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Ohio State: first look

November 19th, 2012 by Justin Potts

Read our preseason Ohio State preview here.

With a dominating win over Iowa on Saturday, Michigan kept itself in contention for the Big Ten title. Unfortunately, Nebraska also won and plays Iowa this weekend, so the hopes are slim. But they are still alive. Now, it’s a one game season as Michigan travels to Columbus for The Game. You don’t need to be told how big it is, but Michigan will be looking for its first win in Columbus since 2000.

Ohio State comes in undefeated for the sixth time in the last 20 years. Michigan won three of the previous five (1993, 1995, 1996), although Ohio State has won the last two (2002, 2006). The Buckeyes played a weak non-conference schedule of Miami (OH), UCF, California, and UAB and struggled against the latter two. In Big Ten play, Ohio State eked out a one-point win over Michigan State, throttled Nebraska, hung on against Indiana, survived overtime to top Purdue, beat Penn State, thumped Illinois, and hung on in overtime to beat Wisconsin.

So yes, Ohio is unbeaten, but the Bucks are anything but unbeatable. Can Michigan win its second straight in the series and end Ohio State’s AP national title hopes? Or will OSU continue its home dominance of Michigan? Let’s take a look at the Buckeyes.

Ohio State 2012 Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Ohio State Michigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 38.2 | 30.8 18 | 48 23.0 | 18.1 34 | 17
Rushing Yards 2,700 | 2,140 1,285 | 1,665
Rush Avg. Per Game 245.5 | 194.5 9 | 36 116.8 | 151.4 17 | 51
Avg. Per Rush 5.3 | 5.0 3.5 | 3.7
Passing Yards 1,989 | 2,206 2,751 | 1,673
Pass Avg. Per Game 180.8 | 200.5 100 | 95 250.1 | 152.1 84 | 1
Total Offense 4,689 | 4,346 4,036 | 3,338
Total Off Avg. Per Game 426.3 | 395.1 45 | 67 366.9 | 303.5 38 | 12
Kick Return Average 19.7 | 22.2 87 | 52 20.8 | 23.1 54 | 90
Punt Return Average 10.9 | 9.3 28 | 54 6.8 | 7.6 44 | 66
Avg. Time of Possession 29:31 | 30:06 72 | 58 30:29 | 29:54
3rd Down Conversion Pct 43% | 52% 44 | 8 33% | 37% 23 | 39
Sacks By-Yards 26-230 | 15-127 34 | 97 26-151 | 11-80 88 | 14
Touchdowns Scored 58 | 42 30 | 21
Field Goals-Attempts 4-6 | 15-18 14-23 | 17-23
Red Zone Scores (40-45) 89% | (37-40) 93% 17 | 4 (25-35) 71% | (29-35) 83% 15 | 70
Red Zone Touchdowns (36-45) 80% | (25-40) 63% (17-35) 49% | (16-35) 46%

The main thing that stands out with OSU’s stats and national rankings is the number of touchdowns versus the number of field goals. Ohio State has scored 58 touchdowns and attempted just six field goals all season. The offensive efficiency is outstanding. The Bucks have scored on 89 percent of their red zone trips and 80 percent have been touchdowns. Michigan’s red zone percentage is slightly better (and ranks fourth nationally), but many of those scores have been field goals.

On the flip side, while Ohio State’s defense has given up a lot of yards and points this season, it has clamped down in the red zone, holding opponents to just a 71 percent conversion rate, which is 15th nationally.

There’s no secret who Ohio State’s main man is. Sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller has garnered some Heisman talk this season and has had a Denard-like impact on OSU this season. He has completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,850 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions, but where he has done the most damage is with his feet. Miller leads the Buckeyes with 207 rushes for 1,214 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has become a slightly better passer this year than he was last year, but has still had his struggles.

Urban Meyer faces Michigan for the first time as OSU head coach (Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

In a two-game stretch against Purdue and Penn State, he completed just 16-of-39 passes for 256 yards, a touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also struggled against Wisconsin on Saturday, throwing for 97 yards on 10-of-18 passing. On the ground, however, Miller has eclipsed 100 yards in six of 11 games with a high of 186 in the win over Nebraska.

Bruising back Carlos Hyde has been his co-star in the offense with 159 carries for 824 yards and a team-leading 15 touchdowns. And he missed two games at the beginning of the season. However, Penn State held him to just 2.5 yards per carry on 22 carries.

The receiving corps is basically a two-man show, Devin Smith and Philly Brown. Smith leads in yards (555) and touchdowns (six) on 28 receptions, while Brown leads with 48 receptions for 526 yards. Tight end Jake Stoneburner has 15 catches for 260 and four TDs. The only other guy with double digit receptions is Evan Spencer with 11.

Make no mistake about it, the Buckeyes are a run-first team and they do it out of the spread with the zone read, allowing Miller to make the reads. The rushing offense is second in the Big Ten (behind Nebraska) and ninth nationally, averaging 245.5 yards per game, while the passing offense is eighth in the conference and 100th nationally.

Defensively, Ohio State is very vulnerable. They allow 23 points per game, but over the last six weeks, the Buckeyes have given up an average of 28. The run defense is pretty good, allowing 116.8 yards per game, which is third in the Big Ten and 17th nationally. But the pass defense is the weak point, giving up 250.1 yards per game, which is second to last in the Big Ten, in front of only Northwestern. Yes, even worse than Iowa. The Bucks have given up nearly 700 total yards more than Michigan has on the season.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier ranks second in the Big Ten with 110 tackles, while defensive end John Simon leads the conference with nine sacks. Both lead the Big Ten with 14.5 tackles for loss apiece. Defensive back Bradley Roby also leads the conference with 19 pass breakups and Travis Howards leads with four interceptions.

It will be the first matchup between Brady Hoke and new OSU head coach Urban Meyer. Hoke won last year’s meeting 40-34. Since Ohio State is ineligible for the postseason, the Buckeyes will be playing their final game of the season and would love nothing more than to end Michigan’s chances of winning the Big Ten. There’s still an outside chance the Buckeyes could be named national champions by the AP, so Michigan would love to ruin those hopes. Stay tuned for our continued coverage throughout the week.