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Posts Tagged ‘Luke Fickell’

#8 Michigan 36 – Cincinnati 14: Pair of pick-sixes save lackluster offensive showing

Sunday, September 10th, 2017


(Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

After a resounding win over 17th-ranked Florida to open the season, Michigan returned home and received more than it expected from a Cincinnati squad that went just 4-8 a year ago. Still, the Wolverines weathered the storm and survived a plague of mistakes to win going away, 36-14.

Michigan started the game strong with a 7-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the first possession and an interception returned for touchdown a couple drives later to take a quick 14-0 lead.

Final Stats
Michigan  Cincinnati
Score 36 14
Record 2-0 1-1
Total Yards 414 200
Net Rushing Yards 193 68
Net Passing Yards 221 132
First Downs 16 13
Turnovers 2 2
Penalties-Yards 7-68 4-30
Punts-Yards 7-274 10-373
Time of Possession 30:27 29:33
Third Down Conversions 5-of-15 6-of-19
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 4-23 1-8
Field Goals 2-for-2 0-for-1
PATs 4-for-4 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-2 2-of-2
Full Box Score

But after the defense forced a Cincinnati punt, the ball hit a Michigan blocker and was recovered by the Bearcats at the Michigan 38. Cincinnati took advantage of the short field with a 9-play touchdown drive.

The second quarter struggles that Michigan had in Week 1 returned as the Wolverines kicked a 28-yard field goal on their first possession but managed just 51 yards on 14 plays the rest of the quarter.

Cincinnati opened the second half with a 10-play, 85-yard touchdown drive to pull within 17-14 and had two more possessions with a chance to either tie the game or take the lead. But the Michigan defense held strong, and after a pair of drives that gained a total of seven yards, the offense finally moved the ball thanks to a 36-yard pass from Wilton Speight to tight end Sean McKeon and a 33-yard touchdown pass to Grant Perry.

A couple drives later, Quinn Nordin kicked a 24-yard field goal to extend Michigan’s lead to 27-14, and on Cincinnati’s ensuing possession the Wolverines forced a three-and-out. On the punt attempt, the ball was snapped past the punter, who batted the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

Michigan’s offense couldn’t capitalize, going three-and-out, but the defense scored its second touchdown of the game when Lavert Hill picked off quarterback Hayden Moore and raced 24 yards to the end zone to reach the final score of 36-14.

The Michigan offense was mistake prone and lackluster most of the day, unable to string together consistent drives against a defense that ranked 72nd nationally a year ago. Sure, the Bearcats’ defense was full of returning starters and now coached by a defensive-minded head coach in Luke Fickell, but there’s no reasons a Michigan offense shouldn’t have more success moving the ball. Take away the two defensive touchdowns and the Wolverines managed just 22 points.

Still, the Wolverines’ defense was strong, holding the Bearcats to just 200 total yards and 68 rushing yards while recording seven tackles for loss and four sacks and scoring two defensive touchdowns. Through two games, the Michigan defense has scored three touchdowns — matching last season’s total — and allowed just two.

Speight completed 17-of-29 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Ty Isaac topped 100 yards rushing for the second straight game, carrying the ball 20 times for 133 yards, while Chris Evans managed just 15 yards on five rushes. Kekoa Crawford led the way through the air, catching four passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, while Perry caught for for 66 and a score.

Tyree Kinnel led the defense with nine tackles (8 solo), a tackle for loss, a sack, and an interception returned for touchdown. Devin Bush had another strong game with seven tackles and a sack, while Khaleke Hudson recorded two sacks.

Game Ball – Offense

Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Isaac could have taken the game ball in Week 1, but we gave it to Quinn Nordin for his multiple 50-yard field goal day. There’s no question Isaac was the best player on the field for Michigan’s offense in Week 2. While Chris Evans couldn’t find any running room, Isaac took the reigns and averaged 6.7 yards per carry. The senior now has 247 yards through two games, averaging 8.0 yards per carry, though he has yet to find the end zone.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)

Game Ball – Defense

Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles — 8 solo — 1 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception returned for touchdown)
While the Michigan defense lost 10 of 11 starters from last season it still returned plenty of players with experience and Kinnel was one of them. Stepping into the starting safety spot in 2017 for the first time, Kinnel was impressive on Saturday, leading the team with nine tackles, recording a sack, and taking an interception 28 yards for a touchdown.

Previous:
Week 1 – (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)

#8 Michigan vs Cincinnati game preview

Friday, September 8th, 2017


Michigan passed its first big test of the season last Saturday with a resounding 33-17 win over 17th-ranked Florida. The Wolverines dominated the game, outgaining Florida 433 to 192, and holding the Gators to just 11 rushing yards and three offensive points, but gave up two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the second quarter and missed two second half field goals to keep the score much closer.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12p.m. EST – ABC
Cincinnati Head Coach: Luke Fickell (1st season)
Coaching Record: 7-7 overall (1-0 at UC)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Denbrock (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Marcus Freeman (1st season)
Last Season: 4-8 (6-2)
Last Meeting: First meeting
All-Time Series: First meeting
Record in Ann Arbor: First meeting
Jim Harbaugh vs UC First meeting
Last Michigan win: First meeting
Last Cincinnati win: First meeting
Current Streak: First meeting

Yes, Florida was missing 10 players due to suspension — two of which were starters — but the Gators were still a very good team and certainly one of the top four or five teams the Wolverines will face all season. That means Michigan gets a few “tune-up” games to improve on what went wrong and refine what could have been done better before the meat of the schedule begins.

Cincinnati is up next, which brings Luke Fickell back to the Big House where he lost to Brady Hoke in his only other visit as a head coach. He bridged the gap between Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer at Ohio State, going 6-7 as an interim head coach before spending five more seasons as a defensive coordinator in Columbus. In the offseason he made the 100 mile move down I-71 to take his first real head coaching position at Cincinnati after the Bearcats fired Tommy Tuberville.

Fickell is Mr. Ohio, having played for Ohio State and spent his entire 18-year coaching career in the state between OSU, Akron, and now Cincinnati. He inherits a program that has taken a steady nose dive the past few seasons.

From 2007-2012, the Bearcats won at least 10 games in five of six seasons spanning Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, winning the Big East four of those years and reaching a BCS bowl twice. Even the Tuberville began promising with nine-win seasons in 2013 and 14, but he followed those up with a 7-6 record in 2015 and 4-8 a year ago.

The Fickell era opened with a 26-14 win over Austin Peay on Saturday, an outcome that was much too close for comfort considering the Governors are one of the worst teams in the FCS, carrying a 28-game losing streak, which is the longest in the nation. Austin Peay had the 120th-ranked defense in FCS last season, allowing 506.6 yards per game, and held Cincinnati to just 248 yards and only 97 on the ground. Still, that didn’t stop Cincinnati running back Mike Boone — who rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on Saturday — from confidently declaring that the Bearcats could “shock the world” this Saturday.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Cincinnati offense

Last season, Cincinnati’s offense ranked 99th nationally in total offense (374.1 yards per game), 123rd in scoring (19.3 points per game), 117th in rushing (118.2 yards per game), and 44th in passing (255.9 yards per game). Fickell brought in former Notre Dame offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Mike Denbrock to run his offense, promising an up-tempo spread. Denbrock spent the past seven seasons in South Bend and coordinated the offense in 2014, which ranked 32nd in total offense and 38th in scoring. That’s the team that beat Michigan 31-0 in Brady Hoke’s final season.

Quarterback Hayden Moore started two games as a redshirt freshman in 2015 and earned the starting job entering last season but injured his ankle in the third game and missed the next five. He finished the year with 1,744 yards, 11 touchdowns, and seven interceptions on 57.3 percent passing, but he closed out the season with a 371-yard, three touchdown performance against Tulsa. Last Saturday, he completed 17-of-28 passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns. He’s not a major threat to run with just a 0.7 yard per carry average, sacks included.

Boone, a senior running back, had good freshman and sophomore seasons in 2014 and 2015, totaling 1,399 yards and 18 touchdowns on 6.8 yards per carry. But last season, he managed just 388 yards and two scores, recording six games of less than four yards per carry, five of which were under three. He began his senior campaign with a nice game last Saturday, rushing 19 times for 100 yards and one touchdown, but will have a much tougher test against a Michigan defense that held Florida to just 11 rushing yards last week.

Sophomore Thomas Geddis led the team with four receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown last week. He had just seven catches for 139 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman last season, but at 6-foot-5 he has size to cause problems for Michigan’s young defensive backs. Junior Kahlil Lewis is perhaps Cincinnati’s best receiver, coming off a 48-catch, 605-yard, five-touchdown season. He caught four for 41 and a score last weekend. Senior Devin Gray is a former junior college transfer who became the first Bearcat receiver to tally 100 yards in his debut a year ago. He caught 58 passes for 860 yards and five touchdowns last season but managed just two for 18 against Austin Peay. Sophomore Jerron Rollins, like Lewis, is a former three-star recruit, and caught two passes for 22 yards last week.

Cincinnati’s offensive line paved the way for the fewest rushing touchdowns in FBS last season, but has senior left tackle Korey Cunningham back as an anchor. He’s the only full-time returning starter on the line.

Cincinnati defense

Fickell is a defensive minded coach, but has always had Ohio State’s recruits to work with. He doesn’t have four-stars and five-stars to plug in now, but he did bring one of those with him to Cincinnati as his defensive coordinator. Marcus Freeman was a linebacker at Ohio State from 2004-08 and has been working into the coaching ranks, beginning with a graduate assistant position at OSU in 2010 and linebackers coach at Kent State in 2011-12 and Purdue 2013-16. This is his first coordinator position and he inherits a defense that returns eight of its top 10 tacklers from 2016.

Last season, the Bearcats ranked 72nd nationally in total defense (422.8 yards per game), 55th in scoring (26.9 points per game), 75th against the run (189.6 yards per game), and 74th against the pass (233.3 yards per game).

Redshirt junior defensive end Kevin Mouhon led the team with 9.5 tackles for loss and ranked fifth with 50 tackles, while redshirt sophomore Bryan Wright is primed for a breakout year after a strong finish to last season. On the inside, junior tackle Marquise Copeland is the leader with 59 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and a sack last season. Redshirt junior tackle Cortez Broughton was a second-team All-AAC performer last season with five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Freeman has his hands full trying to replace the entire starting linebacking corps, which combined for 196 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 14 passes defended. Senior middle linebacker Jaylyin Minor is a junior college transfer and is the unit’s leading returning tackler with 29. He made 10 tackles in the season opener. Sophomore Will linebacker Perry Young ranked eighth on the team in tackles last season and tallied 17 tackles — 10 solo — and three for loss against Austin Peay. Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Tyrell Gilbert played just eight games last season due to injury but recorded 40 tackles, three interceptions, and forced two fumbles. Last weekend, he recorded Cincinnati’s lone sack.

While the linebackers are new, the secondary is mostly the same except for safety Zach Edwards, but his replacement, junior Malik Clements, had himself a day with 18 tackles last weekend. Senior strong safety Carter Jacobs started three games last season, while corners Grant Coleman and Linden Stephens are experienced seniors.

Cincinnati special teams

Senior kicker Andrew Gantz is one of the most experienced kickers in the nation having made 39 of 49 career attempts with a long of 51. He’s coming off a hip injury that caused him to miss most of last season and missed his lone attempt last weekend. The punter is freshman James Smith, an Aussie who averaged 42.2 yards per punt last weekend.

Gray is the main punt returner and averaged 10.5 yards per return on four returns last week, while Geddis and freshman Michael Warren II handle kick returns.

Analysis
Cincinnati run game vs Michigan rush defense
Cincinnati Michigan 

Cincinnati running back Mike Boone did have a 100-yard game last week but that was against one of the worst defenses in FCS and the Bearcats’ running game itself was very pedestrian last season. Despite Boone’s claim that Cincinnati could shock the world on Saturday, Michigan has a big edge here.

Cincinnati pass game vs Michigan pass defense
Cincinnati Michigan 

With a young and unproven Michigan secondary, the Wolverines don’t have much of an edge here against some talented Cincinnati receivers, but they did still hold Florida without a passing touchdown last week. Sure, they gave up a few long pass plays, but they didn’t break. Cincinnati will likely hit on a couple long passes, but if they can’t run the ball, Michigan’s pass rush will tee off on Moore like it did Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire last week.

Cincinnati rush defense vs Michigan running game
Cincinnati Michigan 

The Bearcats allowed 224 rushing yards to Austin Peay last week, while Michigan’s running game racked up 215 yards on Florida’s stout defense. Sure, the Wolverines had several runs that were stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage, but the big plays — mostly by Ty Isaac — made for a good day on the ground. Cincinnati’s rush defense won’t have much success stopping Michigan’s deep and talented stable of backs.

Cincinnati pass defense vs Michigan passing game
Cincinnati Michigan 

Austin Peay threw just 19 passes last week and completed nine for 89 yards. Wilton Speight had his share of struggles last week, throwing back to back pick sixes and overthrowing open receivers at other times. I’m giving this one a push this week until Speight can prove consistent with Michigan’s young receiving corps.

Cincinnati special teams vs Michigan special teams
Cincinnati Michigan 

This was a big question mark for Michigan heading into last week, but sophomore kicker Quinn Nordin answered those questions with four field goals including two from 50-plus. Still, he missed two in the fourth quarter and Michigan gave up a blocked punt in the second quarter, so there are still some questions. Cincinnati’s kicker missed his only field goal try last week, so we’ll give Michigan a slight edge here.

Coaching
Cincinnati Michigan 

Jim Harbaugh vs. Luke Fickell. One has turned around multiple programs, won a BCS game, won an NFL conference, nearly won a Super Bowl, and took a 5-7 team to back to back 10-win seasons. The other is a first-year full-time head coach who lost to Brady Hoke.

Atmosphere and Intangibles
Cincinnati Michigan 

The first home game of the season in the Big House will be a great atmosphere, giving Michigan a clear home field advantage. The Bearcat seniors have experience of playing at Ohio State in 2014, but no one else on the team has played in a setting like that.

Edge Average: Michigan 7.4 – Cincinnati 2.6
Score Prediction: Michigan 48 – Cincinnati 10

First Look: Cincinnati

Monday, September 4th, 2017


All the talk heading into Michigan’s season opener was about the Wolverines’ inexperience after losing 15 starters including 10 from the defense alone. But there was plenty of young talent remaining to shut down Florida’s offense and capture a 33-17 victory. It was an important first road block cleared by the baby Wolverines and now they get a few games against less talented teams to refine things before the meat of the schedule begins.

Cincinnati is the first victim — I mean, opponent — and the early line has Michigan favored by 33 points. Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Cincinnati & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
26.0 81st 33.0 55th PPG 14.0 34th 17.0 44th
97 215 Rush Yds 224 11
97.0 89th 215.0 44th Rush/Gm 224.0 99th 11.0 3rd
3.3 4.4 Rush Avg 3.7 0.4
151 218 Pass Yds 89 181
151.0 99th 218.0 68th Pass/Gm 89.0 12th 181.0 46th
248 433 Total Off. 313 192
248.0 107th 433.0 58th Total Off./Gm 313.0 48th 192.0 17th
20.5 58th N/A N/A KR Avg 19.3 63rd 17.8 50th
10.5 29th 8.0 42nd PR Avg 1.0 58th N/A N/A
22:19 113th 34:13 25th Avg TOP 37:41 25:47
27% 100th 33% 80th 3rd Down% 19% 18th 15% 14th
0-0 1st 5-22 112th Sacks-Yds 1-6 69th 6-35 3rd
4 3 TDs 2 2
0-1 (00%) 4-6 (67%) FG-ATT 0-0 (–%) 1-2 (50%)
4-5 (80%) 74th 3-4 (75%) 84th Red Zone 2-4 (50%) 25th 0-0 (–%) 1st
4-5 (80%) 1-4 (25%)  RZ TD 2-4 (5-%) 0-0 (–%)
OFEI/DFEI
S&P+

Cincinnati won its opener against Austin Peay 26-14 on Saturday in the head coaching debut of former Ohio State defensive coordinator and interim head coach Luke Fickell. Austin Peay is an FCS team that went 0-11 last season, has a 28-game losing streak, and featured the third-worst (120th-ranked) total defense in FCS. The Governors allowed 506.6 total yards per game last season and held Cincinnati to just 248 yards on Saturday. They were also dead last in FCS in scoring defense, allowing 47 points per game, and they held Cincinnati to 26. Either they’ve made major improvements defensively, or Cincinnati’s offense is pretty bad this year.

The Bearcats went 4-8 in 2016 and had the nation’s 99th-ranked offense, but still compiled at least 80 yards more in each game last season than they did on Saturday. Now they have to face a Michigan defense that held Florida to just 191 total yards and 11 yards rushing. Cincinnati managed just 97 yards on the ground on Saturday against a run defense that allowed 257.8 yards per game in 2016. Cincinnati had the nation’s 117th-ranked running game a year ago and it doesn’t appear to be much better this fall.

Quarterback Hayden Moore completed 17-of-28 passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns, which is a positive for the Bearcats. He had a career touchdown to interception ratio of 20-to-18 entering Saturday.

Defensively, Cincinnati allowed Austin Peay to compile 313 total yards including 224 on the ground. The Governors ran the ball 60 times compared to just 19 passes, but clearly they felt they could run on the Bearcats’ defense, which bodes well for Michigan’s running game this week. In fact, first-year Austin Peay head coach had an interesting comment after the game.

“There’s nothing that Cincinnati did that stopped us on offense,” quarterback JaVaughn Craig said after the game. “We stopped ourselves. I do give credit to Cincinnati’s defense. They’re very physical, they run to the ball and they play hard. I just feel like we can control and do things a lot better on the offensive side of the ball.”

Yes, a quarterback of a team that has the longest losing streak in the nation — FBS or FCS — played the “we stopped ourselves” card. Michigan ran for 215 yards on a stout Florida defense and should run all over Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati pass defense allowed just 89 passing yards on 9-of-19 passing, but the Bearcats ranked 74th against the pass last season. Fickell is a defensive coach, but Michigan’s passing game will get a chance to give the young receivers plenty of work.

Cincinnati.com opined that Fickell may have been holding back on Saturday given the opponent so as to not show Michigan and future opponents much of anything. That’s a bit hard to believe since it was a six point game until five minutes left. Even if it’s true, there’s only so much the Bearcats can improve, and Michigan presents the toughest test they’ll face all season.

The Game Preview

Friday, November 25th, 2011


Photobucket

College football’s greatest rivalry has built itself throughout the years on playing for all the marbles. More often than not over its 107-year history, The Game has been played at season’s end to decide the Big Ten champion, the conference’s representative in the Rose Bowl, and year-long bragging rights for alumni and fans of the schools to the north and south of Toledo.

#15 Michigan v. Ohio
Saturday Nov. 26
12 p.m. ET
ABC
9-2 (5-2) Record 6-5 (3-4)
Western Michigan 34-10
Notre Dame 35-31
Eastern Michigan 31-3
San Diego State 28-7
Minnesota 58-0
Northwestern 42-24
Purdue 36-14
Illinois 31-14
#16 Nebraska 45-17
Wins Akron 42-0
Toledo 27-22
Colorado 37-17
#16 Illinois 17-7
#15 Wisconsin 33-29
Indiana 34-20
#23 Michigan State 14-28
Iowa 16-24
Losses Miami 6-24
Michigan State 7-10
#14 Nebraska 27-34
Purdue 23-26 OT
#21 Penn State 14-21
33.6 Scoring Offense 24.3
231.9 Rushing YPG 201.0
189.3 Passing YPG 114.0
421.2 Total Offense 315.0
15.6 Scoring Defense 19.0
128.4 Rush Defense YPG 130.2
184.3 Pass Defense YPG 187.9
312.6 Total Defense YPG 318.1
26 Takeaways 16
20 Giveaways 12
24/14 Sacks By/Allowed 22/36
70-of-144 (48.6%) Third-down Conv. 60-of-151 (39.7%)
9-for-13 (69.2%) Field Goals 13-for-16 (81.3%)
32.9 Net Punt Avg. 37.6

While Michigan holds a 57-44-6 edge in the series, there have been plenty of streaks by either side. Michigan won 13 of the first 15 contests played from 1897-1918 with the two others being ties. From 1922-27, Michigan had a six game winning streak and then went 10-2-2 from 1938-51. Ohio State then turned the tide throughout the ’50s and ’60s, taking 16 of 24 from 1952-75. The pendulum swung back in Michigan’s favor through the Schembechler, Moeller, and early Carr years, when Michigan won 18 of 27 from 1976-2003, including a 12-3-1 run from 1988-2000.

But since winning the game’s ceremonial 100th meeting in 2003, the rivalry has been decidedly one-sided. Seven-year old kids have never seen Michigan beat the Buckeyes and the last three years have been uncharacteristically boring for traditionalists. Even Ohio fans long for the days of the hard-fought, hyped-up battles they were used to when it didn’t matter who was favored and the underdog always played above its head.

When Rich Rodriguez left West Virginia for Ann Arbor in 2008, one of his fatal flaws, at least perceptibly, was that he didn’t completely understand the rivalry. However, as John U. Bacon’s book Three and Out detailed, he understood it as much as anyone who had never stepped foot in Ann Arbor before could, having learned many of Schembechler’s coaching principles from Bo disciple and West Virginia legend Don Nehlen. Still, his Michigan teams weren’t able to put up much of a fight against the Buckeyes, getting outscored 100-24 in three meetings.

Enter Brady Hoke. Unlike when Jim Tressel took over at Ohio State in 2001 and immediately announced to the world that he was there to beat Michigan, Hoke took his message only to his team, installing ‘Beat Ohio’ countdown clocks in the locker room. He didn’t need to declare anything publicly, but everyone in Ann Arbor understood how he felt. He refers to the Buckeyes simply as ‘Ohio,’ he claims to have never worn red, and he has declared Ohio as one of his main recruiting battlegrounds. In his first 10 months on the job, he has put Michigan in position to make a BCS bowl, secured what is so far one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, and reinvigorated the rivalry.

At this time last year, Michigan was on the eve of yet another beatdown in Columbus while Ohio State was soaring high with an experienced bunch. Now, a year later, the scrip has been flipped. The Jim Tressel saga that led to his dismissal, the loss of Terrell Pryor, and the suspension of five players for the first part of the season has brought down the mighty Buckeyes to the point that Ohio supporters are already making preemptive excuses for a loss on Saturday. They’re already giddy with excitement over the rumored Urban Meyer hiring, which has taken hold of the headlines this week surrounding the game.

But the reality is that while there’s no Big Ten title on the line, this is still a huge game for each team. Michigan has a chance at a BCS at-large bid, which would do wonders for Michigan’s return to national prominence. Ohio will likely get a middling bowl regardless of the outcome, but an eighth straight win over Michigan with a lame duck interim head coach and a freshman quarterback would be just the kind of dagger to the hearts of Michigan fans that would send Columbus into a tither.

While those in Columbus try to downplay the importance, claiming that Michigan is expected to win this one because of the current state of influx in their program, they conveniently forget that they benefited from that very thing the past three years. Now, Michigan has a chance to not only end the losing streak, but to seize control of the rivalry before St. Urban enters the fold.

The players on Ohio State’s roster come into the game expecting to win because that’s all they’ve known, while Michigan’s seniors have never beaten the Buckeyes. OSU quarterback Braxton Miller was in middle school the last time Michigan won, and until the Wolverines can win and put those doubts back in the minds of Buckeye players, Ohio will continue to have the upper hand in the rivalry.

So does Michigan have the upper hand tomorrow? Let’s look at the matchups:

Quarterback:

If Michigan's defense can force Miller to pass, good things will happen (photo by Jay LaPrete, AP)

Head Coach Luke Fickell gave up on the Joe Bauserman experiment after just a couple of games, opting to throw freshman Braxton Miller into the fire. Miller has delighted with his legs but underwhelmed with his arm. He leads the team in rushing with 595 yards and six touchdowns on 128 carries (4.6 yards per carry), having rushed for 100 yards in two of his last three games. But through the air, he has completed just 48.6 percent of his passes for just 76.2 yards per game.

The Bucks rarely throw the ball, and when they do, they don’t complete very many. The most attempts Miller has had all season is 18 against Purdue two weeks ago. He also had 17 last week. Both of those were games in which OSU fell behind 10-0 and was playing catch-up. The most completions he has had in a game is eight against Purdue. He’s most dangerous when he eludes the pass rush and scrambles around waiting for his receivers to work open. He does a good job of keeping his eyes upfield makes defenses pay for overpursuing or failing to bring him down.

Still, while he has shown signs of promise, he’s a true freshman playing in his first Michigan game and it’s in the Big House.

Edge: Michigan

Running Backs:

Dan “Boom” Herron, Jordan Hall, and Carlos Hyde are the go-to backs for the Buckeyes. All three are talented and all three get the ball a lot. Herron was part of the “tat-gate” group that was suspended for the first five games of the season, but he returned with a bang, rushing for 114 yards against Illinois, 160 against Wisconsin, and 141 against Indiana. His production and workload have fallen off in the last two games, but he’s still averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

Hyde, a sophomore, is the team’s second-leading running back with 549 yards and six touchdowns. He’s averaging 5.4 yards per carry and recorded 100-yard games against Nebraska and Indiana. In the last two games, however, he has just eight carries for 36 yards.

Hall split carries with Hyde in the first half of the season, but has just 16 carries for 60 yards in his last three games combined. However, against Purdue, he caught three passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns. At 5’9″ he’s capable of playing the Vincent Smith role of catching screens and picking up chunks of yards.

The Buckeyes are a running football team. Only a handful of teams nationally have more rushing attempts this season, but while they rank 27th in rushing yards per game, they are much lower in yards per attempt at just under 4.5. By comparison, Michigan averages 5.3.

Edge: Michigan

Receivers and Tight Ends:

This is a unit that got a huge facelift last week when DeVier Posey returned from suspension, who instantly gives Miller a true receiving threat. He caught four passes for 66 yards last week against Penn State, one of which was a great one-handed catch on the sideline. In each of the last two seasons, he caught at least 50 passes for over 800 yards, and against Michigan last season he caught five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown.

Aside from Posey, the Bucks lack true playmakers. Freshman Devin Smith is the team’s leading receiver with 11 receptions for 241 yards and four touchdowns, the majority of which came in the first half of the season. The biggest play he will be remembered for is slipping behind the Wisconsin secondary and catching the hail marry to win the game. Including that one, he has three catches since Week 4. Tight end Jake Stoneburner is probably the most dangerous touchdown threat tomorrow. The junior has 13 receptions, seven of which were touchdowns. If the Buckeyes get into the red zone, look for Stoneburner to be the target.

Edge: Michigan

Offensive Line:

Ohio State does have an experienced offensive line with center Mike Brewster and tackle Mike Adams helping to pave the way for the nation’s 27th-best rush offense. The Buckeyes rank 118th in pass offense, but that has less to do with the line as it does with the signal callers. OSU has allowed a lot of sacks – 36 of them to be exact. Some of that has to do with Miller’s scrambling and some has to do with Bauserman’s ineptness early in the season. Michigan State recorded nine sacks against Ohio, but also sacked Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner seven times. Ohio uses mostly a zone blocking scheme, which doesn’t really fit the size of the linemen, but that’s what you get as a result of what has gone on in Columbus in the last 11 months.

OSU will try to rely on freshman Ryan Shazier to slow down Denard

Edge: Even

Defensive Line:

Ohio State’s defense lost seven starters from last year’s team and lost another when defensive end Nathan Williams went down with a knee injury. Junior end John Simon is the leader of the young and inexperienced Buckeye defensive line and he’s a good one. He leads the team in sacks with six and tackles for loss with 13.5. Sophomore tackle Johnathan Hankins and freshman Michael Bennett each have three sacks, while Hankins is second on the team with 10 tackles for loss.

The Buckeyes average two sacks per game, which ranks 49th nationally, and allow 130 rushing yards per game, good for 42nd. In other words, it’s an above-average unit.

Edge: Michigan

Linebackers:

Senior Andrew Sweat and Storm Klein are your typical Ohio State linebackers: tough, smart, and always seem to be in the right position to make plays. Sweat leads the team in tackles with 68 and also has an interception, a forced fumble, and three pass breakups. However, he has been recovering from a concussion and may not play tomorrow. Klein has 41 tackles, a sack, and an interception. But the one that fans are most excited about is freshman Ryan Shazier. He filled in for Sweat last week against Penn State and recorded 15 tackles, and OSU Defensive Coordinator Jim Heacock said Shazier has the size and speed to make plays in space and may spy on Denard.

Edge: Even

Secondary:

Ohio State has a pretty good secondary statistically. The Buckeyes rank 16th nationally in pass defense, allowing 188 yards per game through the air. Corners Travis Howard and Christian Bryant are okay, while safety C.J. Barnett is a playmaker. Howard got picked on by Penn State last week and the Buckeyes gave up 253 passing yards to Wisconsin, 292 to Toledo, and 234 to Purdue. In other words, I think the statistical success of the OSU pass defense is inflated by opposing teams’ ability to run on them.

Edge: Even

Special Teams:

Ohio State does have a good kicker in sophomore Drew Basil who has converted 16-of-19 field goals and 30-of-31 extra points. The lone missed extra point was the one that was blocked at the end of the game against Purdue, sending the game into overtime where OSU eventually lost. His longest field goal is 47 yards and he hasn’t missed from inside 40 all season. Punter Ben Buchanan averages 40 yards per punt and Ohio holds a 37.6-yard net punt average, which is above average. Return-wise, OSU is pretty good, ranking 32nd nationally in punt returns and seventh in kick returns.

Edge: Even

Coaching:

Luke Fickell is probably the unluckiest current head coach in the country. As a promising assistant and co-defensive coordinator, he was likely headed for his shot eventually, but when Jim Tressel was forced out amid the “tat-gate” scandal, Fickell was thrust into the position before he was ultimately ready. That has shown this season from seemingly giving up at the end of a game early in the season to the uncreative offensive scheme, Fickell has just seemed as if he was in over his head. He very well may be a great head coach some day, but he isn’t right now and with the Buckeyes on the verge of hiring Urban Meyer, he’s got to be pretty uncomfortable right about now.

Brady Hoke is looking to beat Ohio in his first season just like Bo did

Contrast that with Michigan’s current position: a “Michigan man” head coach brought in to replace the one the loyalists ran out of Ann Arbor, who brings a true understanding of the the rivalry, the Michigan way, and boasts a 9-2 record. If Michigan wins tomorrow and likely earns a BCS berth, Hoke will be the most popular man in Ann Arbor for a long time to come

Edge: Michigan

Intangibles:

On one hand, you have a team playing at home, hungry to avenge seven straight defeats at the hands of the other. A Michigan win would likely send the Wolverines to the Sugar or Fiesta Bowl, the first BCS bowl since the 2006 season. On the other hand, you have a team with nothing to lose, playing under a lame duck interim head coach, already salivating over his likely replacement, and carrying all the momentum of the rivalry, having won the last seven meetings. It could go either way, right?

If Rich Rodriguez was still the head coach, that would probably be true. But the mentality that Hoke has instilled in his team is one that is tired of hearing about the number of days since it last beat Ohio. It’s hungry to change the tide of the rivalry. And it’s one that is playing its best football of the season right here and now. Michigan won’t play tight like it did the last three years. It will play confident because of the man at the helm.

Edge: Michigan

Prediction:

Years ago it was always near impossible to predict the outcome of the Michigan-Ohio State game. Whether one team was ranked higher or one team was having a down season didn’t matter. You could always throw out the records when the two squared off in late November. In the past few years, however, we Michigan fans have tried to rationalize ways in which we thought Michigan could pull off the upset against the decidedly better team. But the reality was Ohio had the upper hand in the rivalry because it had the better team. Michigan had gotten away from Michigan football and what made the rivalry great.

What a difference a year makes. At this time last season, prospects looked bleak. Michigan was about to fire Rich Rodriguez and Ohio State was cruising into yet another BCS bowl with a hotshot quarterback promising to return for his senior year, and plenty of talent around him returning as well. Now, the mastermind that figured out the secrets of success is in Indianapolis watching replays, the hotshot is riding the pine in Oakland, his replacement is an up-and-coming star but still a freshman, and everyone in Columbus is begging Urban Meyer to become their savior.

Frankly, Michigan is the better team right now and is in a much better spot with its program. The Wolverines are riding high off of decisive wins over Illinois and Nebraska, while Ohio is reeling after losses to Purdue and Penn State. The once formidable Buckeye defense is giving up early leads and the offense couldn’t get a waterwheel spinning in a monsoon.

In the last two weeks, Michigan has scored early. Against Illinois, Michigan marched the opening drive down the field for a touchdown. Against Nebraska, the first drive yielded a punt, but after forcing a Nebraska punt, Michigan marched down for a touchdown. Ohio State is already down and out having lost its last two, and having dug itself a 10-0 hole in each of the last three, so Michigan should take the ball first if it wins the toss. Driving right down the field for a score to open the game would send a message early.

From there, Michigan needs to stop Braxton Miller. The Wolverine defense did a phenomenal job against Nathan Scheelhaase and Taylor Martinez the last two weeks, so there’s no reason it can’t handle Miller. He’s probably more elusive than both of them, but the Michigan front seven needs to make sure to contain him. As mentioned above, he’s at his best not on designed runs, but when he breaks containment and scrambles around. At that point, he keeps his eyes upfield for an open receiver or he picks up a big gain on the ground. Ryan Van Bergen and Craig Roh need to keep him from getting out on the edge, and I think Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison will dial up some aggressive blitz schemes from the linebackers to keep him off balance and force him to make quick decisions. He’s always a run-first checkdown if he’s forced into a quick decision, Michigan’s safeties can come up and make the tackle.

Offensively, expect a lot more of what we saw last week. Michigan has to force Ohio State to prove it can stop Fitz Toussaint. The Buckeyes had trouble with Penn State’s duo of Stephfon Green and Silas Redd last week. Toussaint has the ability to pull off a couple of big runs in this one. Also look for a couple of new looks we haven’t seen before. I’m not talking about some of the gimmicks that were tried in the middle of the season, but some special packages that were saved specifically for Ohio State.

I think it’s important to get off to a fast start. Ohio State has the momentum in the rivalry, but not the current momentum. A couple of scores early on would demoralize the Buckeyes, but letting them hang around would only build their confidence.

Michigan will come in prepared, hungry, and ready for business and will send the Buckeyes home with a .500 record. Toussaint will rush for 120 yards and Denard will break a big run.

Michigan 35 – Ohio 17

Good to Know:

Michigan holds the all-time series lead 57-44-6 (just in case you forgot). In games played after Thanksgiving, the teams are tied 8-8-1.

Michigan’s defense ranks 2nd in the Big Ten and 6th nationally in points allowed (15.6).

Michigan’s defense has forced 26 turnovers, which ranks first in the Big Ten and 11th nationally.

Michigan’s defense -ranks second in the nation in red zone defense (66 percent).

Michigan has outscored opponents 298-109 after the first quarter and 190-77 in the second half.

Michigan ranks second in the Big Ten and fifth in the nation in fewest penalties committed (46).

Michigan has 21 players, including six starters, from the state of Ohio. Head Coach Brady Hoke is also from Ohio.

Record Watch:
With 10 pass completions, Denard Robinson will pass Steve Smith (1980-83) for 8th in career completions.

With 2 passing touchdowns, Denard Robinson will tie Todd Collins (1991-94) for 6th place on Michigan’s career list.

With a 100-yard passing game, Denard will tie Tom Brady (1996-99) for 6th in career 100-yard passing games.

With 214 passing yards, Denard will pass Steve Smith (1980-83) for 7th in career passing yards.

With 27 rushing yards, Denard will pass Billy Taylor (1969-71) for 8th on Michigan’s career rushing list

With 1 rushing touchdown, Denard will move into a tie with Rick Leach (1975-78) for 5th place in career rushing touchdowns

With 109 rushing yards, Fitz Toussaint will break 1,000 yards rushing on the season.

Rival Rewind is Setting Up a Meaningful Showdown

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011


When Brady Hoke was named head coach in January, he immediately set the tone by referring to Ohio State as simply Ohio and made it very clear that beating Ohio was one of the supreme goals each season. And so we at Maize and Go Blue are taking it upon ourselves to dedicate a little time each week to our rival as well. In this weekly segment, we’ll give a brief recap of the previous week’s game and what it means for Michigan. For a full rundown of our rivals’ games, see Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7.

Now that Michigan has already played Notre Dame and Michigan State, we don’t care about those teams. The weekly Rival Rewind segment is going to transition into a sole focus on the lone rival remaining: Ohio State. It will provide a more in-depth look at each Ohio game and preview its upcoming game.

In its previous game, Ohio State entered its bye week with an energizing 17-7 victory over then-No. 16 Illinois, ending a two game skid, and pushing the Buckeyes’ record above .500. This past weekend, the Buckeyes hosted the 15th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers who were fresh off a stinging defeat at the hands of Michigan State. Were the Bucks able to stay hot?

Ohio State: Beat #15 Wisconsin 33-29
Record: 5-3 (2-2)

Ohio State continued its upward climb this past weekend, knocking off 15th-ranked Wisconsin 33-29 in the Horseshoe.

The game started off slow, looking like a classic defensive battle, as Wisconsin took a 7-3 lead into the half. But in the second half, the floodgates opened and Ohio State’s anemic offense suddenly looked like it had never missed a beat.

Braxton Miller scored a one-yard touchdown run to put the Bucks ahead 10-7 just three minutes into the half. The touchdown was set up by a 57-yard romp and a 18-yard run by Dan Herron. Ohio State forced Wisconsin into a punt situation and blocked the punt, giving the Bucks possession at the Wisconsin 1-yard line. Three plays later, Jordan Hall punched it in to widen the lead to 17-7.

Wisconsin punted again, but Hall fumbled the punt and Wisconsin recovered at the OSU 27-yard line. Wisconsin’s Montee Ball carried it in to pull the deficit to three.

Ohio State tacked on a field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter and Wisconsin was stopped on 4th-and-2 from the Ohio State 38 with just over eight minutes remaining. Six plays later (all runs), Miller took it in to put Ohio State ahead 26-14. The two-point conversion attempt failed.

Wisconsin wasn’t finished, however, scoring on just four plays, set up by Ball’s 40-yard run to the OSU 17. Russell Wilson connected with Jared Abbrederis to pull the Badgers within five at 26-21.

Ohio State was forced to punt and Wisconsin used two timeouts to get the ball back with 2:36 remaining. Once again, it took just four plays as Wilson and Abbrederis hooked up again, this time for a 49-yard touchdown to shock Columbus. The two-point conversion was good and suddenly, Wisconsin had a 29-26 lead with 1:18 to play.

Fans in Columbus celebrated a win over 15th-ranked Wisconsin like it was 2002 (photo by Kirk Irwin, Getty Images)

Ohio State got a good kick return and moved the ball to the Wisconsin 40-yard line with less than a minute to play. Needing only a field goal to force overtime, Miller took the snap, flushed to his right towards the line of scrimmage and the sideline and let loose a bomb across his body toward the end zone. Those watching on TV couldn’t see the wide open Devin Smith behind the Wisconsin secondary and immediately assumed interception, but as the TV cameras panned to the left, the ball floated into Smith’s arms and set off bedlam in the ‘Shoe.

Wisconsin’s last-second prayer fell short and Buckeye fans stormed the field, for at least a night of forgetting all about the problems that have plagued the program for nearly the past year, and are still to come when the NCAA hands down its sanctions.

Right now, it seems as if this Buckeye team is coming together. Everybody knew Ohio State’s defense was a force to be reckoned with this season, but the offense was struggling to move the ball with Joe Bauserman under center. When interim head coach Luke Fickell decided to switch to Miller, the true freshman, it signaled a turn to the future.

But it was much more than switching between Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan. While still young and inexperienced, Miller is a playmaker and a threat with his legs as much as his arm. He’s still erratic at times but as the broadcasters kept saying during the telecast, he keeps his eyes downfield while running, allowing him to find open receivers as the play breaks down. And that’s what makes him dangerous.

The scary thing is the Ohio State offense is just going to keep getting better. Offensive tackle Mike Adams returned a couple weeks ago, as did running back Herron. Three weeks from now (barring any further penalty) receiver DeVier Posey will return to give a shot to the arm of the passing game, and with every passing week, Miller will continue to gain confidence.

Ohio State has the fortune of playing Indiana and Purdue the next two weeks to likely push its record to 7-3 before returning home to host Penn State and then traveling to Ann Arbor for The Game. To be honest, Ohio State winning the past couple of weeks and reenergizing the fan base is a good thing.

For one, it keeps the Buckeyes in the thick of the Big Ten race, and as long as Michigan keeps winning, could set up a showdown with major implications on Nov. 26. For the first half of the season, it appeared The Game wouldn’t be a major factor in the Big Ten race.

Secondly, with Ohio State at a likely 8-3 or, at worst, 7-4 heading into The Game, it will be that much sweeter when Michigan turns the tide of the rivalry. Beating a downtrodden program, like OSU has done to us the past three years, will just inspire excuses from down south. Beating a team on a five-game winning streak with a spot in the Big Ten Championship game on the line is the kind of thing that shaped the rivalry over the past 100-plus years.

This week, Ohio State hosts Indiana at noon on the Big Ten Network, the same time as the Michigan game, which means none of us will be watching. Not that we need to. Indiana comes in at 1-8 (0-5 in the Big Ten) and ranks 114th out of 120 FBS teams in scoring defense, giving up 36.2 points per game. The Hoosiers haven’t beaten an FBS team yet (the only win was against FCS South Carolina State), so don’t expect to see anything worthwhile in Columbus this weekend.

Next: Saturday v. Indiana (1-8, 0-5) – 12pm on Big Ten Network

Prediction: Ohio 46 – Indiana 10

Devin Smith catches the game-winning catch with 20 seconds to play as Ohio State upset #15 Wisconsin (photo by Jay LaPrete, AP)