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Posts Tagged ‘Beat Ohio’


Saturday, November 24th, 2012

That is all.

M&GB Pick’em: Ohio State staff predictions

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Last week, Matt captured his third prediction victory of the year with his 41-13 pick. Katie and Justin were both close as well, while Sam had his worst pick of the season. This week is the big one, the one we’ve all been waiting for since Michigan beat the Buckeyes a year ago. Ohio State is favored and looking for an undefeated season, while Michigan is still hoping to keep its Big Ten title hopes alive. A lot is on the line, and that’s just how it should be. Let’s take a look at our picks.



Justin: Michigan 35 – Ohio State 38

Chris: Michigan 23 Ohio State 26

Josh: Michigan 31 – Ohio State 28

Sam: Michigan 21 – Ohio State 27

Katie: Michigan 31 – Ohio State 27

Matt: Michigan 41 – Ohio State 38


Average: Ohio State 30.7 – Michigan 30.3

Justin (1): Despite being unbeaten, Ohio State is far from unbeatable. The Bucks had to survive overtime against Wisconsin and needed a last minute comeback just to force overtime against Purdue (!). They let Indiana score 49 points and needed a late touchdown to beat Cal, who is just 3-9 this season.

A week ago, questions swirled about Denard’s status and availability. Would he see the field? If he did, would it just be a ceremonial snap for one last time in the Big House? Well, he did see the field and that ceremonial snap turned into another and another and another. In the end, he carried the ball 13 times for 98 yards and caught two passes for 24 more. He lined up at quarterback a few times, but didn’t throw a pass, and he also served as a decoy several times, one of which resulted in a Vincent Smith touchdown as the entire Iowa defense keyed on Denard.

Yes, it was against Iowa, but Ohio State’s defense isn’t much better. In fact, statistically, they aren’t. The offense that was on display last week will be built upon. Al Borges will try to get the ball to Denard in space to make Ohio State’s linebackers and defensive backs make plays in space. Devin Gardner will also throw the ball quite a bit, looking for Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo underneath the Buckeye zone. There will be yards to be had and Michigan will need to be efficient with punching the ball into the end zone instead of settling for field goals or turning it over.

Ohio State’s offense is high-powered and will put a lot of pressure on Michigan’s defense. Braxton Miller has gotten much better since last season, though he’s still prone to mistakes. Michigan’s defensive line will have to make sure it doesn’t rush right by him, leaving lanes for him to step up and run. To be sure, Greg Mattison’s defense will focus on keeping Miller from getting to the edge like Wisconsin did. Linebackers Jake Ryan, Kenny Demens, and Desmond Morgan will need to stay disciplined. We will also probably see quite a bit of Jakes Ross to get more speed on the field like we have against other spread offenses.

I just don’t see this one being a defensive battle, nor do I see it being a blowout in either direction. It will go back and forth with both teams scoring often. Unfortunately, I think Ohio State ends up on top. But I hope I’m wrong. For more analysis, check out this morning’s game preview, yesterday’s Friend vs Foe, Wednesday’s MMQ, and Monday’s First Look.

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 35

Chris (2): The time has come for The Game. The biggest rivalry in all of sports. There are others that come close, but there is no competition that matches the hatred and passion that comes with Michigan and Ohio getting together to battle it out on the football field at the end of every season. Saturday’s matchup is no different. Michigan will enter the game knowing whether they have a chance to win the Legends Division after a Nebraska loss on Friday. Even if that’s not the case, Michigan will be motivated by the opportunity to ruin Ohio’s undefeated season and what will be Ohio’s bowl game, since they are not eligible for any postseason play.

Michigan will need to get pressure on Braxton Miller and keep him contained (Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

Last week, Michigan unveiled a new style of offense with Denard Robinson playing in a new multi-role position and Devin Gardner taking all of the snaps under center.  The result was the best day of offense that a Michigan team has had in years.  As I pointed out in my Monday Morning Quarterback article this past week, I believe that dynamic nature of this offense has added a positive twist to this game that will make it even more exciting.

Living in Columbus, I have seen Ohio play a lot.  I feel like I have a pretty good sense of the strengths and weaknesses of this Ohio team.  One thing I can tell you is that they struggle with is teams that spread them out and attack them with multiple formations and multiple looks.  They have been especially vulnerable when offenses get the ball out on the edge quickly and the defense is forced to run to the ball and make a tackle.  Speaking of tackling, Ohio has been poor in this area all season, which could be an advantage for the Michigan offense.

So what do I see happening on Saturday?  Defensively, Michigan needs to stop the run and prevent QB Braxton Miller from the running the ball out of the pocket.  This means a disciplined pass rush that keeps Miller contained in the pocket.  Expect Ohio to try to establish dominance in the trenches right off the bat with a strong rushing attack to wear down the defense and keep an explosive Michigan offense off of the field.

When Michigan is on offense, I think the key will be up front with the offensive line defending against the Ohio pass rush.  All season, Michigan has struggled with their blocking.  If they can’t keep the Ohio defense from penetrating the line and disrupting the play in the backfield, it will be a long day for Michigan fans.  Al Borges will need to call a heavy mix of screens, draws, and short, quick-hitting passes that will force the defense to stay off of the line of scrimmage and give the offense room to operate.  Spread them out and make the defense tackle in space.  That’s how Michigan will move the ball.

My prediction for this game is that Ohio is going to be too much for the Michigan defense on the ground.  Michigan hasn’t been great defending the run this year and that’s not a recipe for success in this rivalry.  I want Michigan to win and hope with everything in me that I’m wrong.

Ohio State 26 – Michigan 23

Josh (2): Ah, Beat Ohio week. My favorite week of the year. Last year Michigan broke their losing streak to that team from Columbus and look to make it two in a row for Brady Hoke. The Game always has significance but it lost some of its luster under the last regime, who didn’t seem to understand its importance. But let us not dwell on the past. Ohio comes into the game at 11-0 and would love nothing more than to cap off their undefeated season with a win against the Wolverines. A month ago I would have said Ohio wins big, but with the emergence of Devin Gardner and a legitimate passing game I have changed my tune. It won’t be easy, it never is against Ohio, but with Gardner at QB and Denard playing the role of WR/RB I think we have a really good chance at beating an undefeated Ohio team again.

Michigan has the nation’s top pass defense; part of that is who they’ve played but a bigger part is Greg Mattison and his scheme. He sets his guys up to succeed and has instilled a great confidence that had been lacking since the 2006 team. Ohio has a high octane offense led by Braxton Miller but, as Wisconsin showed last week, it is possible to bottle him up and stifle their offense. Being in Columbus will not make this an easy task for our boys in Maize and Blue but if they can limit the Buckeyes’ big plays and get their offense in a groove they have a great chance of coming away with a win.

Can the Devin and Denard show continue to work? (Tony Ding, AP)

Denard Robinson has meant so much to this program, with both his play and his leadership. I have not always been so supportive of his passing ability but his leadership is unquestioned. It would mean the world to him and Wolverine fans the world around if he could go out having beat Ohio in his last regular season game. That said, Devin Gardner is now the starting QB and I could not be any more confident in him than I am right now. He may not have the electric legs of Denard but his passing and decision making are head and shoulders above. We may not have the best sample to look at, having faced less than stellar teams the past three weeks, but what he has done against weaker defenses is what any good QB should do. 46/70, 834 yards 7 TD’s, 3 picks and he’s added 105 yards on the ground and another 6 TD’s. 13 total TD’s in three games to only 3 turnovers, definitely solid numbers. Throw in the wrinkle of Denard being in the backfield or spread out wide and you have a deadly combo that will be a nightmare for Ohio to prepare for.

Ohio has one of the worst pass defenses in college football. They’ve given up over 300 yards passing or 200 yards rushing in six of their eleven games; Miami (OH), Indiana and PSU all put up over 300 yards passing and Cal, Nebraska and Wisconsin all totaled over 200 yards rushing. They’ve given up over 300 yards of total offense to ten of their eleven opponents; Illinois being the only one held under. Yes, they do average over 400 yards per game, 425 to be exact, but defense wins championships and their defense gives up a ton of yards. The odds of Michigan not having a 300 yard passer or 200 yard rusher are slim to none. If Michigan puts up those types of numbers they should be in a good spot to win the game.

Devin Gardner gives this team a unique advantage; Ohio has only three games to look at and game plan against. Teams cannot prepare for Gardner the way they can against Denard, as he can both pass and run very well. I don’t expect Denard to throw the ball, though it wouldn’t shock me on a trick play, but look for Borges to get him the ball in space where he is deadly. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Denard return kicks or punts in Columbus.

The keys to this game are how well Michigan’s defense contains Braxton Miller and the Buckeye offense and if Borges can get the run game going without Fitz Toussaint. If they can prevent the big plays and keep Ohio from scoring like they are accustomed to then Michigan goes back to A2 with the win. Denard should help alleviate some of the sting from the loss of Toussaint and we should see a good dose of bruiser Thomas Rawls as well to keep the Ohio defense off balance.

Michigan will play spoiler to Ohio’s perfect season and come away with a close win in Columbus.

Michigan 31 – Ohio State 28

Matt (3): WhatHere it is! Michigan vs Ohio State week! It’s a game that I get so excited for. It’s a game that I get so nervous for.

Michigan comes into the game in Columbus this Saturday with a potential shot to win the Legends Division (that is if Iowa can defeat Nebraska on Friday). But even if the Wolverines can’t win the Legends Division with this win, it’s obviously a game that they still want to win.

This season is Urban Meyer’s first season as the Buckeyes head coach, and he’d love nothing more than to go undefeated, topping the season off with a win over the Michigan Wolverines. And of course, Brady Hoke would love to be the one that spoils that for Urban. Brady beat the Buckeyes last year, in his first season as head coach of the Wolverines. He’ll look to stay undefeated against the heated rival.

Carlos Hyde has been a touchdown machine for OSU (Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

I would normally go into stats, but when it comes to this game…The Game, you can throw the stats out the window. Michigan has a few losses this year. It doesn’t matter. Ohio State is undefeated this year. It doesn’t matter. Braxton Miller is hoping for a Heisman. Yep, it doesn’t matter.

Al Borges got to have some fun last weekend, having Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson on the field at the same time. He’ll look to use that same attack this weekend in Ohio Stadium. Devin has played very well in his starts as quarterback for Michigan. You have to go with the hot hand. And having Denard on the field is a must. The guy is electric. You never know what he’s going to do. For instance last week it was 3rd down and one yard to go, and Robinson rushed for 40.

This Devin/Denard duo is incredible. One of the best Michigan has ever seen. I think that is going to be the difference. OSU and Michigan’s defenses match up well, as does their offense in my opinion.

Look for Greg Mattison to have the Wolverines defense pumped and ready to flatten those Buckeyes. Although Luke Fickell wiill have his defense ready as well. I really do think the difference is that a Devin/Denard duo beats one Braxton Miller.

If this game were played 100 times, I wouldn’t be surprised if it went 50/50. We’re in store for a very exciting game this Saturday at noon. Michigan edges Ohio State out in a close game, and Brady Hoke continues his success as Michigan head coach, and his winning streak against the team he simply calls, “Ohio”.

Michigan 41 – Ohio State 38

Sam (1): It is said that when rivals go up against each other, all previous records and statistics should be thrown out the window; adrenaline and effort will decide the outcome. Truth be told, however, I’ve never bought into that line of thinking. In a rivalry game, both teams are going to give their all on every single play out of sheer hate and respect for the opponent. Considering this, all we really have to analyze is past performance. Sure, upsets might be more common in rivalries, but there is no reason they should be. If everyone cares equally, the best team should win.

We all know that when it comes to rivalries, there is none bigger than The Game. Michigan and Ohio State, Maize and Blue versus Scarlet and Gray, the Wolverines against the Buckeyes. Even the imagery seems to suggest bitter enemies, and throughout time, that is what these two schools have been.

Tomorrow Michigan will take the trip down the Ohio Turnpike to face a hostile Columbus crowd in the Horseshoe for the biggest game of the season. The Buckeyes are playing for pride, honor, and perhaps a shot to go down in history as the best ever team in the bowl era to not play beyond November. The Wolverines come into the game with an outside chance to claim a Big Ten crown, but fate is not completely in their hands. Regardless of how everything plays out, the winner will go home happy, and the loser will look to the calendar to count down the days til next year’s match-up.

Urban Meyer looks to complete an undefeated season with his first win over Michigan (Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

Everyone knows tomorrow will be Urban Meyer’s first Game as Ohio State’s head coach, Brady Hoke’s first time as head coach in Columbus, and the second year in a row where one team is breaking in a new head man. The game is played on the field, though, where Michigan will likely be starting a different quarterback for the fourth straight year against Ohio State while the Buckeyes return sophomore sensation Braxton Miller to the gridiron.

Hoke has returned Michigan to form over his two years as head coach, and has also returned the program to the days of Fort Schembechler, where practically no useful information gets out of the inside. No one knows Denard Robinson’s status for tomorrow’s game after he played a scatback role in last Saturday’s blowout of Iowa. I assume Devin Gardner, who has been impressive thus far, will start behind center again, but Hoke has yet to rule out Shoelace from playing quarterback. Then again, for all we know, Robinson may not even be able to go with the unpredictable nature of his nerve injury.

Meyer will roll with Miller running his run-spread offense, an offense that seems tailor-made for the big yet speedy quarterback. The Buckeyes have averaged 5.3 yards per carry behind Miller’s 1,214 yards on 207 carries and have outscored their opponents by more than two touchdowns per game.

With Gardner under center for Michigan, the Wolverines will likely look to the air more often to exploit Ohio State’s secondary. The running game just hasn’t been up to par all year for Michigan, and with the loss of Fitzgerald Toussaint last week, I don’t see a single running back that can go for more than 50 yards total. A healthy Denard Robinson completely changes things, however, and gives Al Borges the opportunity to run a plethora of looks and plays. The Buckeyes will look to contain Robinson if he plays and will pay special attention to the passing game, which just might open things up on the ground.

Unlike in traditional match-ups between these two rivals, this year could see a bit of a shoot-out. Ohio State has given up more than 20 points in five of their past six games and has yet to hold an opponent to single digits while Michigan has scored more than 30 in three straight, but Ohio State has also scored more than 20 points in all but one game and has gone for 50+ on four different occasions. Try as Michigan might, they will not hold Ohio State all day long. Braxton Miller is going to break a couple long runs and the secondary will probably give up one or two back-breakers.

All truth be told, this should be a very close game. While I won’t discount each teams’ previous results as many others will, I don’t see a whole lot to give one team a decided advantage. Vegas tends to agree, giving Ohio State a 3.5-point edge, which is basically a toss-up decided by the traditional three to four points given for home field advantage.

This game will come down to turnovers in the end, and inexperience on the visitor’s side will not bode well as the Buckeyes claim a 2-to-1 turnover advantage on their way to dashing Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes.

Ohio State 27 – Michigan 21

Katie (2): Heading into the last and most anticipated game of the season Michigan and its fiercest rival are neck in neck despite the discrepancy in the win-loss standings. Ohio State may be coming into the game with a perfect record, but then again they also haven’t played two teams who have had or now hold the number one ranking. Michigan has rebounded since the early losses and the unfortunate play and collapse of the offense that led to the Nebraska debacle. A spot in the Big Ten Championship is also all but gone for Michigan, unless of course the Huskers get outplayed or outlucked by the Hawkeyes. But that’s not what matters this week, as it’s more than likely that neither team will be playing for the conference title (of course the Buckeyes are out regardless).

In keeping with recent tradition, OSU will be wearing new uniforms tomorrow

What matters is firmly reinstating the rivalry after shallowly ending the drought that plagued Michigan for more than half a decade. One win doesn’t prove that Michigan has made a comeback in The Game, but back to back victories, one amid the hostility that is The Shoe would show that the Wolverines are going to make the coming years a stage for uphill battles.

The numbers are fairly similar, so what it will come down to is execution. Can the Buckeyes hold Michigan to twenty points or less, which is what history has written the past two years for the Wolverines only losses. Since Hoke has been coach the Wolverines are 18-0 when scoring more than twenty points. And since the offense for Michigan has only gotten more prolific that should be a tall task for the Buckeyes. Not to say that Braxton Miller couldn’t take over and play well, as he has nearly all season, and force an old fashioned shootout. But with Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner shifting in the backfield and posing all sorts of defensive headaches, the outlook is good that Michigan will be able to score enough points to keep the Bucks at bay.

The key will be keeping the Ohio State offense to a dull roar by making big plays, like forcing fumbles, a problem that the Scarlet and Grey are familiar with this season, and increasing their percentages of three and outs. To keep the Buckeyes high powered offense from scoring Michigan needs to maintain clock control with long drives, because it won’t be enough to simply attempt to stifle them. They can’t score if they don’t have the ball. That equation always works out. Add to that the fact that Michigan goes into the week ranked 12th in the nation defensively, while Ohio State is falls short at 38th.

However, the Buckeyes do have the advantage of having the better rush defense, an asset that will presumably bode well for them when facing the backfield potential of Robinson and Gardner. The intangibles of this game also coming into effect, with Meyer being in his first year, the status of the game, Robinson wanting to part with the team with a win, this being the last game of the season for OSU, all amount to this game likely being a close call either way. I’ve got Michigan in this one, and the first back to back wins since 1999-2000.

Michigan 31 – Ohio State 27

Michigan vs Ohio State game preview

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

As Thanksgiving has come and gone, we find ourselves at the game that signals season’s end, the annual showdown with Ohio State looming and yet another regular season ready to be etched into the record books. For some, like Denard Robinson and Jordan Kovacs, it means one final chance to perform against a bitter rival. For others such as Devin Gardner, it’s a chance to break out on the big stage and set the expectations heading into next season. Furthermore, for those such as Brady Hoke, it’s a chance to establish the upper hand over his foremost adversary. Yes, The Game is here.

Ohio Stadium  –  Columbus, Ohio
12pm EST  –  ABC

Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (1st season)
Coaching Record: 11-0 (115-23 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tom Herman
Defensive Coordinator: Luke Fickell
Returning Starters: 19 (9 offense, 10 defense)
Last Season: 6-7 (3-5)
Last Meeting: Michigan 40 – Ohio State 34 (2011)
All-time Series: Michigan leads 58-44-6
In Columbus: Michigan leads 27-24-2
In Ohio Stadium: Ohio State leads 23-21-1
Current Streak: Michigan 1

For so many years, the season-culminating battle has determined Big Ten titles and national championship game berths. It has featured legendary performances and provides bragging rights for the next 364 days. The game had lost some of its luster over the past few years, but Michigan finally got back in the win column a year ago. Now, Ohio State comes in unbeaten and Michigan enters with a chance to win the Big Ten Legends division and advance to the championship game. The stakes are high, just as they should be.

Although the Buckeyes aren’t able to parlay their magical season into the BCS National Championship game due to the sanctions brought on by Jim Tressel and his merry band of tattooed men, that doesn’t stop them from honoring him and his 2002 national championship team prior to the game. And it makes them that much more hungry to come together, beat Michigan, and go down in Ohio State lore as one of the greatest teams in Buckeye history.

As the old adage goes, when the two teams square off, you throw out the records. But despite the fact that Ohio State is undefeated and Michigan has three losses, these teams are pretty even. It can certainly be argued that if the teams had switched out-of-conference schedules, their records would be reversed. Ohio State’s first four opponents have a combined record of 18-27, while Michigan’s three losses were to teams with a combined record of 31-3.

Can Michigan pull off a second straight win over the Buckeyes and their first in Columbus since 2000? Or will Ohio State conclude their season undefeated and continue Michigan’s futility across the border? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Ohio State has the ball

Ohio State has been a high scoring team all season, averaging 38.2 points per game. The Bucks have scored over 50 four times and have been held below 20 just once, although they needed overtime to top 20 last week against Wisconsin. Perhaps the Badgers provided the blueprint for slowing down the Buckeye offense by keeping Braxton Miller from getting outside. But it’s easier said than done. Miller completes 56.8 percent of his passes for 168 yards per game and carries the ball 19 times for 110 yards per game. He’s certainly more dangerous on the ground but has enough of a throwing ability to make defenses pay if they key too much on his feet.

In the backfield, Carlos Hyde is a powerful back that averages 5.2 yards per carry. Despite not playing in two games, he’s nearing 1,000 yards and has had three games this season with at least 137 yards. He’s also a touchdown machine with 15 on the season and has scored at least one in each of the past six games.

Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer face off for the first time

The receivers aren’t the stars we were used to seeing, but they are capable. Sophomore Devin Smith is the big play guy with 555 yards and six touchdowns on just 28 receptions. Philly Brown is the more reliable with 48 receptions for 456 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Jake Stoneburner has caught just 15 passes all season, but four of them have been touchdowns, so he’s a dangerous one to watch for in the red zone. Sophomore Evan Spencer is the only other Buckeye with double digit receptions (11), though he hasn’t caught a TD, while 10 others have caught at least one pass.

The offensive line is good, but not the typical mauling Ohio State line. They use a zone blocking scheme for the running game, but aren’t great in pass protection, having given up 26 sacks, which ranks 88th nationally. By comparison, Michigan has allowed just 11.

When Michigan has the ball

As I discussed in yesterday’s Friend vs Foe, Ohio State’s defense is built to defend the traditional Big Ten offenses such as Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan State. And in those games, they did look good. But against spread offenses, they have been porous. While the rush defense is respectable, giving up just 117 yards per game, teams have been able to pass all over the Buckeyes to the tune of 250.1 yards a game.

The line is anchored by tackle Jonathan Hankins, who Brady Hoke called “as good of an interior lineman as anyone in the country.” The space eating junior ranks fourth on the team with 52 tackles, four of them have gone for loss, including one sack. On the end is John Simon who leads the Big Ten with nine sacks to go along with 14.5 tackles for loss. Strongside end Nathan Williams has 39 tackles and two sacks, while Garrett Goebel holds down the other tackle spot and does a good job.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier is the man that makes the Buckeye defense go. He leads the team with 110 tackles and 14.5 for loss. He also has four sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. He’s fast and athletic, but also still prone to some of the boneheaded plays we saw out of him as a freshman last season. Etienne Sabino returned last week from a broken leg that was suffered against Nebraska to help stabilize the Buckeye defense, while converted fullback Zach Boren holds down the middle.

The secondary is the weak point, most notably corner Travis Howard. Despite four interceptions, he’s not a great cover corner and should be the one Michigan targets. Bradley Roby is a good cover man who leads the nation with 19 passes defended. Against Nebraska he picked off Taylor Martinez and returned it for a touchdown

The other third

Kicker Drew Basil has attempted just six field goals all season, making four, though he did hit 16-of-19 last season. Punter Ben Buchanan averages 40.9 yards per punt, which ranks seventh in the Big Ten. The return game could be dangerous with Corey Brown ranking third in the conference in punt returns with an average of 13.6 yards per, but the Buckeye kick return unit ranks just 87th nationally.

Rushing Attempts: 29 – Denard will pass Butch Woolfolk for 6th in career rushing attempts.
Rushing Yards: 121 – Denard will pass Jamie Morris for 3rd in career rushing yards. With 200, he will pass Anthony Thomas for 2nd. With 16, he will pass Missouri’s Brad Smith (2002-05) for 2nd in NCAA FBS history.
Rushing Touchdowns: 1 – Denard will pass Mike Hart for 3rd in career rushing touchdowns.
100 rushing yards: Denard will pass Jamie Morris for 4th in career 100-yard rushing games.
Pass Completions: 17 – Denard will pass Tom Brady for 5th in career completions.
Pass Yards: 211 – Denard will pass Elvis Grbac for 3rd in career passing yards.
Total Yards: 47 – Denard will pass Illinois’ Juice Williams (2006-09) for 6th in career total yards in Big Ten history.
Receiving Yards: 63 – Roy Roundtree will pass Jason Avant for 8th in career receiving yards. With 85 he will pass Marquise Walker for 7th. With 100 he will pass Tai Streets for 6th. With 126 he will pass Mario Manningham for 5th. With 133 he will pass David Terrell for 4th.
Field Goals: 1 – Brendan Gibbons will pass Bob Bergeron for 6th in career field goals made. With 2 he will tie Ali Haji-Sheikh for 5th.


There is so much unknown with Michigan’s offense right now which will make it hard for Ohio State to prepare. The Devin at quarterback, Denard everywhere else offense that was showcased last week has so many possibilities that it’s hard to imagine Michigan’s offense struggling against the Buckeye defense that allowed 49 points to Indiana, 38 to Nebraska, and 22 to both Purdue and Illinois. Perhaps the best matchup to watch will be Taylor Lewan opposite of Simon as both have established themselves as the best in the Big Ten at their respective positions.

Look for Michigan to find a variety of ways to get the ball to Denard in space and let him go to work with his feet against mistake-prone linebackers and a poor tackling secondary. Along with that, expect him to be used as a decoy equally as much, as Ohio State will make sure to always know where he is on the field. I also would not be surprised at all see Denard throw a pass once more, but off of a reverse or step back screen rather than from behind center. For Gardner, the open spots will be underneath the cover-4 zone, where Ohio State has given up yards all season, so Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo will have plenty of open space. It will be up to them to make guys miss after the catch.

Defensively, Michigan will try to keep the Buckeyes up the middle and force Miller to beat them through the air. Expect to see Kovacs walk up early and often in run support, leaving the secondary exposed to a big play here and there. And, as is usual in a game like this, a big special teams play could swing the game in one direction or the other.

It’s going to be a back and forth offensive shootout that could go either way, but I think Ohio State figure out a way to contain the Michigan offense without Fitz Toussaint and will pull it out at home. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 35

Friend vs Foe: Ohio State edition

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

For this week’s edition of Friend vs. Foe, we are proud to welcome Jason Priestas from the best damn Ohio State blog in the land, Eleven Warriors.  He will provide his perspective on how or why Ohio State can beat Michigan on Saturday. Remember, this is not an actual game prediction. It is an attempt to describe how or why each team can win from each side of the matchup.

The case for Ohio State
by Jason

As any fan of either team can tell you, records don’t mean a whole lot in this series. You can go back to 1969, 1973 or pick a random year during the John Cooper era to confirm this fact. Ohio State is 11-0, sure, but they’re the ugliest 11-0 team you’ll ever find. Whether it’s the comeback win over Purdue or the 49 points surrendered to Indiana, this team has warts and plenty of them.

Despite that, they’ve found ways to win.

I expect that to continue Saturday where they’ll be playing in front of a friendly home crowd and looking for a bit of redemption from last season’s loss in Ann Arbor.

It doesn’t hurt that Michigan’s best running back saw his season end early last weekend and Denard Robinson’s injury would be great news for Ohio State had Devin Gardner not emerged into the second coming Charlie Ward, but with Gardner, there’s at least the possibility of having a plan for defense. With Robinson healthy at quarterback, it’s pretty much mad libs on three.

I respect Borges and Mattison a great deal, but the edge at the top has to go to Urban Meyer in this game. I’ve heard Michigan fans try to insinuate that Hoke is on the same level as Meyer aside from that being hilarious, it’s not even close to being true. On one hand, you have a guy that has a pair of national championships, an .833 winning percentage and a 24-5 record in rivalry games. On the other, you have a guy that parlayed a near .500 mark at Ball State and San Diego State into one of the premier coaching gigs in the nation.

Ohio State is also largely healthy at the right time. Etienne Sabino, the senior heart of the defense, is back at linebacker after missing over a month with a broken leg. The rest of the defense, maligned for much of the season, has come into their own holding their last four opponents to an average of just over 20 points per game. That doesn’t sound like anything special, but considering their start, it’s monumental.

Ultimately, I’m going with the Buckeyes because they’re undefeated in alternate uniforms created as a cash grab by Nike.

The case for Michigan
by Justin

Prior to last week, my confidence level for this one wasn’t very high. Denard’s status was unknown and Devin Gardner had played well against Minnesota and Northwestern, but how much of that was his ability and how much was the opponent was up for question. But then the Iowa game happened and Denard not only played, but saw plays at quarterback, running back, and receiver and tallied 122 total yards, while Gardner looked cool and confident as the main signal caller. Of course, Iowa’s defense isn’t good, but the offensive variety and efficiency displayed was what Michigan fans have been hoping to see since Al Borges became offensive coordinator.

Following the game, safety Jordan Kovacs admitted that the defense had no answer for the newfangled offense all week in practice and knew it would work in the game. Gardner admitted the same, saying that every time Denard was on the field, the defense was so keyed in on where he was that it opened up other things. Many have wondered whether Hoke and Borges should have brought it out against Iowa instead of saving it for Ohio State, but it was important to work on it in a live game situation before doing so in the ultimate game and it also gives Ohio State a lot of looks to prepare for. As Chris said in yesterday’s MMQ, the offense the Buckeyes will likely face this week barely resembles the Michigan offense they have been preparing for all season.

Despite being undefeated, Ohio State’s defense has given up a ton of yards and a lot of points. It’s set up to defend the typical Big Ten offenses like Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan State, and the Bucks held those three to an average of just under 18 points. But against multifaceted spread offenses, Ohio State has been shredded. And this Michigan offense will be the best one they have faced. Gardner should be able to attack Ohio State underneath where he has been deadly accurate so far, and take some chances deep because the threat of Denard getting the ball in space anywhere on the field will keep the defense honest.

On the other end, this will be the best offense Michigan has faced all season, but perhaps Wisconsin provided the blueprint last week. The Badgers bottled up the explosive Braxton Miller, holding him to just 48 rushing yards on 2.1 yards per carry (65 yards, not counting sacks) and 97 passing yards. You can be sure that Greg Mattison will be focused on keeping Miller off the edge, forcing everything inside, and sending Kovacs in early and often to help out. Will it work? Sometimes, but a big play or two over top would not be surprising.

I just don’t see this one being a defensive affair either way. Both offenses are high powered and both defenses have holes. Ohio State’s has more and knows less about the offense Michigan will deploy, which is why Michigan can win this shootout that will feel similar to last year.

They were passionate enemies to be sure

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Woody was the titan from the Buckeye state, and Bo a protégé working his way up the ranks, but now the two are synonymous with one of the most touted rivalries in all of football, and one that is as zealous as it is old. It started in the 1800s in a bitter dispute over the state boundary then known as the Toledo Strip. Both states claimed the territory for themselves, each sending troops to defend it. And while no blood was shed over the matter the clash remained a sore point in the history of the states that neither particularly cared to dissolve into goodwill. Ohio was conceded the portion of land, and Michigan was compensated with a much larger, but also much more remote piece of property now known as the Upper Peninsula.

Despite being bitter rivals, Bo and Woody held a tremendous amount of respect for one another

But it would be sixty years before the two states would herald the two teams that would draw such accented hatred for one another. In 1897, the Wolverines and the Buckeyes faced off for the first time, and after World War I would continue to play each and every year until the saga was built on more than a half century of fervent clashes. No one could have guessed, however, that the matchup would achieve the status of an ongoing war, and that it would have its very own Benedict Arnold.

Bo Schembechler had worked under Woody Hayes for several years at Ohio State when his alma mater, Miami University of Ohio, asked him to be the head coach of its football program. Woody, not wanting to see him go, told him that he would assume the role under the helm after he had retired, a date which he thought would roll around in a handful of years. But Bo didn’t want to miss the opportunity, and packed his bags and headed south to what would become a stepping stone to his greatest achievement, and a role that would cement his status in football lore.

In 1969 an Ohio man was crowned the sovereign head of Michigan football to the sound of a thousand freshly stacked papers headlined, “Bo Who?”.  A rather lackluster start for what would embed itself into Wolverine and Buckeye history alike in a few short months.

Coming into the 1969 game Michigan was still licking its wounds from the year before, as it is naturally hard to console any embarrassment caused to the ego without being given a shot to redeem the thing that precipitated it. In the case of Bo’s first team it was the memory of the outrageously unsympathetic two point conversion attempt made by Hayes when his Buckeyes were up 50-14 very late in the fourth quarter. It didn’t matter that the extra points weren’t converted, and it surely didn’t help that in the aftermath Woody is said to have replied upon being asked about his decision that he went for two “because I couldn’t go for three.” The attempt was one aimed at humiliation, and it served its purpose. Thus it was with the smell of fall lingering in the air, and a season of reminders of what had been a spit in the face to a down and out opponent, that the Wolverines had come to face their shot at revenge. The enemy however, had only gotten stronger.

Bo bested his mentor in their first meeting in 1969, setting off the Ten Year War

Arriving at the gates of the Big House, the Buckeyes were an impressive force having won 22 straight games and averaging more than 500 yards of offense. If Michigan was to beat the Scarlet and Gray they were going to have to play as they had in the four games leading up to the meeting in which they scored an average of 45 points. Needless to say they were underdogs. Yet they were also the best kind, those with immense potential and an outlet to prove it.

There were over a hundred thousand fans packed into the stadium that day to see student face off against teacher, and they were treated to a show. Ohio State ran the kickoff back close to the mid-field line and continued to march down to just outside the ten before coming upon a fourth and two. They went for it, the refs marked it, and it was short. Michigan’s ball, but they did nothing.

The Buckeyes put up the first points of the game but missed the point after. Michigan matched the score and put the ball through the uprights. Not to be outdone, Ohio State scored again, and again cannot convert the two-point conversion. The Wolverines were not to be discouraged and put up a touchdown of their own, retaking the lead. On their next possession they ran the punt back to Ohio State’s doorstep and scored two plays later. Then, on their last possession before halftime, they attempted a field goal. It was good. 24-12 Michigan at the half.

And so it stays, the crowd counting down to the victory of the century and the dawning of what would become one of the greatest decades in football for the two programs. It was the era of the Big 2, and the Little 8. The series went back and forth until 1974 when Ohio State won twice in a row before losing in three straight matchups to the Wolverines. The pupil/mentor rivalry couldn’t last forever though and Woody’s angry foul at the 1978 season ending bowl game against Clemson, when he hit an opposing player on the chin after an interception looked to seal the win for the Tigers, also sealed his fate. He resigned as head coach shortly after, but Bo continued to lead the Wolverines for another eleven years until he retired.

They were passionate enemies to be sure, but they also held a tremendous amount of respect for each other. Not feeling well, Hayes insisted on delivering an introduction speech for Schembechler at a banquet in Dayton. He did, and passed away the next day. Bo, not to be outdone in regards to the man he so revered and the rivalry he loved so much, passed away the day before the first-ranked Buckeyes hosted the second-ranked Wolverines in 2006.

While Ohio State triumphed that night it was evident by the signs hoisted in the air by sworn enemies that both sides grieved the loss of a coach who had cared so deeply, and had been so instrumental in making the rivalry what it was. Because the truth of the matter is that as much as Michigan hates Ohio State, and as much as the feeling is reciprocated, both teams want to face the other at its best. They want the game not to mean something. They want it to mean everything.

What stands now is the opportunity for the rivalry to be reinstated after two decades of lopsided streaks, the Cooper era, and then the late Carr-Rodriguez debacle. Can Hoke and Meyer bring The Game to the height of its glory, and perhaps a few back-to-back installments to make things doubly interesting? Surly, this can’t be asking too much. Not for the fans who cheer year in and year out, who scold those who don’t believe that ten seconds is enough time to make a come back, and who hate the sound of the silence after a loss just as much as the ecstatic cries from the other side after a win. A true rivalry is about history, and all of those who tune in each game day to see whether today is the day for it.

MMQ doesn’t think Buckeyes can stop the Devin-Denard combo

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Last week against Iowa, the Michigan coaching staff revealed a twist to the offense which had never been seen before in the capacity that it was used: Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner on the field at the same time, with Gardner under center instead of Denard. Last year, Gardner did get some playing time at quarterback while Denard ran some plays at wide receiver or running back. However, those were mostly Denard as a decoy or a handoff to Denard on a fly sweep. In the Iowa game, Gardner maintained his role as the starting quarterback, which he’s had since Denard’s elbow injury, and Denard played primarily as a running back. The result of this move was outstanding offensive production from both players. Gardner threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns while also scoring three touchdowns on the ground. Meanwhile, Denard ran for almost 100 yards of his own and caught a couple passes on 15 touches. All in all, the Michigan offense had 513 total yards, which was one of its best days in years.

With Devin and Denard in the backfield, the possibilities are endless (Ann Arbor News)

After seeing what this offense can do, I believe that the dynamic of The Game this weekend against Ohio has changed. A few weeks ago, if you would have asked me whether Michigan was going to win in Columbus, I would have said no. I thought they were going to lose by two touchdowns. But things look and feel different now. Ever since Gardner’s move to quarterback, the offense has a legitimate passing threat. Gardner can flat out throw the ball and usually throws it pretty well. To go along with that, the receivers seem to have taken a liking to Gardner’s passing as he generally throws a good ball and puts it where his receivers can not only make the catch, but continue moving downfield afterwards. In addition, Gardner has some speed and is a very definite threat to run the ball when his number is called or when the protection breaks down and he has to leave the pocket.

The dual-threat nature of Gardner’s game is a scary prospect for opposing defenses. I imagine it to be somewhat like how defenses have felt playing against quarterback Braxton Miller of Ohio (although I think Gardner is a better passer and equal in terms of running ability) or Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. When a defense prepares for a true dual-threat QB like these guys, they are forced to think differently about how to defend against them. They can’t play close to the line of scrimmage because he will throw it over their heads. They can’t play back because then the defense gives up the run. Also, pass rushers can’t make a beeline for the quarterback when he drops to pass in the pocket. If they do, a dual-threat QB will step aside and either get outside of the rush or run the ball up the middle.  Instead, the defensive line has to rush in their lanes straight up-field in order to keep contain. This is hard for aggressive defenses. See the Texas A&M versus Alabama game from a couple weeks ago if you want to see why rushing directly at a dual-threat QB doesn’t work.

Both can run, both can throw. How do you defend it? (Ann Arbor News)

Now add to this offensive concept a speedy running threat like Denard Robinson who not only can line up in the backfield as a running back, but as a slot receiver or as a wide receiver out on the edge. What I envision Al Borges doing (or what he should be doing) is using Denard in a multi-purpose role to create match-ups against defenders which he can exploit with his quickness and speed. This means moving him all over the field so the defense doesn’t know where he will be from one play to the next. It also means putting him in motion. Not every play has to go Denard’s way either. Sometimes he can act as a decoy. He has earned enough respect with his playmaking ability that defenses must account for him at all times, meaning Denard can be just as effective without the ball in his hands.

If the Ohio defense keys on Denard only, that opens the door for guys like Roy Roundtree, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess to work their way into the mix. And Ohio’s defense hasn’t exactly been great against teams that spread them out and get the ball out of the QB’s hands quickly. They have been vulnerable all season to screen passes of all kinds, especially those out on the edge. The Ohio defense is built to stop teams like Michigan State and Wisconsin which will try to pound the ball with the run, not offenses with multiple threats like Michigan, Cal, or any SEC team they have ever faced.

Showing the new offense to the Ohio coaching staff the week before the game was a great move! The fact that the move worked so well was an added bonus. Some might say that they would have been better to wait until game day to show it. I disagree. First off, it gave the Michigan coaches a chance to use the offense and personnel in a game situation. Those are reps that you can’t get in practice against the scout team. Secondly, I like the mind game that Hoke is playing with the Ohio coaches. They thought they would have 11 game tapes and a week to prepare for a pretty vanilla Michigan offense. Oh yeah, and the bye week that Ohio had two weeks ago before the Wisconsin game, where not only did Ohio practice for Wisconsin but also spent the time preparing for Michigan. Wasted. Now that they’ve seen it, Ohio only has one week to prepare and the coaches are spending all of their time figuring out what to do as opposed to perfecting what they had already prepared during the bye.

Expect Denard to line up in a variety of spots on Saturday (MGoBlog)

This Saturday’s annual installment of The Game already had some interesting storylines. Ohio is coming in undefeated and the folks around Columbus can only ask “What if…” at the thought of what could have been had the school and team not cheated and firmly planted themselves in the category of a Miami or North Carolina. Because of the scandal, this will also be Ohio’s last game of the season. So it’s like a de facto bowl game for the players and fans and also the last time any of the Ohio seniors will wear the uniform and play in the stadium. Lastly, every coach wants to win their first game against the school’s big rival and the same is true of Urban Meyer. While not feeling any real pressure from stepping into Jim Tressel’s shoes after his forced resignation/firing, Meyer knows that despite Tressel’s decision to cover up his player’s misconduct, he had an almost perfect record against Michigan. This is something that is not lost on the Columbus natives, who, because of his record, still believe that Tressel should be the coach of their beloved team. If you don’t believe me, listen for the roar from the crowd when his name is announced as they honor the 2002 national championship team prior to the game.

This Michigan team also has some motivation entering this game. They are still eligible for the Big Ten championship should Iowa grow a pair and knock off Nebraska at home on Friday. And aside from winning back-to-back games against their hated rival, the Wolverines will be looking to erase the possibility of Ohio having an undefeated season. If for no other reason than to shut the mouth of every annoying Ohio fan that you or I have ever met who will tell you that “Ohio was the real Big Ten champs” or “Ohio should be playing for the national championship.” We all know one of them.

Saturday’s game will certainly be an exciting game full of passion, hate, and good old fashioned, hard-hitting football. I can’t wait! Stay tuned this Friday for my weekly prediction for the game.

Back to the way it was: Ohio State-Michigan feels like it used to

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

On November 18, 2006, Michigan and Ohio State squared off in Columbus, both undefeated. Two titans with an unrivaled history found themselves in what was dubbed by the national media “The Game of the Century.” The Big Ten title and a spot in the BCS National Championship game were at stake. The game went back and forth like a heavyweight fight, but in the end, the scoresheet went in Ohio State’s favor.

The day before, the great patriarch of Michigan football, Bo Schembechler, had passed away, and along with him metaphorically went the program. Michigan went to Pasadena on New Years Day and got thumped by USC.

Bo's passing shook the rivalry and the Michigan program

Bo’s understudy, Lloyd Carr, decided to stick around for one more year. After all, he had a senior, fourth-year starting quarterback and running back, the eventual first overall NFL Draft pick at left guard, and a talented receiving corps. Who could blame him for giving it one last go-around? But a shocking loss to Appalachian State started the season, followed by a humiliating drubbing by Oregon and the Michigan program that had spent most of the previous season looking unbeatable had now lost four straight. The program that had seemed unshakeable for over 40 years was now suddenly lost without its figurehead.

The Wolverines rebounded with eight straight wins before dropping the final two to Wisconsin and Ohio State. In Carr’s swan song, Michigan faced a heavily favored Florida squad coached by Urban Meyer who relied heavily on his star quarterback. Carr pulled out all the tricks in the bag, using an offense almost foreign to the Michigan faithful and beat Meyer’s Gators.

Carr’s retirement a year after Bo’s passing signaled the end of Michigan football as we knew it and college football’s greatest rivalry suffered along with it. Ohio State beat Michigan by a combined score of 100-24 over the three years that followed while Michigan was guided by an outsider who many felt never truly understood the importance of the rivalry.

And so it was only fitting that it would take a Bo disciple to right the ship. Brady Hoke immediately returned the program to what it was like under Bo and followed in Bo’s footsteps by beating Ohio State in his first season. It ended Ohio State’s seven game winning streak over Michigan, but the Buckeyes were going through some troubles of their own. The great tattoo scandal sent Jim Tressel packing and left the Bucks headless last season, but led the man who was on the losing end of the final game of the old Michigan era to become the new head man in Columbus.

All he has done in his rookie season is not lose a game. Despite being ineligible for the postseason, OSU is ranked fourth in the AP poll and could conceivably be crowned national champions by the writers upon season’s end. Michigan faced a much tougher non-conference schedule which eliminated any national title hopes, but still holds hopes of a Big Ten title. And that’s just the way it should be: title hopes on the line, dreams either made or dashed.

Tim Biakabutuka's record performance ruined OSU's perfect season in 1995 (Larry E. Wright)

It’s the way it was so often throughout the past few decades. Something was always on the line, and more often than not, it was that way for both teams. The season-ending battle truly was the one game season.

Six times in the past 19 matchups, at least one of the two has entered The Game undefeated. Saturday marks the seventh and Michigan will be looking to do what it has done three times since 1993: hand the Buckeyes their first loss.

In 1993, OSU entered with a 9-0-1 record, it’s only non-win a 14-14 tie at Wisconsin. Michigan was just 6-4 with losses to Notre Dame, Michigan State, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The Wolverines played spoiler with a resounding 28-0 win in what Ohio State head coach John Cooper called “by far the most embarrassing game I’ve been associated with in college football.” Tyrone Wheatley gashed the Buckeyes for 105 yards and Todd Collins played an efficient game. The defense picked off the Buckeyes four times and Michigan ended Ohio State’s 16-game unbeaten streak and hopes of an outright Big Ten title and handed the Bucks their first shutout since 1982.

Two years later, in 1995, Ohio State visited Ann Arbor with a 11-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking. Michigan was just 8-3. A Buckeye win would give them the Big Ten title and likely a national championship pending the Rose Bowl result. But yet again, Michigan played spoiler. Prior to the game, Ohio State receiver Terry Glenn mouthed off to the media that Michigan was nobody. But when the teams took to the field, Tshimanga Biakabutuka rushed for 313 yards, the most an Ohio State defense had ever given up to a single back as Michigan soared to a 31-23 victory. Once again, Cooper issued a strong statement, saying, “I don’t know if I’ve ever been as disappointed in my life as I am right now.”

Charles Woodson helped keep Michigan's perfect season intact against OSU in 1997

The following season, Michigan traveled to Columbus to face yet another unbeaten and second-ranked Ohio State squad. Michigan was 17-point underdogs and this time, Cooper kept his players from speaking to the media in order to prevent any bulletin board material. But Michigan didn’t need it. Ohio State jumped out to a 9-0 halftime lead, but wouldn’t score again. Michigan had to turn to Brian Griese due to an injury to starter Scott Dreisbach and he threw a 68-yard touchdown to Tai Streets. Kicker Remy Hamilton added a pair of field goals to give Michigan the 13-9 win. Following the game, it was Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson who did the talking, saying, “It was a great victory, to be able to look those people in the eye and say, ‘this is why I didn’t go to Ohio State’. I wanted to win at Michigan.”

In 1997, it was Michigan that carried the undefeated season into The Game. At 10-0 and ranked first in the nation, Michigan hosted the 9-1, fourth-ranked Buckeyes. The Big Ten title was on the line – either Michigan won it outright or the two shared it – and for Michigan, the national title was at stake. Michigan prevailed 20-14 on the heels of a great all-around performance by Woodson and advanced to the Rose Bowl where the Wolverines beat Washington State and captured the national title.

In 2002, Ohio State once again brought an unblemished record into the matchup. At 12-0, and ranked second, Ohio State needed a win to capture the Big Ten and advance to the BCS National Championship game. Michigan was 9-2 with losses to Notre Dame and Iowa. The Buckeyes held on, intercepting a John Navarre pass near the end zone to win 14-9 and eventually won the national title.

This Saturday, the rivalry has the ferver it did back then. Michigan needs a win and a Nebraska loss to advance to the Big Ten championship game. Ohio State needs a win to complete an undefeated season. The only thing holding the game back from receiving all of the national spotlight is the sanctions Ohio State is currently facing, keeping the Buckeyes from being able to win the Big Ten and play for the national title. But on the field, the two teams will battle it out just like the good old days and Michigan will hope to ruin Ohio State’s dream season for the fourth time in the last 20 years.

The man who has resurrected Michigan’s program with the Bo-like approach now faces off with the man who has transformed the Buckeye program. It has all the makings of a new “ten-year war” like the one Bo and Woody Hayes once fought with both programs at the top of their games. Most importantly, the game matters again. It’s back to the way it was.

Ohio State: first look

Monday, November 19th, 2012

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.

Urban Warfare

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

In the aftermath of the Jim Tressel saga back in March, I wrote that what happened to Ohio State wasn’t good for the rivalry. Obviously, a blatant disregard for the rules had to be punished and the dismissal of Tressel was the right thing to do, and further NCAA sanctions should be handed down. But the fact that our bitter rivals went on so long with such a culture of corruption, althewhile dominating the rivalry, tarnishes what happened on the field during that period.

Urban was named Ohio State head coach on Monday

The rivalry is at its best when it is as it’s always been: the best two teams in the Big Ten slugging it out at season’s end for the conference title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Or even if both teams aren’t dominant, one having a realistic shot at ruining the other’s season with an upset.

As has been the case throughout the years, the teams are at their best when coached by a man who not only gets the rivalry, but has the personality to fuel it. For Ohio State, Tressel was that man. From the time he stepped foot on campus, he made it known that beating Michigan was the chief priority. That he was brash enough to exclaim it at halftime of a Buckeye basketball game endeared him to Buckeye faithful from the start.

When Tressel was forced out amid scandal in March, co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell was thrust into the interim head coaching position. He may have been an up-and-comer, but he wasn’t ready for the job. His questionable coaching decisions (saving all three timeouts at the end of a still-winnable game against Miami) and general lack of polish (never seemed to give much focus on Michigan) painted the perception that he was in over his head and it did nothing to help the rivalry. In his defense, he was just a stop-gap to keep the seat warm until Tressel’s successor could be found. If he could pull off a good season, great; if not, he’s not the long term answer anyway.

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith knew he had to make a big splash for Tressel’s replacement, not only to appease the salivating fanbase, but to perhaps save his own job. On Monday, that big splash, which was rumored over a week ago, hit like a tidal wave with the announcement of former Florida head coach Urban Meyer as the next head coach at Ohio State.

In many ways, the Tressel saga may have worked out to OSU’s benefit in the long run. While Tressel dominated the Big Ten, he routinely struggled in bowl games against SEC competition. Meyer should be able to recruit well enough nationally to fit with his spread offense and compete on a national scale. That is, if he can handle the return to the rigors of coaching – the reason he retired from Florida little more than a year ago.

As a Michigan fan, I hope he does. His prestige and previous success are a welcome addition to the rivalry and could be the final piece to another legendary string of Michigan-Ohio State battles.

Like Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke, who got his first head coaching job at Ball State, Meyer started his career at Bowling Green (after serving as a tight ends and wide receivers coach at Ohio State from 1986-87). One may remember the last pair of UM-OSU head coaches who started off in the Mid-American Conference: Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes.

Michigan is 1-0 against Urban, having beaten him 41-35 in the 2008 Capital One Bowl (photo from the Orlando Sentinel)

While the rivalry has always been strong, those two are widely credited with building it into what it is today. Their “Ten Year War” from 1969-78 was a brutal slugfest year-in and year-out, made personal by the fact that Bo had coached under Woody at Miami of Ohio. Because of that, Bo cemented beating Ohio as Michigan’s main goal each season, and Woody did likewise. That was handed down to Moeller and Carr, Cooper and Tressel before falling a little bit out of style under Rodriguez and Fickell.

Hoke took the Michigan job last January without even discussing a salary. As he said in his introductory press conference, “I promise you we would have walked to the University of Michigan.” He reaffirmed OSU’s position in Michigan’s minds from day one, referring to the Buckeyes simply as “Ohio,” and talking about them “a thousand times more” than Rodriguez did, according to center David Molk. The team ended every team meeting with “Beat Ohio.” It remains to be seen whether Meyer will follow suit, but he does have the Ohio State background, having served as an assistant coach there in the late 1980s.

Michigan has had success against Meyer, and having him in the scarlet and grey should be an interesting dynamic for as long as he resides in Columbus. In the 2008 Capital One Bowl, a 8-3 Michigan squad upended Meyer’s 9-2 Florida Gators, even with Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow at the helm. It was, ironically, a glorious sendoff for the retiring Lloyd Carr. In that game, Michigan piled up 524 yards of offense.

Another connection Michigan has with Meyer is defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who was Meyer’s DC in 2005-07 before leaving for the same position with the Baltimore Ravens. Mattison helped Florida attain the nation’s 9th-best defense in 2005, 6th in 2006, and 41st in 2007. His defense also captured the 2006 National Championship. The argument can be a two-way street, as to who has the advantage; Mattison for knowing Meyer’s offensive gameplan or Meyer for knowing Mattison’s defensive schemes. But regardless, an advantage Michigan does have in that respect is Mattison’s recruiting prowess. It was Meyer who said of Mattison, “He’s not only one of the best defensive coordinators in America, but also the best recruiter in college football.”

Meyer’s name will certainly help Ohio State land top recruits, especially in the talent-rich state of Florida, but it shouldn’t take much of a chunk out of Michigan’s recruiting pie. The combination of Hoke’s major focus on the state of Ohio and Mattison’s ability to sell recruits especially on the defensive side of the ball, contrasted with Meyer’s national prestige should help get both Michigan and Ohio State back to their rightful spot at the top of the Big Ten.

So as Michigan fans, let’s welcome Meyer to Ohio State and prepare for another exciting period of college football’s greatest rivalry. And in doing so, we will carry momentum into Columbus next November and welcome him to the Big Ten in style.

Mission Accomplished

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

At the beginning of the season, new head coach Brady Hoke took a page out of Lloyd Carr’s book to set the tone for the season. When Hoke was an assistant at Michigan, Carr gave the 1997 team pickaxes during the national championship season to symbolize climbing a mountain, based on the book “Into Thin Air.” This year, Hoke themed the season after SEAL Team 6, which brought down and eliminated Osama Bin Laden at the beginning of May. The correlation was teamwork and unity. Each and every member of the team was in this together.

#15 Michigan 40 – Ohio State 34
Final Stats
40 Final Score 34
10-2 (6-2) Record 6-6 (3-5)
444 Total Yards 372
277 Net Rushing Yards 137
167 Net Passing Yards 235
23 First Downs 18
2 Turnovers 1
3-29 Penalties – Yards 5-47
2-95 Punts – Yards 3-120
35:10 Time of Possession 24:50
5-for-11 Third Down Conversions 5-for-12
1-for-2 Fourth Down Conversions 1-for-2
4-15 Sacks By – Yards 1-3
1-for-1 Field Goals 2-for-2
5-for-5 PATs 4-for-4
4-for-4 Red Zone Scores – Chances 3-for-3

Prior to the Nebraska game a week ago, Hoke had a group of Navy SEALs speak to the team and provide inspiration. The team was given actual tridents that the SEALs wear. On Saturday, Team 132 stepped off the team bus wearing the tridents around their neck and proceded to fight for 60 minutes to achieve the supreme mission it set out for when the season began: beat Ohio.

The seven-year plague the Buckeyes strolled into Ann Arbor with had not been lost on maize and blue faithful across the country and even though the season was a bust for OSU, everyone knew they would put up a fight in college football’s greatest rivalry. No one, however, expected what was about to ensue.

Ohio State took the ball to start the game and came out passing. An offense that hadn’t thrown the ball more than 18 times in a single game all season and slumbered through the first 11 games looked like a force to be reckoned with, whipping the ball around the field.

It was clear from the outset that the tendencies broken by OSU Offensive Coordinator Jim Bollman were not expected by Hoke and Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison. On the Buckeyes’ first possession, freshman quarterback Braxton Miller found a wide open Corey Brown for a 54-yard touchdown to stun the Big House crowd. On the play, safety Thomas Gordon broke on the inside receiver, DeVier Posey, and no one followed Brown.

In the second quarter, Miller broke loose and ran for a 19-yard touchdown, and on the ‘Bucks next possession Miller connected with Posey for a 43-yard touchdown – the second long touchdown pass of the game against a Michigan defense that hadn’t given up big plays all season.

Miller played a great game for a true freshman in his first Ohio State-Michigan game, but missed a number of wide open receivers that could have sealed Michigan’s fate. And that was the difference in this game. While Miller played well and took advantage of Michigan’s defensive mistakes but couldn’t make the big plays when needed, Denard Robinson silenced his critics with the best game of his career.

Denard turned in an all-time great performance against Ohio State (AP photo)

Robinson threw for 167 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Most impressive is that he had as many touchdowns as incompletions. He connected on 14 of 17 passes and looked in complete control of the offense all game. Aside from a second quarter fumble that gave Ohio the ball at the Michigan 31 and resulted in an OSU touchdown, Robinson turned in the type of performance that has made legends out of the rivalry over the years.

He became just the fourth Michigan quarterback to throw for three touchdowns against Ohio State – the first since Drew Henson in 2000 – and his 170 rushing yards were the third-highest total for a Michigan rusher in The Game, behind only Tim Biakabutuka’s 313 in 1995 and Jamie Morris’ 210 in ’86.

But while Robinson accounted for all of Michigan’s touchdowns and the majority of the total yards, he didn’t do it all alone. Fitz Toussaint rushed for 120 yards on 20 carries – his third straight 100-yard game – and surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Robinson and Toussaint became the first Michigan duo to record 1,000-yard seasons since Gordon Bell (1,388) and Rob Lytle (1,030) did it in 1975.

In addition to Robinson’s and Toussaint’s performances, the receiving corps player perhaps its best game of the season. Each receiver was sharp and held onto all of the catchable balls. Whether it was Junior Hemingway coming back to catch Michigan’s first touchdown or Martavious Odoms catching a bullet in traffic and weaving through five defenders into the end zone or Drew Dileo hauling in a 28-yarder on Michigan’s final drive, they all came to play.

Defensively, while the 34 points allowed were the most given up all season, credit has to be given to the unit that tightened up in the second half, allowing just 10 points, and made the stop to seal the win. Michigan sacked Miller four times and freshman linebacker Desmond Morgan led the team with 10 tackles. On the outside, freshman cornerback Blake Countess made a great leaping pass break-up in the first quarter on what would have been a long gain, and Courtney Avery picked Miller off to end the game.

Ryan Van Bergen is one of those seniors that stayed and emerged a champion (photo by the Detroit News)

Credit is also due to placekicker Brendan Gibbons who made just 1-of-5 field goals last season, but stepped up with a clutch 43-yard field goal with two minutes remaining to force the Buckeyes to have to drive the length of the field and score a touchdown instead of a field goal.

Twenty three seniors played their final game in the Big House and they exemplify what a Michigan Man is all about. While many of their former teammates left when the going got tough or decided to jump ship early, these 23 men stuck it out through three different head coaches, multiple coordinators and different schemes. It wasn’t easy, but each and every one of them will tell you it was worth it.

When Denard took the final knee and the clock hit zero, the team unity that was built over the last few months on the principles of the Navy SEALs was on display for all to see. Just as the team does at the end of practice every Friday, the ball was thrown up in the air, and when it landed, the entire team fell to the ground, as if a bomb had gone off. It was a fitting display of a Michigan band of brothers playing for each other and overcoming adversity. And just like SEAL Team 6 ended Bin Laden’s reign of corruption in the middle east and dumped his body out to sea, Michigan’s Team 132 put an end to Ohio’s seven-year reign in a sea of maize and blue.

The victory, and what is likely to follow in the coming days with the expected hiring of Urban Meyer to become Ohio’s next head coach, restore the vigor to the rivalry that has been in hibernation the past few years. Miller looks to be the real deal for OSU and Robinson will be a senior next season. With Hoke’s reinforced significance on beating Ohio, Mattison’s defensive genius, the youth that has stepped up on Michigan’s defense, and the emergence of Toussaint as a feature back, it’s exciting to look forward to the coming years of Michigan football and beating Ohio yet again.

Until the teams meet 364 days from now in Columbus, Michigan has the upper hand and the bragging rights, and Ohio State will have to figure out a way to win without access to free cars, under the table cash, and free tattoos.