Posts Tagged ‘Buckeyes’

Buckeyes sent home: Michigan 72 – Ohio State 69

Saturday, March 15th, 2014


Michigan bench vs OSU 3-15-14(MGoBlue.com)

Six times in the 16-year history of the Big Ten Tournament have Michigan and Ohio State met. All six times the Buckeyes sent the Wolverines home early. That changed on Saturday afternoon when Michigan topped Ohio State 72-69 to advance to Sunday’s championship game for the first time since 1998.

Michigan started the game hitting everything in sight. Nik Stauskas got the scoring started with a three and after Aaron Craft hit a two-point jumper, Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert added threes. Robinson then stole the ball for a breakaway layup and Jordan Morgan scored back to back baskets to give Michigan a quick 15-2 lead.

Ohio State scored the next five before Stauskas hit his second three of the game. At the eight-minute mark, Michigan led 30-16 and looked as if it would cruise into the half. But Ohio State had other thoughts juts as it did when it came back from an 18-point second-half deficit on Friday night. The Buckeyes used a 21-11 run to close the half, heading into the locker room down just four points.

Stauskas started off the second half just as he did the first with a three, and after a LaQuinton Ross jumper, Derrick Walton Jr. hit a three and Stauskas added another to put Michigan back ahead by double digits. But once again Ohio State fought back. An alley-oop from Shannon Scott to Sam Thompson gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the game at 61-60 with 7:58 to play.

Caris LeVert made the play of the game by pulling down an offensive rebound in the closing seconds (MGoBlue.com)

Caris LeVert made the play of the game by pulling down an offensive rebound in the closing seconds (MGoBlue.com)

From there, the teams played evenly the rest of the way, neither able to pull away by more than three. Jordan Morgan hit one of two free throws and LeVert followed with a three, but Scott answered with a three of his own to tie the game at 64. LeVert made one of two free throws and OSU got back to back layups by Ross and Thompson to grab a 68-65 lead.

On Michigan’s next trip down the court, Stauskas hit a pull-up jumper to bring Michigan within one with 3:45 to play. After an Ohio State missed shot, Robinson was fouled and made both to reclaim the lead. On the other end, Morgan fouled Aaron Craft, but the Buckeye senior uncharacteristically missed both.

On the ensuing possession, Stauskas got the ball on the left baseline with his back to the basket. Craft went for the steal and Stasukas was able to get around him, drive baseline and lay the ball in to put Michigan ahead 71-68 with 2:08 left.

After missed shots on both ends, Morgan picked up his fifth foul of the game. Ross was able to make one of two and Michigan took possession with 44 seconds remaining, up by two. Stauskas ran the clock down as far as possible and heaved up a three, but it clanged off the rim. However, LeVert soared through the lane and grabbed the rebound, kicking it out to Spike Albrecht, who was fouled with six seconds left.

Albrecht made the first to give Michigan a three-point lead. He missed the second and Craft grabbed the rebound and raced down the court desperately needing a three to send the game into overtime. As he pulled up from the top of the key, the ball slipped out of his hands and he was unable to get a shot off as time expired.

The win put Michigan in the championship game for the first time since it won the inaugural Big Ten Tournament in 1998. It also ended Ohio State’s streak of five straight championship game appearances.

Stauskas paced Michigan with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 4-of-8 from three-point range. LeVert added 17 points and eight rebounds, while Robinson III contributed 11 points. Walton Jr and Morgan each scored eight points and pulled down five boards. Zak Irvin hit two big threes in the first half to add six points.

As a team, Michigan shot 53.2 percent overall and made 9-of-22 three-pointers, but hit just 10-of-19 from the free throw line. Ohio State also shot well, 48.2 percent overall and 44.8 percent from downtown. The Buckeyes out-rebounded Michigan 31 to 26.

Michigan faces its other big rival, Michigan State, on Sunday afternoon in the championship game. The Wolverines topped the Spartans in both of the regular season meetings, but Michigan State has all of its starters back from injury at this point and looked good in beating Wisconsin in Saturday’s other semifinal. Win, and Michigan should gain a one-seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament. Lose a close game, and a one-seed is still a possibility.

Three Stars

***Caris LeVert***
17 points (6-of-9 FG, 2-of-4 3PT, 3-of-5 FT), eight rebounds (one offensive), two assists, four turnovers in 37 minutes

**Nik Stauskas**
18 points (6-of-12 FG, 4-of-8 3PT, 2-of-3 FT), one rebound, one assist, one steal, two turnovers in 34 minutes

*Shannon Scott*
18 points (7-of-10 FG, 4-of-6 3PT, 0-of-1 FT), five rebounds, six assists, three steals, two turnovers in 32 minutes

Quick Hitters:


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Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 4-8 1-2 2-2 1 1 2 0 11 1 1 2 3 36
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 3-6 2-3 0-0 0 5 5 1 8 4 3 0 2 29
11 Nik Stauskas* 6-12 4-8 2-3 0 1 1 0 18 1 2 0 1 34
52 Jordan Morgan* 3-4 0-0 2-7 1 4 5 5 8 3 0 0 0 30
23 Caris LeVert* 6-9 2-4 3-5 1 7 8 1 17 2 4 0 0 37
02 Spike Albrecht 1-4 1-3 1-2 0 0 0 2 4 1 1 0 1 11
15 Jon Horford 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 2 1 1 0 10
21 Zak Irvin 2-3 2-3 0-0 0 1 1 0 6 1 0 0 0 13
Totals 25-47 12-23 10-19 5 21 26 11 72 15 12 3 7 200
Ohio State 27-56 7-19 8-12 9 22 31 18 69 17 1 2 10 200
Full Stats

Justin’s 3 thoughts: Ohio State

Saturday, March 15th, 2014


Michigan-Ohio State header_BTT

Michigan survived a scare from Illinois on Friday afternoon to avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed in 11 years to lose its opening round game to a No. 8 or No. 9 seed. Ohio State, meanwhile, did just what it always does in the Big Ten Tournament — win games. After fending off a pesky Purdue squad in the opening round game on Thursday, Ohio State faced a much tougher matchup against a surging Nebraska team fighting for its NCAA Tournament life. The Buckeyes fell behind by 18 points in the second half, but battled back to pull off a 71-67 win.

Michigan and Ohio State squared off just once this season, a 70-60 Michigan win in Columbus on Feb. 11, but the two have a long history in the conference tournament, and it’s not good at all for the Wolverines. Ohio State has knocked Michigan out of the tournament all six times they have faced off (1999, 2002, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012). The Buckeyes were the higher seed and favored each time, so that’s the one difference from this year’s meeting.

Here are my three keys to ending that streak:

Michigan's defense must keep Aaron Craft out of the lane and force him to shoot from outside (Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

Michigan’s defense must keep Aaron Craft out of the lane and force him to shoot from outside (Brian Spurlock, USA Today Sports)

Don’t settle

On Friday, Michigan’s offense looked stagnant for long periods at a time. Illinois’ aggressive zone defense and Jordan Morgan’s foul trouble kept Michigan out of the paint and the Wolverines settled for three-pointers. Sometimes that works — Michigan does lead the Big Ten in three-point percentage — but others it doesn’t. When taken in the normal flow of the offense or open looks, Beilein will never tell his players to stop shooting. But that’s not what the offense was for most of the second half.

In fact, the 30 three-point attempts were the most since Michigan chucked 31 against Nebraska on Feb. 5, and it was just the third time this season the Wolverines attempted 30 or more. They average 21 attempts per game.

Ohio State’s pressure defense is well known as Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are adept at harassing opposing guards and forcing turnovers. Michigan’s guards are more than capable of handling the pressure, but they’ll need to keep the offense moving and avoid digressing it into one-on-one drives and long shots late in the shot clock.

In the season’s only meeting, Michigan shot just 17 threes — and made eight of them. More importantly, both big men, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford were involved in the offense, combining for 14 points and 12 rebounds. That’s what it will take to beat the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Contain Ross and Smith

Ohio State’s offense has had trouble scoring points for most of the season, and when the teams faced off in Columbus it was virtually a two-man show. LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. combined for 37 of the Buckeyes’ 60 points. Both have the ability to hit the three, although Ross missed all four of his attempts and Smith made 3-of-9. Michigan’s defense needs to force them to pass up the three and let others, especially Craft and Scott, shoot.

Craft is shooting just a hair over 30 percent from downtown on the season and is just two for his last 16. He’s most dangerous when he puts his head down and drives to the basket, able to finish or dish it off to a big man, so keep him outside the arc and make him shoot. Scott shoots just 27.3 percent from three and has made just 7-of-32 since Jan. 7.

Ross, meanwhile, has put Ohio State on his back late in the season, averaging 21 points per game over the last five including a season-high 26 against Nebraska on Friday. Smith has struggled as of late, having made just six of his last 21 shots from the field in the last three games and six of his last 28 three-pointers dating back to Feb. 15. Still, he has made at least three three-pointers in a game eight times this season, so he can’t be left alone.

Play like the underdog

Michigan won the first meeting on the road by 10. They ran away with the regular season conference title and are the No. 1 seed. The bulls eye is squarely on their back. But they need to play like Ohio State is favored. The Buckeyes will certainly be hungry to avenge that loss and move to the Big Ten Tournament Championship game for the sixth straight season.

Michigan must forget the history behind this matchup in the tournament and simply match Ohio State’s intensity from the opening tip. In all reality, neither team has much to play for in the grand scheme of the season — they’re both locks for high seeds in the Big Dance — but rivalry bragging rights are on the line. Play with fire out of a desire to get the season sweep of Ohio State just like they did against Michigan State.

Prediction: Michigan 72 – Ohio State 70, OT

Bucks stopped here: Michigan 70 – Ohio State 60

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014


Locker room vs Ohio State 2-11-14

When Michigan followed up its 10-game winning streak with two losses in three games, the hype that flocked to Ann Arbor behind the top team in the Big Ten began to fade. Now, after a win over a resurgent Ohio State squad in Columbus, the future looks as bright as ever for the Wolverines.

Heading into the match-up on Tuesday night, Michigan basketball hadn’t won in Columbus since 2003. But this stands as the only scheduled match-up between the teams this season, so John Beilein’s team decided to take care of business.

While the defense of Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft stifled the Michigan guards early, a boost off the bench from up-and-coming freshman Zak Irvin ignited the offense and brought the Wolverines within four points at the half. Irvin made both of his triple attempts and finished the game with 10 points.

Derrick Walton Jr became the first Michigan freshman to record 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game since Chris Webber in 1992 (MGoBlue.com)

Derrick Walton Jr became the first Michigan freshman to record 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game since Chris Webber in 1992 (MGoBlue.com)

In the second half, it was the Derrick Walton, Jr. show on both ends of the court. The talented freshman point guard recorded his first career double-double, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and only one turnover. He continues to show composure beyond his age, hitting all six free throws to ice the game late.

The story of the game was resiliency, as Michigan fought back from two separate 10-point deficits to cruise to a nice double-digit victory. Irvin’s effort may have kept the Maize and Blue afloat during the early struggles, but the intensity of Jon Horford helped them get over the hump.

Horford’s stats — eight points and four rebounds — don’t fairly demonstrate his impact on the game. Horford played like a beast in the paint and led Michigan emotionally during a 12-0 run midway through the second half that buried the Buckeyes. His counterpart, Jordan Morgan looked hesitant on the offensive end, so Horford’s assertiveness provided a huge boost.

Despite inspiring efforts from Walton, Horford, and Irvin, Nik Stauskas finished the game as Michigan’s leading scorer with 15 points. His jump-shot more closely resembled the Stauskas that fought off NBA draft talk two weeks ago than his performances since then, and left his lackluster effort against Iowa in the dust.

Perhaps the only concern for Beilein in the wake of such a big victory lies in the continued struggles of Glenn Robinson III. Ohio State bullied the athletic sophomore inside the paint and many of his seven missed shots were layups affected by Buckeye defenders. Robinson often disappears during major road games, and a 3-of-10 effort in Columbus did little to shed that reputation.

Most importantly, Michigan returned to its winning ways on the road and held serve in the Big Ten standings. Michigan State’s loss at Wisconsin on Sunday provided Michigan with a golden opportunity to regain control of the conference, and it did so by winning the toughest remaining road game on the schedule.

Michigan now turns its focus to Wisconsin, which visits Ann Arbor this Sunday. If Michigan takes care of business against the Badgers and then Michigan State the following weekend, it will maintain the inside track to the Big Ten Championship.

Three stars

***Derrick Walton, Jr.***
13 points (3-of-10 FG, 1-of-2 3PT, 6-of-6 FT), 10 rebounds, six assists, one steal, one turnover in 36 minutes

**LaQuinton Ross**
24 points (8-of-17 FG, 0-of-4 3PT, 8-of-11 FT), seven rebounds, one assist in 37 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
10 points (2-of-3 FG, 2-of-2 3PT, 4-of-5 FT), three rebounds in 20 minutes

Quick hitters – Drew edition

 

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 3-10 1-1 2-2 4 1 5 2 9 0 0 0 0 23
10 Derrick Walton* 3-10 1-2 6-6 1 9 10 2 13 6 1 0 1 36
11 Nik Stauskas* 4-9 3-6 4-5 0 3 3 1 15 0 2 0 0 38
52 Jordan Morgan* 3-4 0-0 0-0 6 2 8 4 6 0 1 0 0 19
23 Caris LeVert* 3-11 1-6 2-2 2 3 5 0 9 2 0 0 1 38
02 Spike Albrecht 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 5
15 Jon Horford 4-5 0-0 0-2 1 3 4 3 8 0 1 0 0 20
21 Zak Irvin 2-3 2-2 4-5 0 3 3 2 10 0 2 0 0 20
  Totals 22-53 8-17 18-22 14 25 39 14 70 8 9 0 2 200
  Ohio State 23-52 3-20 11-16 8 19 27 17 60 7 8 2 4 200
Full Stats

Sam’s 3 thoughts: Ohio State

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014


Michigan-Ohio State header

Very rarely do teams cruise through tough conference schedules without experiencing some bumps in the road. For this year’s Michigan team, those bumps have popped up very recently on an otherwise fresh sheet of pavement. With two losses in the last three games and a trio of difficult games coming up, the Wolverines will have to win a couple more tough games if they are to bring the Big Ten title back to Ann Arbor.

Tonight presents another golden opportunity as Michigan travels to Columbus to take on a resurgent Buckeye squad (9 p.m. on ESPN). Here are my three thoughts on how Michigan should approach this monster matchup.

Don’t Beat Yourselves: Michigan has lost two of their last three games on the road in very loud, unforgiving environments. There’s no doubt Michigan deserved to lose those two games either. But there are some concerning aspects of the Wolverines’ recent play that need to be worked on if they are to stand a chance in enemy territory.

First, Michigan needs to control the flow of the game and hold onto the ball. For whatever reason, Michigan is turning the ball over at a much higher clip lately, with 35 cough-ups over the past three contests, despite being one of the best teams in the country at getting a shot up on every possession.

Undoubtedly, Nik Stauskas’s inability to get shots up has contributed to the recent turnover woes, and Glenn Robinson III’s play on Saturday left much to be desired in that department. As a whole, Michigan needs to be careful to not give up easy points to an Ohio State team that struggles to score in the halfcourt.

If Nik Stauskas draws Aaron Craft Michigan will need other scorers to step up (Mike Munden, AP)

If Nik Stauskas draws Aaron Craft Michigan will need other scorers to step up (Mike Munden, AP)

Additionally, the Maize and Blue have to find a way to take the crowd out of the game by dictating pace. When the fast break is there, Michigan needs to run, but the Wolverines need to also not get beat up on the boards or on the breakaway themselves.

Is Anybody Home? Many Michigan basketball followers think that the Wolverines can be just as good with Nik Stauskas facilitating the offense and letting others do the scoring as they are with him shooting the lights out. After all, Stauskas took only three shots while recording eight assists against Nebraska. I, however, have a different philosophy. I believe that Stauskas needs to be the guy if Michigan is to be there at the end of both the Big Ten season and the Big Dance.

Eight times this season, Stauskas has recorded fewer than 10 shot attempts. In those eight games, Michigan is 5-3. In the 14 games the Canadian has taken 10 or more shots, the Wolverines are 11-3. Certainly, the Maize and Blue can be good when Stauskas records eight assists, and Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton have demonstrated an ability to create on their own, but Michigan is not the same with Stauskas camped out in the corner being face-guarded by a guard giving up six inches.

Tonight, Stauskas will likely be guarded by one of the best defensive players in the country, point guard Aaron Craft, but unless he is seeing constant double teams, Stauskas needs to shoot and score to win.

Hope and Pray: There comes a time when you can only do so much against a guy that has caught fire. Michigan has learned that the hard way in three of their last four games, as Gary Harris, Yogi Ferrell, and Roy Devyn Marble have all gone off on their home courts while being guarded by various Wolverines (but usually LeVert). That trio has combined to score 80 points on 43 shots while making 17-of-24 three-pointers (70.8 percent) and rendering any semblance of defense useless.

Mercifully, Ohio State doesn’t really have one guy capable of going bonkers, but long, athletic wing LaQuinton Ross is a player to watch out for. Ross is the only Buckeye shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc, and having scored double digits eight straight times, he needs to be a focal point of Michigan’s defense. If the Wolverines are again late to contest and sloppy with the ball, perhaps hoping and praying will be the only solution.

Prediction: The pounding on Saturday in Iowa City leaves me feeling less than confident about tomorrow’s game, but John Beilein teams seem to always find a way to bounce back after devastating losses. Unfortunately, I think tonight’s game means just a little bit more to Ohio State than to Michigan, and the road woes are getting to the young Wolverines. Give me the Buckeyes, 70-60.

Blow for blow: Ohio State 42 – Michigan 41

Monday, December 2nd, 2013


Braxton Miller completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jeff Heuerman to put Ohio State ahead 35-21 with a minute remaining in the third quarter. Michigan was as good as dead. The Wolverines, 15-point underdogs, hung around valiantly through the first half, but we’ve seen this story before. The game was starting to slip away and everyone in the stadium and watching at home could feel it. Except the players in the maize and blue.

“I think the lasting impression you should take from Brady Hoke’s team is these guys are going to fight no matter what,” said Taylor Lewan after the game. “We’re bred to fight. We’ll fight, claw, scratch, get knocked down, but we’ll keep moving forward no matter what.”

Final Stats
Michigan Ohio State
Score 41 42
Record 7-5 (3-5) 12-0 (8-0)
Total Yards 603 526
Net Rushing Yards 152 393
Net Passing Yards 451 133
First Downs 31 23
Turnovers 1 2
Penalties-Yards 4-35 3-25
Punts-Yards 3-132 3-134
Time of Possession 33:21 26:39
Third Down Conversions 8-of-14 3-of-8
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-2 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 2-12 3-24
Field Goals 0-for-0 0-for-0
PATs 5-for-5 6-for-6
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-7 2-of-2
Full Box Score

And fight they did. Ten minutes later, the game was tied and Michigan kicked the ball back to the Buckeyes. Suddenly, the team that was given no chance had taken its punches – figuratively and literally – and gotten right back up.

Ohio State marched right down the field to re-take the lead with 2:41 remaining. But a Michigan offense that had been on life support the previous four weeks still had some fight left.

Gardner to Funchess, 14 yards. Gardner to Dileo, 13 yards. Gardner to Dileo, 11 yards. Gardner to Reynolds, 13 yards. Gardner to Hayes, seven yards. Gardner to Toussaint, 29 yards. Gardner to Funchess, two yards, touchdown.

Michigan was an extra point away from taking the untouchable Buckeyes to overtime. But on this day, in this situation, Hoke had other plans.

“Ohio State’s head coach called timeout,” Lewan said. “We went over and he (Hoke) asked us seniors, ‘Do you want to go for it?’ and I don’t think there was one guy that said no. Every single person said yes.”

Kicking the extra point would have been the conservative route and on any other day the smart choice. Instead, Hoke sent the offense back out for one final play to decide the game.

Gardner dropped back as three receivers stacked to the right started their routes. Funchess, the front man, raced toward the post. The middle man, Gallon, ran to a corner route. The back man, Dileo, ran a curl, sitting down a yard inside the goal line. Gardner, with a man in his face, fired it towards him. A completion sends shockwaves throughout the college football landscape, derailing Ohio State’s national title hopes and 23-game winning streak, and salvaging Michigan’s season.

Instead, Dileo never had a chance to catch it as a Buckeye corner stepped in front and picked it off, ensuring Ohio State a 24th straight win overall and a 10th win in the last 12 meeting with Michigan.

“We play the game to win,” Hoke said afterward. “I thought about it and we did it…we wanted to go win the football game.”

Michigan didn’t win the game and finishes the regular season with a disappointing 7-5 record. But on a day in which 17 seniors were honored – none of which came to Michigan to play for the current coaching staff – the Wolverines rose to the occasion and put a scare into its most bitter rival. Michigan matched the vaunted Buckeyes blow for blow, got knocked down, fought its way back, and fell one play short.

When Michigan is back to the Michigan of old, winning Big Ten championships and vying for national titles, whether it be next year or sometime in the near future, we can look back at this game as the catalyst. And we have guys like Lewan and Gallon and Dileo – the seniors of Team 134 – for saying yes, and Hoke, the coach who entrusted the game’s most important decision to his leaders, to thank.

Michigan-Ohio State game preview

Friday, November 29th, 2013


Twelve times in the history of college football’s greatest rivalry have the Ohio State Buckeyes entered the annual season-ending showdown unbeaten. In nine of those they came away with defeat. Tomorrow will be lucky number 13 for the scarlet and gray, and with a school record 23-game winning streak Urban Meyer’s squad has its sights set on a national championship.

On paper it’s easy to see why the Bucks have had such success. They rank third nationally in points scored, eighth in points against, sixth in rushing yards, seventh in total offense, seventh in third down conversions, fourth in red zone percentage, sixth in rush defense, 12th in total defense, and second in sacks. Statistically, they’re about as complete a team as there is in the country. But there’s a reason they find themselves ranked third in the BCS standings entering the final week of the regular season: their strength of schedule.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12pm EST – ABC
Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (2nd season)
Coaching Record: 127-23 (23-0 at OSU)
Offensive Coordinator: Tom Herman (2nd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Luke Fickell (9th season)
Last Season: 12-0 (8-0, 1st Leaders)
Last Meeting: OSU 26 – Michigan 21 (2012)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 58-45-6
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan leads 31-20-4
Record at Michigan Stadium: Michigan leads 23-18-3
Current Michigan Streak: Lost 1
Last Michigan Win: 2011

Michigan isn’t likely to help in that regard given that the Wolverines come in just 7-4, 3-4 in Big Ten play, having dropped three of their last for and four of their last six. Yet according to the Sagarin Ratings, Michigan (46th) is the third best team Ohio State has faced this season, behind only Wisconsin (4th) and Iowa (35th). Three Buckeye opponents are just downright terrible. California (117th) ranks near the bottom of the FBS; Purdue (157th) is behind several FCS schools; and Florida A&M (224th) is near the bottom of the FCS.

While Ohio State boasts an average winning margin of just over 30 points, the Bucks aren’t quite so invincible as it appears. Against teams ranked in the top 70 that winning margin is cut in third, to just over 20 points. Against teams ranked in the top 50, it drops to just 8.5, and both of those opponents were either tied or within one score in the fourth quarter.

Michigan falls within the top 50 and despite four losses has had a chance to win all but the Michigan State game down the stretch. The 15-point Vegas line may be too high.

Much has been made this week about the comparisons to 1969 when a 6-2 Michigan team upset a heavily favored unbeaten Ohio State squad. Comparatively, that Michigan team was better than this one, but the fact that the Wolverines pulled it off and did so again in 1993, ’95, and ’96 shows that anything can happen. Brady Hoke knows that which is why he played up the ’69 game this week, to instill confidence in a team that has lacked it the last few weeks.

Can Michigan pull off what would be an even greater upset than it was in ’69? Will Ohio State dominate as most are predicting? Or will the result lie somewhere in between – a great game that goes down to the final minutes? Honestly, all three are possible, but let’s take a look at how the teams compare.

Michigan defense vs Ohio State offense: When Ohio State has the ball

The offense is what makes the Buckeyes go, averaging nearly 50 points per game. It all starts with quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde. Miller’s improvement since Michigan’s win in 2011 has allowed the entire offense to keep expanding. He’s completing 67.7 percent of his passes, taking care of the football (only four interceptions), and averaging 6.4 yards per carry.

Hyde missed the first three games of the season due to suspension but last week became the first 1,000-yard rusher of Urban Meyer’s career. He has 1,064 yards in eight games, averaging a whopping 7.7 yards per carry. He has eclipsed 100 yards in each of the last six games.

Philly Brown and Devin Smith are talented receiving targets for Miller. Brown leads the Buckeyes with 49 receptions for 596 yards and nine touchdowns, while Smith has 40 for 591 and seven. Tight end Jeff Heuerman is the third leading receiver with 22 catches for 314 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Freshman Dontre Wilson is the jack of all trades that Meyer loves. He has 28 carries for 226 yards and a touchdown as well as 21 receptions for 215 yards and two scores. He also averages 25.8 yards per kick return. Meyer likes to get the ball in his hands in space to use his athleticism.

The offensive line is a veteran group that has done a great job of paving the way for the running game and has also protected Miller, allowing just 13 sacks. It is led by senior left tackle and captain Jack Mewhort who has started 36 straight games.

The Buckeye offense is versatile enough to run spread or power and also utilizes a lot of tempo. Michigan’s defense has struggled against tempo this season – most notably against Indiana – and hasn’t seen an offense this talented. You can bet Greg Mattison will be prepared to at least slow the Buckeyes down. But if the Michigan offense isn’t able to string together drives and give the defense some rest it could be in for a long day.

Michigan offense vs Ohio State defense: When Michigan has the ball

Ohio State’s defense ranks highly statistically in all areas except pass defense, but has been prone to giving up yards and points. Buffalo scored 20, Cal scored 34 – the most they scored all season against FBS opponents -, Northwestern scored 30, and Illinois scored 35.

The defense is led by linebacker Ryan Shazier who leads the team with 108 tackles, 47 more than the next best. He has 19.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

The line doesn’t have a single senior but is a very talented group that has a chance to help break the school’s single season sack record. The Bucks have 36 sacks so far and the school record is 47. End Noah Spence is the leader with 7.5 sacks, while the other end, Joey Bosa, has 5.5. The tackles, Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett, have 7.5 combined.

The secondary has been the one unit that has been picked on this season. Cornerback Bradley Roby is the one that gets all the attention. He could have gone pro last season but came back and has had an up and down season. The safeties, Christian Bryant and CJ Barnett, are also veterans, but Bryant was lost for the season with a broken ankle against Wisconsin. That has certainly caused some of the problems in the secondary.

Michigan can move the ball on the Buckeyes if and only if Al Borges utilizes a quick passing game with short and intermediate routes from the start. Long drops will put Devin Gardner in the same position he has found himself in the past few weeks: in the face of pressure, resulting in either sacks or poor decisions.

The other third: Special Teams

Kicker Drew Basil has three years of experience as the starting kicker. He has made 8-of-9 field goals this season with a long of 45. Punter Cameron Johnson averages 43.5 yards per punt with 21 of 34 ending up inside the 20.

Prediction

There’s no doubt about it, Michigan needs to play a perfect game in order to win. Even then, it will need some Ohio State mistakes and a bit of luck as well. Gardner has to be smart with the ball, not throw it away as he has been prone to, and not lose unnecessary yards when faced with pressure. The offensive line has to call the right protections and give Gardner time. Derrick Green has to hit the holes hard and run with a purpose. Jeremy Gallon, Devin Funchess, and Drew Dileo have to catch everything thrown their way. The defense has to prevent the big play but also take the pounding from Hyde without breaking.

The chance of all of these things happening is extremely low. I do expect Michigan to play inspired football, hoping to recapture the magic of 1969, but that will only carry them so far. It will come down to execution and playcalling. Will Borges feature a short passing game early on to keep the linebackers back? If not, Gardner will be running for his life like he has the past few weeks. Can Mattison have his defense ready at the time of snap when OSU goes into its tempo offense, but at the same time defend both the edge and the thumping it will receive from Hyde?

How the first quarter goes will determine the outcome of this one. If Michigan can have some offensive success and get a stop or two early on the Wolverines will gain confidence that they can compete. If they turn the ball over, get a couple of three-and-outs, and fall behind early, the floodgates will open. I think Michigan hangs around just enough into the second half to give some hope but is simply overmatched when all is said and done.

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 24

Five-Spot Challenge: Ohio State

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013


Congratulations to tooty_pops for winning last week’s Five-Spot Challenge. As seems to be the theme this season, he benefited from being the least confident in Michigan on Saturday. His prediction of 30 was just one more than Iowa receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley’s total punt return yards. He was also the closest to Jeremy Gallon’s receiving yards, just 14 away, and the second closest to the total made field goal yards by Brendan Gibbons – which was zero. He was also the second closest to Devin Gardner’s total yards (127 away). Tooty_pops wins a $20 M Den gift card.

Jim Mackiewicz came in second with a total deviation of 311. He wasn’t closest in any category, but was consistent in all five. Kashkaav, the winner of the UConn week, finished third and was the closest to Gardner’s total yards (tied with new contestant lmack). Kfarmer16 tied tooty_pops at just one away from Martin-Manley’s punt return yards, while the winner from two weeks ago, Myrick55 was the closest to Gardner’s total field goal yards.

We’re still looking for our first correctly predicted score. GrizzlyJFB was the closest, correctly picking Iowa’s 24 points, but was six high on Michigan. The average combined score among the 14 contestants was Michigan 20 – Iowa 16. Only three of 14 picked Iowa to win.

The weekly results have been updated and the overall standings will be updated shortly.

We all know what week this is, so in the spirit of the rivalry, we’re going to offer up a few more questions than normal. Good luck and Go Blue!

First Look: Ohio State

Monday, November 25th, 2013


Michigan’s season continued its downward spiral on Saturday as the Wolverines blew a 14-point halftime lead and gained a season low 158 total yards of offense in the process. Now, the one game season begins with rival Ohio State coming to town.

The obvious storyline is Ohio State’s 23-game winning streak. Urban Meyer still hasn’t lost since he took over in Columbus last season and the Buckeyes are still trying to back their way into the BCS title game. With Alabama and Florida State ahead of them, Ohio State needs to not only win, but win impressively to try to gain ground. The Bucks have already locked up a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State, but you can be assured that they won’t overlook Michigan.

Ohio State has won its 11 games by an average of 30.4 points per game, beating Florida A&M 76-0, Penn State 63-14, and Purdue 56-0. But not every game has been a blowout. Wisconsin, Northwestern, Iowa, and even Illinois to some extent played the Buckeyes tough despite losing. Wisconsin is by far the best team Ohio State has faced and if not for a dropped interception at the end of the first half that was followed by a 40-yard touchdown strike on the next play, the Badgers might have ended Meyer’s streak.

The following week was supposed to be a big showdown at Northwestern. ESPN College Game Day was there and the Wildcats led 20-13 at halftime and 30-27 midway through the fourth quarter. But Northwestern has lost seven straight and with each passing week Ohio State’s win looks less and less impressive.

Those were the only ranked teams the Buckeyes have beaten this season and only Wisconsin is still ranked. When it comes to common opponents, aside from Northwestern, Ohio State beat Penn State and Iowa, both teams that Michigan lost to. However, the Bucks had them both at home while Michigan played them both on the road. The fourth common opponent is Indiana, which Ohio State beat 42-14 this past Saturday. Michigan set several offensive records against the Hoosiers, but the Buckeyes didn’t even top 500 total yards.

There’s no argument which is the better team, but does Michigan have any chance of upsetting the men of the scarlet and grey? Or will Urban’s streak continue? Let’s take a look at how the two compare statistically.

Ohio State Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Ohio StateMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 48.7 | 33.1 3 | 47 18.4 | 25.1 8 | 52
Rushing Yards 3,4621,417 1,048 | 1,280
Rush Avg. Per Game 314.7 | 128.8 5 | 100 95.3 | 116.4 6 | 14
Avg. Per Rush 6.9 | 3.2 2.9 | 3.2
Passing Yards 2,3782,574 2,619 | 2,603
Pass Avg. Per Game 216.2234.0 75 | 62 238.1 | 236.6 81 | 80
Total Offense 5,8403,991 3,667 | 3,883
Total Off Avg. Per Game 530.9 | 362.8 7 | 95 333.4 | 353.0 12 | 26
Kick Return Average 23.5 | 22.6 27 | 41 17.8 | 22.6 10 | 92
Punt Return Average 9.0 | 6.7 52 | 91 16.5 | 7.4 119 | 57
Avg. Time of Possession 32:0631:41 23 | 31 27:54 | 28:19
3rd Down Conversion Pct 53% | 38% 7 | 83 33% | 38% 16 | T51
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 13-69 | 32-244 T20 | T110 36-250 | 21-159 T2 | T69
Touchdowns Scored 73 | 45 26 | 30
Field Goals-Attempts 8-9 | 16-23 7-10 | 23-29
Red Zone Scores (51-54)94% | (39-46)85% 4 | T52 (24-31)77% | (33-39)85% 31 | T80
Red Zone Touchdowns (45-54)83% | (30-46)65% (19-31)61% | (19-39)49%

Ohio State’s offense is one of the best in the nation, ranking third in points per game (48.7), fifth in rushing average (314.7), and seventh in total offense (530.9). While Michigan’s offense has struggled in Big Ten play, Ohio State’s hasn’t missed a beat. The lowest offensive total they have recorded in a game this season is 390 yards. Michigan has seven of 11 games with fewer total yards, and in three of Michigan’s last four games, the Wolverines gained less than half the total yards of Ohio State’s worst game.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s defense has held six opponents to fewer than 390 total yards, including Nebraska and Northwestern, so there is some hope that Greg Mattison’s crew can at least slow down the Buckeyes.

Ohio State does most of its work on the ground. Led by Carlos Hyde – the first 1,00-yard rusher of Meyer’s career – and Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes average a Big Ten best 314.7 rushing yards per game. Hyde has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his last six games. The most total rushing yards Michigan’s defense has allowed in a game is the 168 yards Iowa gained on Saturday.

Urban Meyer brings a 23-game winning streak into Ann Arbor (Rich Barnes, USA Today Sports)

The Buckeye passing game isn’t as explosive, but that’s more because it doesn’t need to be than because it can’t be. Miller’s arm has vastly improved since the last time he came to Ann Arbor two years ago. The Bucks average just 216.2 passing yards per game, but Miller completes nearly 68 percent of his passes and has a 19-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Michigan’s pass defense ranks 80th nationally and has allowed more than 300 passing yards four times this season.

Defensively, Ohio State is similar to Michigan in that it is better against the run than against the pass. Indiana and California both gained 132 yards on the ground and no opponent has gained more. That’s bad news for a Michigan running game that has gained just 130 total rushing yards in the past four games combined.

The Buckeyes’ pass defense is actually slightly worse than Michigan’s, giving up a yard and a half more than Michigan per game. California, which is 1-11 and the only win was over an FCS team, passed for 371 yards on the Buckeyes. Wisconsin, Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State, and Indiana each threw for at least 237 yards.

In addition to gaining a lot of yards offensively, Ohio State ranks seventh nationally in third down conversions (53 percent), 20th in sacks allowed (13), and fourth in red zone offense, having converted 94 percent of their 54 red zone trips and 83 percent of those have been touchdowns.

The Bucks are strong in those categories on defense as well, ranking 16th in third down conversions (33 percent), second in sacks (36), and 31st in red zone defense (77 percent).

If there is one statistical weakness for the Buckeyes, it’s a minor one. Ohio State ranks 119th nationally in punt coverage, allowing 16.5 yards per return. However, that stat is a bit misleading as OSU has punted only 34 times all season and only six of those have been returned. Of the other 28, 21 have been downed inside the 20.

When looking at the two teams statistically, there isn’t really anything to give much hope of an upset. But they play the games on the field, not on paper, and as the two teams have shown over the long history of the storied rivalry, anything can happen. Michigan could salvage its disappointing season with a win, and that’s really all the Wolverines have to play for at this point.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Rating
Braxton Miller 132-195 1,626 19 4 165.8
Kenny Guiton 75-109 749 14 2 165.2
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Avg/Carry
Carlos Hyde 138 1,064 13 55 7.7
Braxton Miller (QB) 116 738 5 70 6.4
Jordan Hall 79 519 8 49 6.6
Kenny Guiton (QB) 40 330 5 44 8.3
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Avg/Game
Philly Brown 49 596 9 58 54.2
Devin Smith 40 591 7 90 53.7
Jeff Heuerman (TE) 22 314 2 40 28.5
Evan Spencer 22 216 3 25 19.6
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Ryan Shazier (LB) 77 31 108 19.5-72 5.5-44 (4FF)
CJ Barnett (S) 42 19 61 0-0 (2INT) 0-0
Bradley Roby (CB) 46 10 56 1.5-5 (3INT) 0-0 (12PBU)
Noah Spence (DE) 18 24 42 13.0-77 7.5-64 (1FR)
Kicking FGA FGM Long XPA XPM
Drew Basil 9 8 45 66 65
Punting Punts Yds Avg. TB In 20
Cameron Johnson 34 1,479 43.5 1 21
Full Stats

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.

2012 opponent preview: Ohio State

Friday, August 10th, 2012


Last night’s commitment of St. Clairsville, Ohio linebacker Michael Ferns continued Brady Hoke’s recruiting onslaught of the state down south. Today, we take a look at his home state team, the team we feel will be the second toughest opponent on the schedule this season, the Ohio State Buckeyes. For previous opponent previews, see UMass, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, Purdue, Air Force, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Michigan State.

Overview

Despite being ineligible for post-season, Urban Meyer's squad figures to be one of the Big Ten's top teams

Despite being in a state of flux entering the 2012 season, a lot of excitement surrounds the Buckeyes. After a disappointing 6-7 record, and following the NCAA sanctions that led to Jim Tressel’s resignation, Ohio State went out and got the best coach available, Urban Meyer.

The former Ohio State assistant (he coached tight ends and receivers in 1986-’87) is best known for winning a pair of national championships at Florida in 2006 and 2008 before retiring in ’09. The lure of the job in Columbus was too good to pass up and now he’s intent on guiding the Buckeyes right back to the top of the Big Ten. He’s installing an up-temp offensive style that has never been seen in Columbus and that’s where much of the excitement stems among a fan base used to the old “Tressel-ball” offense.

Offense

The good news for Meyer is that he inherits 19 returning starters, the most prominent being sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller. Miller earned the starting nod four games into his freshman year last season and seemed to improve every game. He finished the season with a 54.1 completion percentage, 1,159 yards, and 13 touchdowns, but he was asked to throw just 14 times a game. What’s encouraging was that he threw just four interceptions. But it was his leg that did the most damage as Miller rushed 159 times for 715 yards. He had three 100-yard games, including one against Michigan.

He has drawn comparisons to former Buckeye Troy Smith and if he can refine his passing, he’ll be a dangerous quarterback for years to come. Miller will benefit the most from Meyer’s offense, which thrived with Tim Tebow at the helm at Florida. It will utilize his ability to run and limit the need for a downfield passing game.

If Braxton Miller improves his accuracy, he'll be one of the conference's most dangerous QBs

While Miller was the team’s leading rusher a year ago, the leading running back, Dan Herron, is gone. However, the next two do return. Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde combined for 205 rushes for 971 yards and eight touchdowns, though neither had a 100-yard game. Hall seems best suited for Meyer’s spread, which gets the ball to playmakers in space, allowing them to beat defenders one-on-one. Hyde is more of a power back, something Meyer never really had at Florida, so his role in the offense will be one to keep an eye on.

The offensive line has to replace three starters, but if there is a silver lining to the suspension of left tackle Mike Adams for several games last season, it’s that some of the backups got starting experience that will pay off this season. Moving over to left tackle will be Jack Mewhort who started at right guard last season. Reid Fragel has locked down the other tackle spot, moving over from tight end. Meyer likes the mobility that Fragel provides. On the interior, Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall both return, while Corey Linsley looks to be the top contender to replace Mike Brewster at center. The concern on the line is depth, which Meyer will be looking to build throughout fall camp.

The biggest area of concern for the OSU offense is receiver. DeVier Posey is gone, though he missed most of the season last year due to suspension. Last year’s leading receiver, sophomore Devin Smith, is back, but “leading receiver” should be taken lightly in this case. He’s a burner, but caught just 14 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns. Corey Brown, Verlon Reed, and Chris Fields also return. Brown is likely to be the No. 1 wideout this fall after a standout spring. Reed had a strong freshman campaign in 2010, but missed most of last season with a torn ACL. Tight end Jake Stoneburner is a solid receiving threat who played some slot receiver throughout the spring.

Defense

On defense, Ohio State will be traditionally strong, returning nearly everybody. The star of the defense is end John Simon, an All-Big Ten first-teamer last season. Joining him on the line are tackles Jonathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel, and end Adam Bellamy. All three have starting experience and will give Ohio State one of the best defensive lines in the Big Ten.

The linebackers will also be a solid group. The two outside spots are set with Etienne Sabino and Ryan Shazier. Sabino had a solid year last season with 62 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, while Shazier was the surprise of the year for the Buckeyes with 57 tackles, five for loss, and three sacks as a true freshman. He brings great athleticism to the spot and will be looked upon to break out this season. The biggest position battle is middle linebacker where Storm Klein and Curtis Grant are battling it out. Klein was the starter last season but missed some time in the spring with a knee injury, opening the door for Grant to surpass him on the depth chart.

Senior John Simon is the leader of the Buckeye defense

The secondary is extremely talented, but paper thin heading into the fall, at least at the cornerback spot. Bradley Roby has locked down one corner position after a breakout redshirt freshman season. The other spot is a battle between Travis Howard and Doran Grant. Howard was last year’s starter, but a bit of a letdown. Due to the dismissal of Dominic Clark, Meyer will have to rely on youth for depth at corner behind Roby, Howard, and Grant.

The leader of the secondary is safety C.J. Barnett who led the team with 75 tackles last season. He’s one of several returning safeties with experience. Christian Bryant will likely hold down the other safety spot, while Orhian Johnson, last year’s starter, is fighting for time. Bryant was the team’s third leading tackler with 68. Corey Brown is a former five-star recruit to provide depth as well.

Special Teams

On special teams, both kicker Drew Basil and punter Ben Buchanan return. Basil made 16 of 19 field goal attempts last season with a long of 47, while Buchanan averaged 41.3 yards per punt, which ranked fifth in the Big Ten. In the return game, Hall was effective last season, ranking sixth in the conference in punt returns and fifth in kick returns, so he’ll surely improve on that this season.

Outlook

Overall, the Buckeyes have the talent to be vastly improved. The main question is how quickly they will grasp Meyer’s new system. Last season was essentially a wash with no real offensive system, several key players missing significant time due to suspension, and an interim head coach. It’s safe to say there will be significant improvement in 2012.

If the offense can simply improve to average, it could be the difference between two or three wins. Last year’s total offense ranked 107th nationally with 318 yards per game, and scoring offense ranked 81st, averaging 24 points per game. Just improving into the top 50 in scoring offense would have given the Bucks five more points per game and could have swung a couple of losses into wins. That’s a realistic expectation, especially with what should be an improved defense.

The schedule also lends itself to an improved record with four weak out-of-conference games against Miami (Ohio), UCF, California, and UAB. The Buckeyes open the Big Ten schedule at Michigan State and also have to visit Wisconsin the week before hosting Michigan, but the other two road trips are at Indiana and Penn State, both of which should be wins.

Date Opponent
Sept. 1 Miami (OH)
Sept. 8 UCF
Sept. 15 California
Sept. 22 UAB
Sept. 29 @ Michigan State
Oct. 6 Nebraska
Oct. 13 @ Indiana
Oct. 20 Purdue
Oct. 27 @ Penn State
Nov. 3 Illinois
Nov. 17 @ Wisconsin
Nov. 24 Michigan

Given the favorable schedule, the experience returning on an already stellar defense, and the improvement of the offense in Meyer’s spread system, the Buckeyes should win eight or nine games this fall and challenge for the Big Ten Leaders Division title. Leaders Division foes should take advantage of their opportunity this season since Ohio State is ineligible to compete in the Big Ten Championship game due to sanctions, because the Bucks are a year or two away from returning to their usual perch atop conference.

What it means for Michigan

If the Buckeyes weren’t banned from the postseason, they would likely be the favorites to represent the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship game. But with nothing to look forward to after Thanksgiving, Nov. 24 will be their bowl game. In fact, every intangible surrounding the matchup tilts to OSU’s favor. The game is in Columbus where Michigan hasn’t won since 2000, and although Michigan won last season, it means the Bucks are out for revenge. A new coach running an offensive system that will seem like crack to Buckeye fans used to watching paint dry already has expectations soaring.

Michigan may very well enter the game controlling its own destiny in the Big Ten title race, needing a win to capture the Legends Division and Ohio State will relish the opportunity to play spoiler. That’s why no conference game will be tougher for the Wolverines.