have more different ways to run the ball than Michigan, but their line has questions, too.

"Ohio State got exposed some against Penn State when they fell behind," the scout said. "When they're ahead and have the threat of a run-pass mix, they're better than adequate. But when they fell behind Penn State, they didn't protect Barrett very well at all. Michigan's line, Ohio State's line, Clemson's line, Washington's line -- I can't imagine any of those guys having a chance holding up against Alabama's front."

The defensive talent

Michigan cornerbacks Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling "can hold up against most college receivers," said the scout, who thinks Lewis will play in the NFL and Stribling will be a late-round pick or free agent. The scout said the cornerback play gives Michigan a chance to pressure and crowd the box.

The scout regards defensive ends Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton as two future pros, and defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow could be as well. Michigan has 36 sacks, which is tied for eighth in the country. Six quarterbacks of Michigan opponents haven't finished games this season due to injuries, according to

"We gonna see how [the Buckeyes] respond to physicality," versatile defensive player Jabril Peppers said this week, according to the Detroit Free Press. "Come with bad intentions. It's never our intention to hurt anyone, but when we hit you, we want you to feel it."

Since Ohio State is so young, the NFL scout hasn't evaluated the Buckeyes' defensive talent as closely yet. "They're ball hawks in the back end," the scout said. "Greg Schiano has done a nice job with them."

The versatile X-factors

Ohio State has do-it-all offensive weapon Curtis Samuel, whose versatility gives the Buckeyes' offense much-needed flexibility.

"He's kind of the next iteration of a Percy Harvin type," the scout said. "He can run it and catch it, elusive out in space. They don't have the vertical game as much this year to stretch the field, but he's helped there. All eyes are on him and he's still been very productive."

Michigan counters with Peppers, whose versatility reminds the scout of Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu. "He can play outside, inside, blitz, pounce on things off him," the scout said. "He can learn a lot of different spots. Man-to-man coverage is probably the weakest part of his game."

Peppers ranks fourth nationally in punt returns and has 23 carries for 163 yards (7.1 per carry). He probably plays more snaps than anybody in the country, though his heaviest workload on offense hasn't come since late October. "I wonder if this is a game we see him with more touches," the scout said.

The prediction

Michigan hasn't won at Ohio State since 2000, which was Harbaugh's final year as an NFL quarterback.

"I think Ohio State will win at home with a low score," the scout said. "I think they can make it pretty miserable for O'Korn. If Michigan can play like Michigan State, that's the blueprint for them to win. They have the experience to do it everywhere except quarterback, but it's not as if O'Korn can't be effective."