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2014 Big Ten football position rankings: Running backs (part two)

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Big Ten position rankings header-RB

This week, as part of our preview series, we at Maize and Go Blue are ranking the Big Ten’s best running backs in 2014. Part One of the running back preview was posted yesterday; it ranked the running backs that I believe are No. 6 through No. 10 at their respective position in the conference. If you have not had a chance to read Part One yet, I encourage that you do so before reading Part Two herein. With that said, it is time to reveal who will be the five best running backs in the Big Ten this upcoming season.

Previously: Quarterbacks part one, part two.

5. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State | Sophomore – 6’0”, 225 lbs
Rushing Yds YPC Rush TDs YPG Rec Yds Rec TD
2013 262 8.7 2 37.4 23 1
Career Totals 262 8.7 2 37.4 23 1
(Jay LaPrete, AP)

(Jay LaPrete, AP)

To the displeasure of Michigan fans, Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott cracks the top five. Many will be annoyed because Elliott is only a true sophomore and spent most of his freshmen season competing only on special teams. In their eyes, he should be much lower because other Big Ten running backs have already proven they are capable of 1,000-yard seasons. This is all true, but the purpose of this exercise is to rank the best Big Ten running backs in 2014, not those from previous seasons. Michigan fans may not want to admit it, but Elliott is a prime candidate to be one of the Big Ten’s breakout players this fall.

A breakout sophomore season for Elliott should surprise no one. In his first season in Columbus, he provided glimpses of the talent that made him a U.S. Army All-American in high school. He did not see many snaps at running back, earning only 30 carries, but he showcased his potential despite the small sample size. Elliott demonstrated the acceleration, top-end speed, and vision scouts raved about while he was in high school. His 8.73 yards per carry were the highest of any Big Ten player with more than 200 rushing yards last season. This may have been inflated by a 57-yard dash he had, but nine of his 30 attempts still were 10 yards or longer. It is proof that Elliott is more than just a running back that can move the chains. He also is a home-run threat.

It just remains to be seen if Elliott can remain a big-play threat against first-string Big Ten defenses. Similar to Wisconsin’s Corey Clement, 29 of Elliott’s 30 rushes last year were in the second half and when the Buckeyes led by more than 14 points. Further, nearly half of his carries were against Florida A&M, an FCS school, when he gained 162 yards and scored both of his rushing touchdowns. Although it is promising for Ohio State that Elliott prospered in garbage time and against inferior competition, he has not yet been truly tested.

In all likelihood, though, Elliott is too talented to fail in his current situation. Head coach Urban Meyer’s spread offense relies on a two-prong rushing attack with Heisman contender Braxton Miller as the focal point. Defenses know they must contain Miller first. Otherwise, they will spend their entire afternoon staring at the back of his uniform as he races away. This opens running lanes for the tailback. Just look at Carlos Hyde the past two seasons, during which he totaled 393 carries for 2,491 yards, 6.34 yards per carry, and 31 rushing scores. Guess who is the favorite to succeed Hyde as the starter? Elliott. He will have running room for days. Elliott may not bruise his way to first downs like Hyde did, but he will be a threat to score on every play. Expect Elliott to become a household name in 2014 as a 1,200-yard, 14-touchdown year is not out of the question.

4. Jeremy Langford, Michigan State | 5th-yr Senior – 6’0”, 205 lbs
Rushing Yds YPC Rush TDs YPG Rec Yds Rec TD
2013 1,422 4.9 18 101.6 157 1
2012 23 2.6 0 2.6 0 0
2011 0 0 0 0 0 0
Career Totals 1,445 4.8 18 39.1 157 1
(Al Goldis, AP)

(Al Goldis, AP)

Head coach Mark Dantonio arrived in East Lansing prior to the 2007 season. He established quickly that he likes to execute a power-running offense that predominantly features one back. Accordingly, Michigan State has had a recent run of 1,000-yard rushers since Dantonio took the job. In 2007 and 2008, there was Javon Ringer with 1,447 and 1,637 rushing yards, respectively. In 2010, Edwin Baker ran for 1,201 yards. In 2012, it was Le’Veon Bell with 1,793 rushing yards after falling just 52 yards shy of 1,000 the previous season. And, in 2013, Jeremy Langford upheld the new tradition with 1,422 rushing yards.

Initially, it was not clear if Langford would join the 1,000-yard club. He may have been the early front-runner to be the starter, but there were concerns. Langford was looked over by most major college football programs as a high-school recruit. Michigan State and Colorado were the only schools in Power 5 conferences to offer him a scholarship. Did he have the raw talent to be a starter? No one really knew because Langford had seen very little live action in his first two seasons, carrying the ball only nine times. To be safe, Dantonio moved Riley Bullough from linebacker to running back in the preseason. When the first depth chart was released during fall camp, Langford and Bullough were listed as co-starters. Ultimately, Dantonio decided to give the first crack in Week 1 to Langford. Smart move.

After a relatively quiet first five games, Langford found his groove and established himself as one of the best running backs in the Big Ten. He broke a school record by gaining at least 100 rushing yards in eight straight games, including the Big Ten Championship Game. In these eight games, Langford ran the ball 197 times for 1,027 yards and 5.21 yards per carry. He also scored 13 rushing touchdowns during this stretch, finding the end zone in seven of those eight contests. What made Langford so effective was his patience. He will never be the fastest, most athletic, or strongest running back, but he found open space because he waited for his blocks to be set before selecting the correct hole. This propelled him to 1,422 rushing yards—third-best among Big Ten returners—and 18 rushing scores—by far the best in the Big Ten—last season. Despite the early doubts, Langford turned in one of the most productive seasons every by a Michigan State running back.

However, there is more to being a running back than picking up four to five yards every play. Because Langford does not have top-end speed or acceleration, he does not have the ability to make big plays. His 4.87 yards per carry were not even among the 20 best in the Big Ten. He also posted a 20-plus-yard run only 2.74 percent of time. For comparison, the next three players on this list had a 20-plus yard run 10.69, 7.28, and 6.05 percent of the time in 2013. The very best running backs have the capability to make big plays. So, while Langford likely will slowly pick his way through the trenches for another 1,350- to 1,500-yard season with the help of 300 carries, he could not be above the next three on this list.

3. Tevin Coleman, Indiana | Junior – 6’1”, 210 lbs
Rushing Yds YPC Rush TDs YPG Rec Yds Rec TD
2013 958 7.3 12 106.4 193 0
2012 225 4.4 1 18.8 49 0
Career Totals 1,183 6.5 13 56.3 242 0
(Doug McSchooler, AP)

(Doug McSchooler, AP)

It is no secret that Indiana is recognized for its spread offense and aerial attack. The Hoosiers have led the Big Ten in pass attempts three of the past four seasons and likely will do it for the fourth time in five seasons this fall. But this does not mean that they are without talent at running back. In fact, Indiana actually has one of the best tailbacks in the conference in Tevin Coleman.

As a sophomore in 2013, Coleman quietly pieced together a sensational season. He tallied 131 carries for 958 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. At first glance, this may not seem quite impressive given his failure to eclipse the 1,000-yard threshold when the Big Ten had seven 1,000-yard rushers. But Coleman fell short of 1,000 yards only because he had far fewer rushes than those that did gain 1,000 yards.  His lack of carries can be attributed to playing in an offense committed to the pass, splitting already limited carries with then-senior tailback Stephen Houston, and missing the final three games of the season with an ankle injury. There was little Coleman could do alter the first two sets of circumstances, but the injury robbed him of a quarter of his season and prevented him from being named to an All-Big Ten team.

A deeper dive into Coleman’s numbers reveals the significance of his impact as a playmaker in the Big Ten. First, Coleman averaged 7.31 yards per carry—the second-best among all returning Big Ten players that had no less than 100 rushes. Second, he rattled off 14 runs of at least 20 yards in only 131 attempts. This means he had a gain of 20 yards or more 10.69 percent of the time—the best among Big Ten players with a minimum of 100 carries. Third, Coleman notched 12 rushing touchdowns. While this would have been commendable if accomplished in a full season, he hit the mark in just nine games. His touchdown rate of 9.16 percent was the highest in the conference among those with at least 100 rushes. And, finally, seven of Coleman’s 12 rushing scores were longer than 20 yards, while six were longer than 40 yards. All of these statistics convey the same message: Coleman is one of the most electric ball carriers in the Big Ten.

But, whereas Jeremy Langford must be ranked no higher than No. 4 because he rarely breaks plays open, Coleman cannot crack the top two because he lacks the sufficient number of touches. Even if Coleman’s carries were extrapolated to a full 12-game season, he still would have had only about 175 attempts last year. If he wants to challenge the next two players on this list for the title as the conference’s best running back, he needs at least 200 carries. No less. While Coleman will benefit from Houston’s graduation, being the featured back will not cut it in Indiana’s passing attack. The Hoosiers set up the run with the pass rather than vice-versa like most teams. This will limit Coleman’s carries and place a ceiling on his potential. If Indiana wants to eradicate barriers placed on Coleman, it must make him a focal point of the offensive game plan in 2014.

2. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska | Senior – 5’9”, 195 lbs
Rushing Yds YPC Rush TDs YPG Rec Yds Rec TD
2013 1,690 6.0 9 130.0 232 2
2012 1,137 5.0 8 81.2 178 2
2011 150 3.6 3 11.5 11 0
Career Totals 2,977 5.4 20 74.4 421 4
(Jamie Sabau, Getty Images)

(Jamie Sabau, Getty Images)

There are two players that clearly will be the best running backs in the Big Ten. Heck, they are two of the best in the nation. There is very difference between them regarding their innate ability and the statistical production. They both are incredible ball carriers that will put up huge numbers and entertain fans through the nation, let alone the Midwest. No one doubts it. Rather than consider these two backs as No. 1 and No. 2 in the Big Ten, it is best they be referred to as No. 1a and No. 1b. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah is No. 1b.

Abdullah has been one of the Big Ten’s best for two seasons now. He put himself on the map in 2012 with a 1,137-yard, eight-touchdown campaign. He then followed it up in 2013 with even better numbers. His 282 carries were the second-most in the Big Ten. His 1,690 rushing yards were the most in the conference, and his average of 130 rushing yards per game was the sixth-best in the nation. He also increased his efficiency, upping his yards per carry to just north of six, and his scoring, posting nine rushing touchdowns. And Abdullah achieved all of this while Nebraska cycled through three quarterbacks for a variety of reasons. Abdullah delivered week in and week out, rushing for a minimum of 100 yards in 11 of 13 contests and for no less than 85 yards in any of them. Accordingly, Abdullah was named to the All-Big Ten first team and a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award. He also had the opportunity to be selected in the NFL Draft this past spring, but chose to return to Nebraska for one final season.

Abdullah has a wonderful chance to be the nation’s top back in 2014, but there are a few red flags that may hinder those odds. One is Nebraska trying to paste together a brand-new offensive line. The Huskers do return one starter in guard Jake Cotton, but they lost five offensive linemen to graduation. This is a devastating hit. It may take time for the offensive line to build chemistry, giving Abdullah more trouble than he can handle in the backfield. Plus, even if the line becomes cohesive, Abdullah may still see his prime touchdown chances cannibalized by his teammate Imani Cross. Cross had about 200 carries less than Abdullah last year, but still scored more touchdowns on the ground with 10 to Abdullah’s nine. Eight of Cross’ 10 touchdowns were in the red zone. There is a question as to whether Cross will continue to be rewarded for Abdullah’s work between the 20-yard lines.

While these concerns are relatively minor and likely will not affect Abdullah’s performance next season significantly, there is one that is too big to ignore. Abdullah has a fumbling problem. A bad one. In his first three seasons, Abdullah has fumbled the football 20 times, losing 15 of them. He was a bit better with his ball security last year, but still coughed it up five times. This is way too many. Abdullah has all of the tools to be the nation’s best running back: the speed, agility, footwork, strength, vision, instincts, etc. But, because he cannot maintain his grip on the football, he will not even be the best running back in his own conference.

1. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin | RS Junior – 6’1”, 207 lbs
Rushing Yds YPC Rush TDs YPG Rec Yds Rec TD
2013 1,609 7.8 12 123.8 10 0
2012 621 10.0 3 44.4 65 1
2011 98 4.9 1 32.7 0 0
Career Totals 2,328 8.1 16 77.6 75 1
(Morry Gash, AP)

(Morry Gash, AP)

Melvin Gordon will be the best running back in the Big Ten next season. Not only will he be the best ball carrier in the conference, Gordon may be on the verge of a really, really special season. Whereas Ameer Abdullah is considered No. 1b in the Big Ten because he has a few red flags, Gordon is No. 1a because he has no red flags. Everything appears to have fallen into place for Gordon to have the best season of his career. And, when one considers what Gordon has accomplished the past two years, something special is on the horizon.

As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Gordon was Wisconsin’s third-string running back behind future NFL draft picks Montee Ball and James White. Despite this, Gordon still earned 62 carries for 621 yards and three touchdowns. In case you did not pick on the math immediately, he averaged an unheard of 10.02 yards per carry. Yes, he averaged a first down every single time he rushed the football. And, unlike teammate Corey Clement or Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott last season, Gordon did not pad his stats by playing snaps exclusively in garbage time or against the dregs of college football. He did some of his damage against ranked opponents, including a nine-carry, 216-yard breakout performance against Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship game. It was only a sign of things to come.

Last season, Gordon was promoted to the second spot on the depth chart and split most of the carries with White. The result? Gordon recorded the second-most rushing yards in the Big Ten with 1,609 on just 206 carries. He averaged 7.81 yards per carry. Yes, this may have been a dip from his 10.02 yards per carry in 2012, but this average was the best in the nation among all running backs with at least 200 carries and third among all rushers with a minimum of 100 carries. His yards per carry were so high because he led the Big Ten with 50 runs that were 10 yards or longer, which accounted for just shy of a quarter of all of his carries. Gordon also had no trouble using his combination of speed, size, and agility to reach the end zone. He scored 12 rushing touchdowns. Six of those were longer than 20 yards, and an astonishing three of them were longer than 60 yards. It was such a successful season for Gordon that some NFL executives claimed that he would have been a first-round pick in the most recent NFL Draft. And Gordon was not even the starter.

This is why 2014 can be so special for Gordon. He already has proven that he is one of the most explosive running backs in the country. His yards per carry speak for themselves. And Gordon has done all of this while splitting carries as the No. 2 or No. 3 running back on Wisconsin’s depth chart. Not anymore. White graduated after last season. Thus, for the first time in his career, Gordon will be the feature back. Although new backup Clement likely will see over 100 snaps in the backfield, Wisconsin may feed the ball to Gordon about 300 times this season. If one applies Gordon’s yards per carry to a potential 300-carry season, Gordon may be well on his way to a 2,000-yard, 18-touchdown season in Madison. Plus, he will have the luxury of running behind an offensive line that returns four starters from the line sprung him for over 1,600 rushing yards last year. With all of the pieces fitting together perfectly for Gordon, not only will he likely be a candidate to be the best running back in the nation, let alone the Big Ten, he will be a serious contender to win the most prestigious award given to the nation’s best college football player, the Heisman Trophy.

Do you agree with our list of the best Big Ten running backs in 2014? Where did we mess up? Who are your top five Big Ten running backs for this fall? Please let us know in the comments below. Next week, I will rank and preview the conference’s best wide receivers. Keep checking in to Maize and Go Blue as we continue to preview the 2014 football season daily.

M&GB staff predictions: Ohio State

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Michigan has lost three of four. Ohio State has won 23 straight. Most around the country don’t give Michigan a chance. The huge Vegas spread is evidence of that. One would think that a Michigan blog would be the most optimistic, so do any of us give the Wolverines a shot? Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Justin: Now that The Game is finally here, Al Borges can finally open up his playbook that he has kept under wraps the past few weeks. No more letting defenders run through the line forcing Devin Gardner to think quickly. No more confounding runs ending up in loss of yards. No more three-and-outs. Michigan will move the ball with ease, torching an overmatched Buckeye defense and putting up 40 points in a big win.

Ok, so that would be fantasy land, right? In all reality, it will be more of the same as what we saw the last few weeks. Michigan will score some points, but the offense won’t simply move in spurts. The defense will do a good job of slowing down the Buckeyes, but it simply won’t be enough. Ohio State is the much better team and, while Michigan will put up a fight, the disparity will show.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Ohio State
Justin 24 38
Chris 17 31
Josh 13 31
Sam 3 31
Derick 14 47
Katie 21 35
Drew 13 34
M&GB Average 15 35

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 24

Chris: Ohio State 31 – Michigan 17

Josh: Let me set the table before we dig into this week’s prediction. I hate Ohio State, I always have and I always will, that’s a given. I never root for Ohio State, even if it’s in Michigan’s best interest, on those occasions I just hope they don’t lose so it benefits us but I never root for them, ever.

I lived in Ohio for almost two years and it made me hate them even more. I’ve been to Columbus for Michigan games on several occasions and those fans make me hate them more still. I hate that they have lying cheating coaches who skirt the rules and yet are still heralded by the school as if they did nothing wrong.

However, this year my hatred has seemed to fade a bit. Maybe it’s because I’m a grown man in my mid-30’s and I shouldn’t be harboring hatred towards a school and kids I don’t even know. But more likely it’s because a snowball has a better chance in hell (not the one in Michigan) than Michigan does this weekend. In the end I think I am just trying to temper my expectations and hatred so I don’t get too upset if we play horribly and lose by a ridiculous amount.

And now on to what I’d like to see from Michigan this week. Whether we see it is another story.

On Offense:

Michigan is pretty bad at protecting Devin Gardner and giving up sacks. Ohio is pretty good at sacking the QB. I’d just like to see Michigan keep Devin Gardner from getting hurt. We still have a bowl game to play and getting this offense more practices with their starting QB over the next month will only add to their growth heading into the offseason. If Gardner is injured and can’t practice much or at all I think that might slow down any progress this offense might make. I could be wrong but at the very least you don’t want a kid like Devin Gardner to get hurt.

Keep Fitz Toussaint on the bench. I know this sounds harsh especially since he’s a senior but with the line the way it is we cannot afford to have him dancing around and being tentative behind the line when he should just hit a hole and power through it. Derrick Green has shown some flashes of what he can be in the future and right now he needs as many touches as possible. He hits the hole and isn’t someone who can be arm tackled. Even when he doesn’t get much, as long as he gets back to the LOS, he falls forward and gets more yardage. The same cannot be said for Fitz.

Yes, he is a senior and yes not all of his issues are his fault but Michigan football is about putting the best eleven guys on the field and letting them play. He has yet to show me he is one of those eleven.

Find someone not named Jeremy Gallon or Devin Funchess when the going gets rough. Early on Jeremy Gallon was Gardner’s security blanket and for good reason but it became too predictable. As soon as he was in trouble he looked for #21. Once Funchess emerged he became a second outlet, then the top option for a while. But last week Gardner again went back to Gallon when he was pressured and flustered. Urban Meyer and Luke Fickell know this and will key on it. If Michigan is to stand a chance they need to get Jehu Chesson and others involved in the offense.

Take advantage of any positive situations. Michigan has been awful on third down and has failed to punch it in the end zone on numerous occasions when they’ve had short fields. Field goals won’t beat OSU, plain and simple. Michigan needs to take advantage of short fields, turnovers, even just solid field position and make it count.

Throw out the record and past failures of the season and play like this is our bowl game. No, it’s not really but it might as well be since we’ll end up with some mid major team in the bowl most likely. Ohio has locked up their Big Ten title game slot but a Michigan win would give them zero chance at the BCS title (if FSU and/or Bama lose) and that alone would be awesome.

This is not to say they won’t give their hearts and play with full effort, because I feel they already have been, but they need to bring out some nastiness and play like Michigan. I’ll spare you the Brady Hoke intro press conference reference but you know what I mean. If there ever was a game this year for them to play like Michigan, this is it.

On defense

Contain Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde. Far easier said than done but if anyone can do it it’s Greg Mattison. By contain I don’t mean shut down, I mean slow down and limit their big plays. Big plays, as we all know, have hurt Michigan this year. The Buckeyes have an explosive offense and stopping all big plays is a tall task, but if Michigan can limit them they increase their chances of hanging with them.

Disrupt their rhythm. When high octane offenses, or any offenses for that matter, get in a rhythm they can be very tough to stop. Getting a few early stops and/or turnovers could slow down the OSU attack and give Michigan a chance to put some points on the board.

Play with reckless abandon. Michigan is already assured a bowl game and a winning season even if they lose their last two games. So why not throw out all the stops and play every down like it’s their last. The defense playing well may be Michigan’s only chance to win this game. Being aggressive and going for the pick instead of the deflection is risky but now is the time to be risky and go for gold. The defense is solid but they need to bring their A-game on every single play and go all out if they want to give the offense a chance.

On Special Teams

If there ever was a game where field position mattered it would be this one. This OSU team is going to score, they’re just too good not to, but at least make them work hard for it by driving the length of the field.

This may tie in more to the offense’s general ineptness than the special teams’ ability but giving OSU good field position all afternoon will spell doom and frustration for Wolverine nation.

From the Fans

I added this section because I think it’s important. I’ve been as hard on this team as anyone this year, and it’s because I expect a lot of Michigan. All through my grade school and high school years Michigan was a dominant team against OSU. They upset good OSU teams and then went on to win the national championship my senior year of high school. Those years led me to expect top defenses, punishing running games and Rose Bowl or bust. I’ve been critical of Al Borges, we all have, and even Devin Gardner and others but at the end of the day I still love Michigan football.

These kids ARE playing their hearts out, they ARE giving 100% effort and for anyone to question that is just disgusting. Expecting more from Michigan is one thing, but calling out players on Twitter or other media and questioning their heart and acting like jerks (or a more colorful word) isn’t cool. And it isn’t the Michigan way.

Win or lose I want Michigan fans to take the high road and not act like fools. Be disappointed if we lose, I will be, but don’t say hateful things to the players. These are 18-22 year old kids, they don’t need constant criticism from people outside the program, they need our support. And win or lose, that is what we should give them.


As much as it pains me to say this I don’t think Michigan stands a chance. Yes, miracles do happen and I’ve seen bad Michigan teams beat good OSU teams before but I’m just not feeling that way this year. Unless the offensive line becomes great all of a sudden I’m not so sure we sniff the end zone much. Inability to convert on third downs, or even long downs could spell very short fields and numerous scoring opportunities for the Buckeyes. Above all else, OSU needs a statement win to impress the voters and Urbs will be looking to keep pouring it on a hated rival.

Ohio State 31 – Michigan 13

Sam: Do yourself a favor and try to stay away from the TV on Saturday if at all possible. The Game will not be much of a game this season in the blistering cold in Ann Arbor as Ohio State hammers one final nail into Al Borges’s coffin with a big win.

Ohio State 31 – Michigan 3

Derick: After completely forgetting about the second half of the game against Iowa,  Michigan has lost all confidence in it’s ability to move the ball. Though they put up 21 points in the first half, the team had less than 150 yards as a whole.

Unfortunately, an underrated and underrecognized defense is suffering from the offense’s  inability to get first downs, and it spends far too much time on the field.

Ohio State is the best team on Michigan’s schedule, and Michigan hasn’t handled the other 11 games well.

Discounting the first two Rich Rod years, this game would be the most surprising in my years as a Michigan fan if we pulled off an upset.

Ohio State 47 – Michigan 14

Katie: Maybe because this isn’t in The Shoe the Buckeyes won’t be lucky this weekend. Michigan could pull off the upset, but without a bit of good fortune and the full support of the crowd I don’t see it being a favorable outcome for the Wolverines. No, The Buckeyes have too potent an offense, and too resilient a defense. Miller is a great QB and a mobile threat as well. Their backup, Kenny Guiton, isn’t too bad either. That in combination with a powerful running game could mean some rather large issues for Michigan. If they have a weakness Michigan can exploit though, it will be in the passing game. The Maize and Blue will have to play their best defensive game of the year not only to keep OSU in check points wise, but to make sure that their fumbling offense won’t have too much of an uphill battle to overcome.

In this game I’m always for retaining that glimmering hope even when the outlook seems bleak. And if we get beat and beat badly, I hope that it will at least mean a change in coaching staff.

Ohio State 35 – Michigan 21

Drew: This week’s “Inside the Numbers” column detailed Michigan’s odds to upset third-ranked Ohio State in “The Game” tomorrow. To summarize those odds in one word: bleak. OSU has won a school-record 23 straight games. Michigan has lost four of its last six. Accordingly, OSU is a 15-point road favorite against U-M. Since 2000, the Wolverines are only 2-10 against the spread versus the Buckeyes. And, in the past three seasons, Big Ten teams that have been more than a two-touchdown underdog have won only five percent of their games.

In rivalry games, though, there is a general attitude that all rational thought and reason should be thrown out the window and that one should expect the unexpected. Michigan fans have experienced this many times before, witnessing the Wolverines record monumental upsets against their bitter rival from Columbus in 1969, 1993, 1995, and 1996 among others. So if Michigan was to surprise the world by handing Ohio State its first loss and salvage its season, it would not be a first.

But do not hold your breath, Michigan fans. It hurts to say it, but it will not happen tomorrow. The Wolverines will fight, claw, and do everything in their power to win tomorrow, but it will not be enough. The Wolverines will keep it close in the first half as Greg Mattison unleashes defensive schemes that confound Braxton Miller. However, an offense as explosive and dynamic as Ohio State’s will not remain dormant all game. The Buckeyes will blow it open in the third quarter, and Michigan’s offense—the one that has scored only 42 in its past four regulations—will not be able to keep pace. A long month of hardship finally will cease for the Wolverines. Unfortunately, it will be on a sour note.

Ohio State 34 – Michigan 13



For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Ohio State game preview; Monday’s First Look: Ohio State, and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. Katie took a look back at Michigan’s big upset of Ohio State 20 years ago; Drew (@DrewCHallett) says screw the numbers, beat Ohio; and a Thanksgiving salute to the seniors that will be playing their final game in Michigan Stadium tomorrow.

Yours truly participated in Yahoo Sports The Post Game’s The Loyalty Report. I provided the Michigan side of why Michigan will win tomorrow, while Johnny Ginter of Eleven Warriors did the Ohio State view.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewTouch the BannerMaize n Blue Nation, and The M Block.

From the other side, game preview from Eleven Warriors, as well as a roundtable.

Finally, tomorrow is the last day to donate to the indiegogo campaign for Vincent Smith, Martaveous Odoms, and Brandin Hawthorne’s Pahokee garden project. Help out a group of Michigan Men who are working to make their hometown a better place.

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.


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

Inside the Numbers: Screw the numbers, Beat Ohio (State)

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013


Michigan versus Ohio State. Maize and Blue versus Scarlet and Gray. The greatest rivalry in all of sports. No fancy nickname or trophy is needed to enhance the rivalry’s prestige. It is known simply as “The Game,” a term that implies that no athletic competition is better, more important, or more anticipated than the one played on the gridiron between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes each year in late November.

And, yet, this year, Michigan fans are dreading the 110th edition of “The Game.” Even worse, U-M fans are apathetic about it. Yes, they still have an interest in the game’s result. But the passion and fanatical excitement that usually accompanies that interest? Gone. Or diminished, at best.

Michigan fans finally have bailed on this season. They held onto hope for as long as they could that the Wolverines could right the ship, even after the Wolverines needed incredible plays just to eke out victories against Akron, Connecticut, and Northwestern—teams with a combined 9-23 record. But after U-M blew a 14-point halftime lead against Iowa to lose its third game in four weeks, fans let go of that hope.

To see the quantitative effect, go to Ticket prices for “The Game” have plummeted this month. In the summer, the cheapest ticket one could find for this Saturday was for $232, and the average ticket cost $380.38. Those prices made Michigan-Ohio State one of the ten hottest tickets of the college football season. However, this week, prices have dropped to as low as $60 because Michigan fans are selling their tickets en masse. They would rather allow Ohio State fans infiltrate Michigan Stadium than witness firsthand the beatdown that the Buckeyes likely will impose on the Wolverines.

While Michigan fans should support the team through thick and thin, their apathy is not misguided. No matter how one tries to analyze the numbers, whether this year’s statistics, the recent history of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, or how teams perform as an underdog generally, all signs point to a game that most Wolverine fans will want to forget.

The duo of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde will be tough to stop, but the same could be said about Rex Kern and Jim Otis in 1969 (Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

Ohio State enters this Saturday as the third-ranked team in the nation. The Buckeyes have won a school-record 23 straight games and have yet to experience defeat at the helm of Urban Meyer. In contrast, the Wolverines have been trending downwards. After an 11-2 record in Brady Hoke’s inaugural season in Ann Arbor, U-M is just 15-9 the past two years and has lost four of its last six contests.

On the field, Michigan’s defense has performed well most of the season, but Ohio State’s offense will be the most explosive and dynamic it will face. OSU has scored the third-most points and gained the seventh-most yards in the nation. Further, the Buckeyes have topped 30 points in all 11 games and scored at least 40 in all but two. To make matters worse for U-M, OSU runs an up-tempo offense. The last time Michigan’s defense faced an offense that lines up at such a rapid pace, it allowed the most points it has this season—47 to Indiana.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, many consider Ohio State’s defense to be a weak link, but that description is only proper if relative to the strength of OSU’s offense. The Buckeyes are ranked #8 in scoring defense and #12 in total defense. Ohio State’s defense will seem like a sideline-to-sideline roadblock to a Michigan offense that has averaged only 10.5 points and 200.75 total yards in regulation of its last four games. To compound the Wolverines’ problems, OSU employs one of the best pass rushes in college football, registering the second-most sacks in the country. This is likely that last thing that Michigan’s offensive line—ranked 110th in sacks allowed and dead last in tackles-for-loss allowed—wants to hear.

The statistics suggest undoubtedly that Ohio State is the better team. By far. Las Vegas sports books agree with that sentiment, too, setting the Buckeyes as a 15-point road favorite against Michigan. This is not unfamiliar territory for the Maize and Blue. This is the fourth time in the past six years that Ohio State has been a double-digit favorite against the Wolverines.

The good news for Michigan is that Vegas’ betting lines do not determine the outcome of games. Rather, they indicate the quality of two teams relative to one another and help determine which games a team should win and which games a team should lose. The bad news, though, is that Michigan has not won a game against Ohio State that it was supposed to lose in a long time—since 2000 to be exact. Also, Michigan is only 2-10 against the spread versus OSU since then and has not covered the spread against its rivals from Columbus since 2006. Given this trend, the odds that Michigan will not only cover the 15-point spread, but also win outright against the Buckeyes are bleak.

Additionally, under Hoke, Michigan has lacked the ability to upset opponents when given the rare opportunity to do so. In the 11 games in which his team was the underdog, Michigan has won only three times for a paltry winning percentage of 27.3. The Wolverines earned those upset victories against Notre Dame and Illinois in 2011 and Northwestern this season—although, Michigan was no more than a 4.5-point underdog in each.

To be fair, Michigan is not the only team with a poor winning percentage as an underdog. Most teams struggle to win these games. Otherwise, the people employed by Vegas sports books most likely would be pursuing another profession. As the following table indicates, since 2011, all but two Big Ten teams have lost a majority of the games in which Vegas deemed them an underdog:

B1G Schools’ Records as a Favorite and an Underdog Since 2011 – By School
School Overall Record Record as a Favorite Record as an Underdog
MICHIGAN 26-11 (70.3%) 23-3 (88.5%) 3-8 (27.3%)
Illinois 13-23 (36.1%) 12-7 (63.2%) 1-16 (5.9%)
Indiana 9-26 (25.7%) 7-5 (58.3%) 2-21 (8.7%)
Iowa 18-18 (50.0%) 16-8 (66.7%) 2-10 (16.7%)
Michigan State 28-10 (73.7%) 22-5 (81.5%) 6-5 (54.5%)
Minnesota 17-19 (47.2%) 10-2 (83.3%) 7-17 (29.2%)
Nebraska 27-11 (71.1%) 24-5 (82.8%) 3-6 (33.3%)
Northwestern 20-17 (54.1%) 14-3 (82.4%) 6-14 (30.0%)
Ohio State 29-7 (80.6%) 25-3 (89.3%) 4-4 (50.0%)
Penn State 23-13 (63.9%) 19-4 (82.6%) 4-9 (30.8%)
Purdue 14-23 (37.8%) 11-2 (84.6%) 3-21 (12.5%)
Wisconsin 28-11 (71.8%) 27-5 (84.4%) 1-6 (14.3%)

However, not all underdogs are the same. Small underdogs have a significantly better chance to win than an underdog projected to lose by double digits. This should not be groundbreaking to most. The following table provides, since 2011, how often Big Ten underdogs have won based on the value of the spread:

B1G Schools’ Records as an Underdog Since 2011 – By Spread Value
0.0 to +3.0 +3.5 to +7.0 +7.5 to +10.0 +10.5 to +14.0 +14.5 or More
22-21 (51.2%) 9-34 (20.9%) 8-25 (24.2%) 1-17 (5.6%) 2-40 (4.8%)

There have been three different types of Big Ten underdogs recently. First, teams that were an underdog by a field goal or less actually have won more often than they lost. Second, teams that were an underdog by more than field goal but no more than 10 points won just more than one-fifth of their games. Michigan has been no exception under Hoke. U-M is 2-2 in games in which it was a three-point underdog or less, 1-5 in games in which it was a 3.5-point to 10-point underdog.

The third type, which unfortunately applies to Michigan this Saturday, consists of teams that were projected to lose by more than 10 points. These teams win outright only once in a blue moon. Since 2011, these underdogs have won only three times in 60 chances. Here are those three monumental upsets:

B1G Underdogs (10.5 Points or More) that Won Outright Since 2011
Date Underdog Opponent Spread Score
Oct. 29, 2011 Minnesota Iowa +14.5 22-21
Nov. 5, 2011 Northwestern Nebraska +17.5 28-25
Oct. 19, 2013 Minnesota Northwestern +12.5 20-17

This is only the sixth time since at least the mid-1990s—and likely much earlier than then—that Michigan has been this type of underdog. In that span, the Wolverines have pulled off the shocking upset only once, but it was not under the direction of Hoke. Instead, it occurred in Lloyd Carr’s final game as Michigan’s head coach, when the Wolverines beat Urban Meyer- and Tim Tebow-led Florida, 41-35, in the 2008 Capital One Bowl, despite being a 10.5-point underdog.

Nevertheless, this was not the only time that Maize and Blue pulled off such a big upset. The 2008 Capital One Bowl may be fresher in the minds of Michigan fans, but the other one was slightly more notable. On November 22, 1969, the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes arrived in Ann Arbor with a then-school-record 22-game winning streak to play Michigan. Prior to that year, OSU had beaten U-M in 11 of the past 15 games of the rivalry, including a 50-14 rout in 1968. Very few outside the U-M locker room, if any, expected Michigan, a 17-point underdog, to beat a team considered by some at the time to be the best college football team in the history of the sport.

It will take a monumental effort to pull off what the 1969 team did (Bentley)

The rest is history. Michigan manhandled Ohio State for all 60 minutes, relying on seven OSU turnovers en route to a 24-12 victory, which was coined by ABC play-by-play announcer Bill Flemming as “the upset of the century.” The historic upset sent Michigan to the Rose Bowl, prevented Ohio State from clinching its second straight national championship, and sparked the legendary Ten Year War between Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes. It is regarded by many as the most important win in Michigan football history.

So what does this mean entirely for the 2013 Michigan football team with “The Game” only three days away? It means that the Michigan fan base does not believe the Wolverines can upset the Buckeyes. It means that the statistics do not believe that the Wolverines can upset the Buckeyes. It means that Vegas sports books do not believe that the Wolverines can upset the Buckeyes.

Guess what? They are all probably right. The odds that the Wolverines upset the Buckeyes are slim to none.

So despite the fact the author of this column has preached for weeks that the truth lies within the numbers, the Michigan players need to walk out of the Michigan Stadium tunnel at noon this Saturday and yell collectively, “Screw them! Screw the numbers!” They need to remember 1969. They need to remember that, although they may not be as talented as that 1969 Michigan team, the Wolverines have stunned the Buckeyes before as a double-digit underdog. They need to remember that history has a tendency to repeat itself.

And, most importantly, they need to #BeatOhio.

Three Notes You Should Know Before Michigan-Ohio State

  1. This Saturday will be the third straight game that Michigan will be an underdog. Two weeks ago, U-M was a 2.5-point underdog against Northwestern, and, last week, it was a six-point underdog to Iowa. This is the first time since the final three games of the 2010 season against Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Mississippi State that the Wolverines have been an underdog in three consecutive contests.
  1. Both Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor added interceptions to their season totals. Countess became the 14th Wolverine to pick five passes in a season—the most by a U-M player since Todd Howard intercepted six passes in 2000. Taylor’s fourth interception meant that Michigan has two players with at least four picks in the same season for the first time since 1998.
  1. As this section has mentioned almost weekly, Jeremy Gallon has been climbing up Michigan’s receiving lists. Gallon has 1,109 receiving yards this season, needing only 66 yards on Saturday to have the second-most, single-season total in school history. In addition, Gallon and Devin Funchess have 1,795 combined receiving yards in 2013. If they add 262 more to that total by season’s end, they will be the most prolific single-season receiver duo in U-M history.

You can follow Drew on Twitter: @DrewCHallett

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

Big Ten power rankings: Week 6

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

1. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat #16 Northwestern 40-30 This Week: Bye (10/19 vs Iowa)

Carlos Hyde and the Buckeyes earned their top-five ranking on Saturday by storming into Chicago and beating Northwestern 40-30 on national television. In potentially the biggest game in recent program history, the Wildcats shut down star quarterback Braxton Miller but couldn’t quiet the Ohio State running game. Hyde showed how dangerous the balanced Buckeye offense can be by rushing for 168 yards and three touchdowns. Though the defense gave up over 400 total yards, Ohio State took care of a tough road challenge and remains the top team in the Leaders Division.

2. Wisconsin (3-2, 1-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Saturday vs #19 Northwestern (4-1, 0-1), 3:30pm, ABC

Following a loss in Columbus, Wisconsin had a bye week to prepare for Northwestern during week six. The 3-2 record is deceiving for the Badgers considering the manner in which they lost both games. Wisconsin was one final drive away from forcing overtime against Ohio State and the questionable clock management by officials cost them the game against Arizona State. Though the gap between the two is considerably large, Wisconsin seems to be the second-toughest team in the division.

3. Indiana (3-2, 1-0) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Penn State 44-24 This Week: Saturday at Michigan State (4-1, 1-0), 12pm, ESPN2

The Hoosiers had an impressive showing in their Big Ten opener, dropping 44 points and 486 yards on the Penn State defense. Indiana continues to showcase an explosive offense, controlling the ball for under 25 minutes yet managing to score on seven separate drives. Nate Sudfeld leads a formidable passing attack that put up 336 yards through the air on Saturday. The most welcome sight for Indiana fans was the 150 yards on the ground, which gave the offense a balanced attack through running back Tevin Coleman. In order to have a real chance to win the division, the Hoosiers will have to better control the clock and hide a porous defense.

4. Illinois (3-2, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 39-19 This Week: Bye (10/19 vs Wisconsin)

Illinois lost their conference opener to Nebraska by allowing well over 300 yards on the ground. With star quarterback Taylor Martinez sitting out, the Illini had a chance to challenge Nebraska on the road. Unfortunately, the defensive line forgot to show up. Ameer Abdullah shredded Illinois with 225 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and gave the rest of the Big Ten a nearly-full-proof template of how to dominate the Fighting Illini.

5. Penn State (3-2, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Indiana 44-24 This Week: Saturday vs #18 Michigan (5-0, 1-0), 5pm, ESPN

It was a unique recipe for disaster in Indianapolis for Penn State: they dominated the time of possession, gained over 400 yards and their freshman quarterback had three touchdowns to zero interceptions. Alas, the Nittany Lions lost by 20 to Indiana. Penn State players already know they can’t go to a bowl game this season, and so far their play hasn’t been consistent enough to warrant one anyways.

6. Purdue (1-4, 0-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Saturday vs Nebraska (4-1, 1-0), 12pm, Big Ten Network

The Boilermakers took a much needed hiatus Saturday after losing two straight games by 31 points. In week seven the drubbings should continue, however, as Purdue welcomes a hot Nebraska offense to West Lafayette.


1. Michigan (5-0, 1-0) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 42-13 This Week: Saturday at Penn State (3-2, 0-1), 5pm, ESPN

The Wolverines shoot up the rankings after finally showing that the offensive line can produce a running game. Though the rushing numbers don’t jump out, the offense was consistently able to pick up first downs on the ground and avoid negative plays for the first time in 2013. As a result, quarterback Devin Gardner ended his nine-game interception streak and used play action and bootlegs to pick up two total touchdowns and complete 13 of 17 passes. If the defensive line can manage to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks Michigan will be in business.

2. Nebraska (4-1, 1-0) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Illinois 39-19 This Week: Saturday at Purdue (1-4, 0-1), 12pm, Big Ten Network

The Cornhusker offense is the real deal. Similarly to when Kenny Guiton starred in Columbus, the Nebraska offense went off against Illinois with Taylor Martinez on the sideline. Ameer Abdullah allows Nebraska to control the trenches and the clock; which he showcased with over 200 rushing yards on Saturday. When Taylor Martinez returns to the field this offense is one of the best in the country.

3. Northwestern (4-1, 0-1) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #4 Ohio State 40-30 This Week: Saturday at Wisconsin (3-2, 1-1), 3:30pm, ABC

Wildcat fans took a tough loss Saturday night with the eyes of the nation on Ryan Field. In the first half, Northwestern looked poised to upset the powerhouse Buckeyes, but they fell apart at the end and allowed four touchdowns in the final 20 minutes. Venric Mark couldn’t get going against Ohio State’s defense and the entire offensive load fell on the shoulders of quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter. The two signal-callers answered with 343 yards on a 81 percent completion rate, but couldn’t match the 40 points Ohio State dropped on their defense.

4. Michigan State (4-1, 1-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Iowa 26-14 This Week: Saturday vs Indiana (3-2, 1-0), 12pm, ESPN2

Michigan State went into Ames, Iowa to face a team that was feeling extremely confident off of a four-game winning streak. Then they hit the brick wall that is Michigan States’ defense. Iowa failed to pick up a first down in the first 20 minutes of the game and besides back-to-back touchdowns late in the second quarter, couldn’t move the ball at all. The Spartans held Iowa to 23 total rushing yards.

5. Iowa (4-2, 1-1) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Michigan State 26-14 This Week: Bye (10/19 at #4 Ohio State)

The Hawkeyes put themselves back in the picture with four wins to follow an opening loss, but for a team that was a long shot to win the division in the first place, it has to win home games to have a chance. Unfortunately, Mark Weisman, who had been carrying the offense, disappeared and Iowa couldn’t move the ball. It’s a real uphill battle for the Hawkeyes following this loss.

6. Minnesota (4-2, 0-2) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #19 Michigan 42-13 This Week: Bye (10/19 at #19 Northwestern)

Just when the Golden Gophers were starting get excited, they hit a two-game losing streak and find themselves in last place in the Big Ten. Between the now-struggling offense and Head Coach Jerry Kill’s frequent game day seizures, Minnesota has too many issues to count.


2013 opponent preview: Ohio State

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

The final opponent preview also happens to be the final opponent of the season, Ohio State. Previously, we previewed AkronCentral MichiganUConnMinnesotaIowaIndianaPenn StateNorthwesternNebraska, Michigan State, and Notre Dame.


When Urban Meyer took over a floundering Ohio State team following a 6-7 season, excitement soared through the roof about the possibilities he could bring. But even the most die-hard Buckeye fan didn’t see an undefeated season coming that soon and the sanctions left behind by his predecessor kept the Bucks from a shot at the national championship. In year two, however, with essentially ten returning starters on offense, including a leading Heisman candidate, most in Columbus are expecting another unbeaten season.


Meyer was fortunate to inherit the perfect quarterback for his system and now Braxton Miller enters his second season in that system looking to take Meyer to new heights. The junior signal caller improved on a rocky freshman campaign with 2,039 yards passing and a 58.3 percent completion rate to go along with 1,271 yards on the ground last season. His 28 total touchdowns trailed only Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez and Penn State’s Matt McGloin in the Big Ten.

Braxton Miller enters the season with Heisman-level expectations (Darla Dunkle-Hudnell, The Buckeye Times)

The next step is to continue to improve as a passer, which he has done throughout the spring. At times in 2012, he was quick to pull the ball down and run. Meyer wants Miller to run, but he also has to walk the fine line of keeping him healthy.

The good news is he has plenty of help in the backfield with virtually all of the production from last season returning. Senior Carlos Hyde was supposed to be the main man, coming off a near-1,000-yard year. Only Wisconsin’s Montee Ball had more rushing touchdowns than Hyde’s 16. He said this spring that his goal is to get to that 1,000-yard mark. However, a summer bar incident left him suspended for the first three games, which will likely put the 1,000-yard mark out of reach, but shouldn’t hurt the Buckeyes.

Spelling Hyde for the first three games will be Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn, who combined for 348 yards and four touchdowns on 57 carries, although Smith is suspended for the opener. Incoming freshman Ezekiel Elliott will also get a chance to see the field. The X-factor is Jordan Hall, who was supposed to be Ohio State’s starting back last season, but missed most of the year with foot and knee injuries. He will fill the Pivot position in Meyer’s offense – the one made famous by Percy Harvin at Florida – and Meyer has high hopes for him, provided he can stay healthy.

The receiving corps also returns its top players, led by senior Philly Brown and junior Devin Smith. Brown led the team with 60 catches for 669 yards, while Smith led the Bucks with six touchdowns and added 618 yards on just 30 receptions. The former Ohio state high school high jump champion led the Big Ten with 20.6 yards per catch.

There wasn’t much production from the group outside of Brown and Smith. Tight end Jake Soneburner was the third-leading receiver with 16 catches for 269 yards, but he’s out of eligibility. Evan Spencer was the only other Buckeye with more than 10 receptions and will need to step up. Sophomore Nick Vannett and junior Jeff Heuerman will replace Stoneburner at tight end.

Four starters return on the offensive line and all are seniors, giving Ohio State perhaps the most experienced line in the conference. Left tackle Jack Mewhort is the lynchpin. He was named to the All-Big Ten second team last season and has started 25 straight games. Next to him is Andrew Norwell, while Corey LInsley is back at center and Marcus Hall holds down the right guard spot. Linsley was honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2012. The only question mark is right tackle, where Meyer has to find a replacement for Reid Fragel. Sophomore Taylor Decker has the inside track, but Chase Farris is in the mix as well.


Defensively, Ohio State has a lot more holes to fill. Only four starters return, only one of which in the front seven. It’s no secret that the defense was the weak point for the Bucks in 2012, though it did improve as the season went on. Now, with so many replacements, it will need to solidify earlier in order to keep the winning streak alive.

Date Opponent
Aug. 31 Buffalo
Sept. 7 San Diego State
Sept. 14 @ California
Sept. 21 Florida A&M
Sept. 28 Wisconsin
Oct. 5 @ Northwestern
Oct. 19 Iowa
Oct. 26 Penn State
Nov. 2 @ Purdue
Nov. 16 @ Illinois
Nov. 23 Indiana
Nov. 30 @ Michigan

The entire defensive line will be new, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be talented. Sophomores Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington – both five-star recruits in the 2012 class – will bookend the line. In the spring game, both showed why coaches and fans alike have reason for excitement, recording a combined seven sacks. Inside, juniors Michael Bennett and Joel Hale are slated to start, though Bennett needs to recover from a groin injury that held him back last season.

Junior Ryan Shazier is the only returning linebacker, coming off a season in which he recorded the second most tackles in the Big Ten. He’ll retain the Will position, but the others are up for grabs. Last season, Meyer couldn’t find anyone to fill the middle spot until fullback Zack Boren switched over. He’s gone and Meyer will likely look to junior Curtis Grant to step up. Grant has yet to live up to his five-star status as a recruit. At the Sam, sophomore Joshua Perry should start, but he’ll be pushed by sophomore Luke Roberts. David Perkins, who would have been in the mix, left the team in May.

Three-fourths of the secondary returns intact, led by junior corner Bradley Roby and senior safeties C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant. Roby turned down the NFL to come back for what will likely be his swan song, however, like Hyde and Smith, he faces a suspension to start the season. He’s a true shutdown corner, but he’ll need some help on the other side of the field after the departure of Travis Howard. Junior Doran Grant should step into that role, but Arche Griffin’s son, Adam, as well as incoming five-star Eli Apple, will push for playing time.

Special Teams

Drew Basil made 8-of-11 field goals a year ago and is back for his senior year. He will add punting duties as well after Ben Buchanan’s departure. Rod Smith and Devin Smith should handle the kick return duties, while Brown and Hall are likely to split the punt return job.


With a non-conference slate featuring four teams with a combined 2012 record of just 20-28, no Michigan State or Nebraska on the schedule, and only conference road trips to Northwestern, Purdue, and Illinois, the likelihood is strong for the Buckeyes to bring a 23-game winning streak into Ann Arbor on Nov. 30. Anything but a Big Ten championship and a spot in the national title game will be considered a letdown for this rabid fan base, and it would take a massive implosion to keep them from winning the Leaders.

What it means for Michigan

The final game of the season is never an easy one when these two teams are involved and this year the stakes could be as high as they have been in years. There’s a good chance Ohio State will be unbeaten, or at the very least already have the Big Ten Leaders division and a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game wrapped up. Depending on how the first half of November goes, Michigan may need to beat the Buckeyes to secure a spot in the title game, which would then result in a rematch a week later.

Michigan beat Ohio State two years ago in Ann Arbor, and led at halftime in Columbus last season before being held scoreless in the second half and dropping a heartbreaker, 26-21. There’s no question these two teams are equally talented. Ohio State may have a more explosive offense – although that remains to be seen – and Michigan should have the better defense. Regardless, it will be the kind of duel the fans of the two teams were used to seeing before the Rich Rod era derailed things a bit.

The good news is that although Michigan is technically breaking in a new starter at quarterback this season, he played the whole game in Columbus last year so this won’t be his first rodeo. In the friendly confines of the Big House, where Brady Hoke has yet to lose, Michigan has the edge.

Ohio State 26 – Michigan 21: Second half play-calling, miscues send Michigan home in defeat

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

He ran to his right, cut upfield, shrugged off a sandwich by two defenders at the 45, and sprinted to the end zone to give Michigan a 21-17 lead just before the half. It was the stuff of legends – the senior Denard Robinson making a highlight-reel play in the game’s biggest rivalry. It capped an impressive first half for the Michigan offense that was matching Ohio State punch for punch.

Ohio State 26 – Michigan 21
Final Stats
21 Final Score 26
8-4, 6-2 Record 12-0, 8-0
279 Total Yards 396
108 Net Rushing Yards 207
171 Net Passing Yards 189
13 First Downs 22
4 Turnovers 2
5-54 Penalties – Yards 9-74
4-191 Punts – Yards 3-133
23:10 Time of Possession 36:50
4-of-10 Third Down Conversions 4-of-13
0-of-1 Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0
4-39 Sacks By – Yards 4-29
0-for-0 Field Goals 4-for-5
3-for-3 PATs 2-for-2
1-for-1 Red Zone Scores – Chances 4-for-5

Two drives later, on Michigan’s second drive of the second half, Denard rushed to his right and tried to juke a defender who’s helmet squarely hit the ball and popped it loose. Ohio State recovered, and despite missing a field goal, Michigan would never recover.

In the span of two drives, two plays signaled the swings in momentum that decided the game. The fumble was one of many miscues made by Michigan that doomed their chances of winning as the Wolverines coughed it up four times.

The game started ominously as Ohio State took it right down the field on six plays, using a 52-yard pass to Devin Smith to set up a 3-yard Carlos Hyde touchdown run. Michigan mounted a nice drive to the Ohio State 22, but Devin Gardner was sacked by Adolphus Washington and fumbled. After an Ohio State punt, Michigan got on the board with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Gardner to Roy Roundtree.

Ohio State answered with an 11-play field goal drive to take a 10-7 lead. On Michigan’s ensuing possession, an offensive pass interference call on Roundtree negated a first down and led to a Michigan punt. But Ohio State’s Philly Brown muffed the punt and Michigan recovered. Five plays later, Gardner carried it in for the score to put Michigan ahead 14-10.

After the teams traded punts, the Buckeyes got back on the board with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Braxton Miller to Brown. Michigan got the ball back with 1:30 remaining in the half and Denard’s aforementioned 67-yard touchdown run put Michigan back on top. Ohio State tacked on a field goal to head into the half with Michigan ahead 21-20.

The first half was evenly played and, except for Gardner’s fumble on the sack, the offense moved the ball rather well. There was a good mix of plays with Denard, both at quarterback and lined up at other positions. But the second half was a different story.

Denard Robinson fumbles in the third quarter (Jay LaPrete, AP)

Michigan completely went away from any offensive creativity, instead opting for using Gardner and Denard on the field separately, and the offense became entirely predictable. On Michigan’s first possession of the second half, the Wolverines got to their own 48. Facing a 4th-and-2, Brady Hoke initially sent the punt team onto the field, but called a time out to re-think the decision. He then sent the offense back out and ran Denard up the middle, but he was stuffed. Ohio State took advantage of the game-changing field position and kicked a 28-yard field goal to re-take the lead. Michigan would never get it back.

Michigan’s next possession was Denard’s fumble, on which Ohio State wasn’t able to capitalize. When Michigan got it back, the Wolverines faced a 3rd-and-short, but handed off to Vincent Smith up the middle. Again, he was stuffed for no gain and Michigan punted.

The defense kept Michigan in the game as Jake Ryan sacked Miller and forced a fumble that was recovered by Frank Clark. But again, facing 3rd-and-1 at the Michigan 45, Al Borges elected to hand off to Smith up the middle and he was stopped for a loss of two. Michigan punted.

After an Ohio State punt, Michigan got the ball on its own eight. A pass interference penalty gave the offense some breathing room, but two plays later, Garnder was sacked and fumbled. Ohio State recovered at the Michigan 10, in prime position to score a touchdown and all but seal the game. But yet again, the Wolverine defense held strong, forcing Ohio State to kick a 25-yard field goal.

Trailing 26-21 with 6:26 remaining, time was of the essence for Michigan, but the game was still well within reach. Gardner completed a 10-yard pass to Jeremy Gallon for a first down and picked up another, but the latter was called back by a holding penalty. Two plays later, Gardner was intercepted by C.J. Barnett on a poorly thrown ball to Drew Dileo. Michigan never got the ball back as Hyde converted a 3rd-and-7 with a 13-yard run up the middle and the Buckeyes were able to run out the clock.

Denard scores on a 67-yards touchdown run in the first half (Jay LaPrete, AP)

If you saw a theme in the second half drives it was Michigan’s inability to move the ball and inexplicable play-calling – especially on short yardage plays – that handed Ohio State the game. The first half had all the makings of a shootout, but that offense – and the one that Michigan ran the week before against Iowa – suddenly disappeared. Denard and Gardner never saw the field at the same time in the second half, not even to use Denard as a decoy. Instead, the Buckeyes were able to load the box when Denard lined up at quarterback and send the blitz when Gardner was in. The offense never crossed midfield in the second half and gained just 61 yards, and it wasn’t because Ohio State’s defense suddenly learned how to play. Simply put, the play-calling was atrocious.

Michigan obviously missed Fitz Toussaint in the running game as Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith were able to manage just 10 yards on 10 carries. Denard, on the other hand, rushed for 122 and a touchdown on 10 carries, nearly all of which were in the first half. He passed Mike Hart for third on the career rushing touchdown list and Jamie Morris for third on the career rushing list. He also eclipsed Illinois’ Juice Williams for sixth on the Big Ten career total yardage list and became Michigan’s all-time career total touchdown leader, passing Chad Henne with 91.

Gardner completed 11-of-20 passes for 171 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, while also rushing for a touchdown. Roundtree led the way receiving with three receptions for 92 yards and passed Jason Avant and Marquise Walker on the career receiving list.

Ohio State finished its season with a perfect 12-0 record and will forever complain about not being able to play for the national championship due to its sanctions from the Jim Tressel scandal. Perhaps it was fitting then that the Buckeyes honored Tressel and his 2002 national championship team during the first quarter.

Michigan finishes the regular season at 8-4 and will play in either the Capital One Bowl or the Outback Bowl on New Years Day against an SEC opponent, likely either Texas A&M, Georgia or Florida. Both would be tough matchups, but one final time for Denard and the rest of the seniors to suit up in the maize and blue. The matchup will be announced next Sunday.

Stay tuned at the beginning for the Monday Morning Quarterback segment which will break down what went wrong with Michigan’s play-calling in the second half and where the Wolverines go from here.

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