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Posts Tagged ‘Michigan Football’

New in Blue: 2015 defensive end Reuben Jones

Sunday, January 25th, 2015


Reuben Jones(247 Sports)

Reuben Jones – LB | 6-3, 223 | Lakeland, Fla. – Lake Gibson
ESPN: 3-star, #58 DE, 78 rating Rivals: 3-star, #27 SDE 247: 3-star, #64 SDE Scout: 3-star, #145 DE
Other top offers: Nebraska, Michigan State, Iowa, Louisville, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Duke, Wake Forest

It took longer than many expected, but Jim Harbaugh received his first commitment on Saturday evening when three-star defensive end Reuben Jones committed to the Wolverines on his official visit. The Lakeland, Fla. native had previously committed to Nebraska on Nov. 15, but became unhappy with the coaching change in Lincoln and announced his decommitment from the Huskers prior to visiting Ann Arbor.

On Saturday, he tweeted his commitment to Harbaugh’s Wolverines.

Jones is a consensus three-star recruit among the four major recruiting sites. Rivals ranks him the highest as the 27th-best strong side defensive end in the class and 68th-best player in the state of Florida. ESPN ranks him the 58th-best defensive end and gives him a rating of 78. 247 Sports lists him as the 64th-best strong side defensive end and 187th-best player in Florida. Finally, Scout has him as the 145th-best defensive end.

ESPN, Scout, and 247 each list his height and weight as 6’3″, 223, but Rivals has him slightly bigger at 6’4″, 225. According to Hudl, he has a Nike Sparq-verified 40-yard time at 4.89.

During his high school career at Lake Gibson, Jones recorded 212 total tackles (95 solo), 28 tackles for loss, 27.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. In his junior and senior years combines, Jones tallied 158 of those tackles, 25 tackles for loss, and 18.5 of those sacks.

Aside from Nebraska, Jones held offers from Michigan State, Louisville, Iowa, West Virginia, and Kentucky, among others.

Jones became the seventh commitment in the 2015 class but the first defensive lineman. He joins athlete Brian Cole and quarterback Alex Malzone — both early enrollees — as well as kicker Andrew David, defensive back Tyree Kinnel, and offensive linemen Grant Newsome and Jon Runyan Jr in the class.

Recruiting Profile: 2015 CB Iman Marshall

Friday, January 23rd, 2015


Iman Marshall
(247 Sports)

Previously: 2015 TE Chris Clark

Iman Marshall – CB | 6’2″, 190 | Long Beach, Calif. – Long Beach Poly
ESPN: 5-star, #1 CB, 92 grade Rivals: 5-star, #1 CB, #3 nat 247: 5-star, #1 CB, #5 nat Scout: 5-star, #1 CB
Other top offers: USC, Alabama, FSU, Oregon, LSU, UCLA, Auburn, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Miami, ND

One of the most talented and impressive physical specimens being recruited at the cornerback position this season, Long Beach Poly’s Iman Marshall looks to be Michigan’s number one quarry this winter. Marshall has yet to commit to any team thus far, but has either visited or has visits scheduled with Notre Dame, Florida State, LSU, Oregon, and Michigan, with USC also having mutual interest. Marshall sported the vaunted No. 2 jersey during his visit to Ann Arbor this past week, and could have a similar impact to Charles Woodson given the tools he would bring to Michigan if he does indeed commit to the Wolverines.

Athleticism

Athleticism - Iman MarshallMarshall has prodigious size as far as cornerbacks go, having a Nike verified height of 6’2″ (though listed at a shorter 6’1″ by many other outlets). While most defensive backs with 6-foot-plus frames don’t stick on the boundary as cornerbacks due to a lack of athleticism, there is no such concern with Marshall. The Long Beach native showcases very good range and downfield speed, and while he doesn’t have the most fluid of hips, he has flexible ankles and has good change of direction ability for a player of his size. Marshall might not light up stopwatches while running in shorts, but he carries his pads well on the field. Additionally, he has shown the athletic versatility to play as a receiver, with the ball in his hands, as outside corner, a nickel back, a deep safety, and as a kick returner.

Coverage

Coverage - Iman MarshallMarshall lined up most frequently in zone coverage as opposed to man coverage during his high school career at Long Beach, and seems best suited to zone going forward. Marshall has great length and demonstrated it often, frequently taking away passing windows and getting his hand in to break up would-be completions. His instincts and ability to read the play in front of him and the ball in the air are top-notch, which should translate into early playing time and success in college.

In terms of man coverage, Marshall lacks great change of direction and transition out of his backpedal, and could struggle to keep up vertically on an island versus the fastest and quickest receivers in college football. Marshall is not afraid to get physical in coverage, especially near the line of scrimmage, and has the length of a prototypical press corner. As a senior, Marshall was deployed as a single safety and charged with playing the center field which he manned capably.

Ball Skills

Ball Skills - Iman MarshallAs Marshall’s experience playing the wide receiver position at times throughout his career can attest to, he has very good ball skills, not only for the interception, but to catch passes on offense. Marshall doesn’t flash an outstanding catch radius or show off with eye-popping one-handers, but he has sure hands to pluck the football and the ability to put himself in position to do so. He adjusts well to passes thrown over his head and on his back shoulder. Marshall’s length and leaping ability are useful in competing for contested passes and high-pointing the football. When Marshall has the ball in his hands, he can be dangerous on interception and kick returns, showing shifty footwork and strength to ward off tackles.

Run Support

Run Support - Iman MarshallOne thing that can be infuriating while watching cornerbacks at any level of football is how noncommittal they can be towards playing the running game. This is certainly not the case with Marshall as he is an aggressive run defender who plays with strength and instincts. While Marshall could do a better job of getting off of blocks given his ability and the relative level of competition he faced, he pursues with great range and hustle. Marshall shows good tackling technique for a defensive back and wraps up while still delivering jarring hits on the football. With his combination of size and willingness versus the run, Marshall could convert to the safety position if needed by a coaching staff.

Bottom Line

Marshall may not possess blazing timed speed or the most explosive change of direction capabilities, but he stands out in every other category that is important to the cornerback position at the collegiate level. His great instincts will go a long way toward leveraging a role for himself on the football field and he possesses long-term potential to go pro within a few years. If Marshall does indeed sign with the Wolverines this winter, he could form one half of what could be a devastating duo at the cornerback position with last year’s five star recruit Jabrill Peppers. On the whole, Iman Marshall compares to former Virginia Tech and current Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller.

MG&B Grade (out of 10)
9.2 (5-star)

Following his visit to Michigan earlier this week, Marshall is visiting LSU this weekend and plans to wrap up his official visits with Oregon next weekend. Jim Harbaugh and staff plan to make an in-home visit to Marshall and his family — Marshall made the trip to Ann Arbor alone — before signing day on Feb. 4, but pulling him from hometown USC will be a tall order.

Recruiting Profile: 2015 TE Chris Clark

Friday, January 16th, 2015


Chris Clark(Rivals.com)

Ed: Please welcome our newest writer, Alex Sibo, to the fold. Alex is currently a senior at UM-Dearborn and has a background in scouting and player evaluation, having learned from some of the best in the business. He will be contributing a weekly recruit profile/evaluation piece that for the time being will be posted every Friday. Visit our Meet the Staff page to read more about Alex. 

Chris Clark – TE | 6’6″, 247 | Avon, Conn. – Avon Old Farms
ESPN: 4-star, #4 TE, 83 grade Rivals: 4-star, #1 TE 247: 4-star, #2 TE Scout: 5-star, #1 TE
Other top offers: UCLA, Alabama, Auburn, FSU, Georgia, Ohio State, Miami, South Carolina, USC

One of the top prospects that Michigan’s staff and fans have their eyes on is tight end Chris Clark from Avon, Connecticut. The imposing Clark was formerly committed to the North Carolina Tar Heels before decommitting and committing to Michigan, where he once again decommitted and opened up his options once more. Michigan is still considered one of the top schools in the running to win Clark back, but is still currently being wooed by UCLA, Texas, USC, and North Carolina, in addition to receiving offers from many of the top schools in the country. Let’s look into what traits Clark presents and how he could make an impact wearing the winged helmet.

Athleticism

Athleticism - Chris ClarkIt can be easy to say that players who are big are slow, and players who are small are fast. This is not necessarily the case with Clark, but the drawbacks to having a 6’6”, 250-pound frame are clear when watching him play. Clark possesses above average straight line speed for his size and for the tight end position, his agility, burst, and explosion hold him back as an athlete. He is a slow-starter who takes time to build up to his top speed and lacks great initial quickness out of his stance, in addition to the fact that he is slow to change directions and the ability to make sharp lateral cuts. Given that, Clark does possess some wiggle with the ball in his hands, but is much better when asked run through a defender than around him.

Catching

Catching - Chris ClarkIt takes more than just hands to be a successful pass catcher, and Clark is a great example of that, though he does possess the sticky fingers to snag the football. Clark demonstrates excellent body control, whether downfield, in the end zone, flying through the air, or reaching out for a one-hander. One of the more comforting things about the way Clark plays the ball is that he looks the pass in first before looking to turn things up field. Too often, players will concentrate on how they are going to get yards or where the defenders are before they even have possession of the football. While Clark’s vertical leap may be nothing to write home about, his frame and length more than overcome that fact to make him a high-end jump ball and end zone receiver.

Route Running

Route Running - Chris ClarkAs a senior, Clark played a lot more as a wide receiver than he did as a tight end, at least compared to previous years, eerily similar to the role of Devin Funchess during his last couple years in Ann Arbor. Unlike Funchess, Clark lacks the top flight athleticism to carry over to the college game as a wide receiver, but it did give him a different look and more experience in terms of running routes. The conundrum with Clark is that he runs best in a straight line, but not so well that he can consistently threaten the seam on vertical routes. Nonetheless, he has demonstrated that he can get open in his routes and stretch the middle of the field. Though his initial quickness leaves something to be desired, his frame will likely be enough to avoid getting jammed at the line much in college.

Blocking

Blocking - Chris ClarkOne of things that is apparent about Clark when watching him block is that he was physically superior in every way to his competition at Avon. Clark was as tall as his offensive linemen and taller than anyone else the defense could throw at him, not to mention bigger, stronger, and more physically mature at this stage. While able to control defenders and turn them out of running lanes, there was often a complacency to the manner in which he did so. While Clark would occasionally light up a defender and clear him out of the way, that fire that he will need to go up against defensive ends that are as big or bigger than him did not show up often enough. Clark will also need to work on his pad level, hand placement, and footwork — as most recruits do — in order to transition smoothly into the college blocking game.

Bottom Line

Aside from some long-term athletic limitations, Clark has what you look for in a tight end: the ability to cleanly catch the football and to block in the running game. Jim Harbaugh-coached teams at Stanford always produced very good tight ends, and Chris Clark can certainly join those ranks if he is able to be coached and work out his technical flaws as a blocker. Michigan already has depth at the tight end position with Jake Butt, Khalid Hill, A.J. Williams, and Ian Bunting, but Clark would make this position group all the more intriguing for Jay Harbaugh to work with. Overall, Clark has some NFL potential as well, and it’s not tough to draw some comparisons to former UCLA and current Detroit Lions red zone threat Joseph Fauria.

MG&B Grade (out of 10)
8.9 (4-star)

Clark is officially visiting Michigan this weekend where he could recommit, but he also has a visit to UCLA set for next weekend. Bruins head coach Jim Mora Jr, who just lost tight end commit Alize Jones to Notre Dame, visited Clark last night and it looks to be a two-team race to land him.

Fourth annual M&GB HAIL Awards

Monday, January 12th, 2015


HAIL Awards banner

The 2014 college football season officially comes to an end tonight, and while Michigan’s season has been over for a month and a half and everybody is swept up in Harbaughmania, we’re going to close the book on 2014 with one more look back at Michigan’s season by handing out our annual HAIL Awards for the top players, plays, and moments.

Despite coming off of a 7-5 season, the team entered the season with high expectations, most ranging from 8-4 to 11-2. With the majority of the offense back, an expected leap forward from the two Devins, a new offensive coordinator, and an offensive line that had nowhere to go but up, most assumed the offense would avoid the pitfalls that the 2013 season saw. And with the majority of the defense back, an offseason shuffling of position coaches, switching Jake Ryan to middle linebacker, and a predicted senior season breakout of Frank Clark, most assumed the defense would be among the nation’s best.

But following a season-opening blowout of Appalachian State, it quickly became clear that those preseason expectations would need to be tempered as Michigan visited South Bend and left embarrassed by a 31-0 defeat. A 34-10 win over Miami (Ohio) did nothing to turn the season around as Michigan dropped three straight to Utah, Minnesota, and Rutgers, and suddenly a season that began with hope was relegated to simply hoping for a winning record.

A controversy over the handling of backup quarterback Shane Morris and his “probable, mild concussion” suffered against Minnesota further clouded the season and set the wheels in motion for a coaching change. Michigan responded with an Under the Lights win over Penn State that offered a brief respite, but was summarily mopped off the field by rival Michigan State two weeks later. Needing to win three of four to make a bowl game, Michigan topped Indiana and Northwestern, but fell to Maryland, making a season-ending trip to Columbus a must-win. And while Michigan held its own for the better part of three quarters, even holding a halftime lead, it was unable to stop the Buckeyes, and the season ended at 5-7.

Brady Hoke was fired following the season, and exactly four weeks later, Harbaugh was hired as the 20th head coach in Michigan history. But before we turn our attention completely to Harbaugh, let’s relive the top moments of Team 135.

To revisit previous years awards: 20132012, 2011, or click here for a breakdown of each award.

Harmon Player of the Year Jake Ryan

RyanThe first three years of our HAIL Awards produced offensive players as Michigan’s player of the year. But in 2014, it was only fitting that a defensive player win it for the first time. Michigan’s offense sputtered to 112th nationally in total offense, 109th in scoring, 110th in passing, and 62nd in rushing.

Jake Ryan switched positions in the offseason, moving into the middle of the linebacking corps in order to stay on the field for more plays and keep opposing offenses from game planning away from him. It paid off with a team-leading 112 tackles (67 solo) and 14 tackles for loss to go along with two sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles, three pass breakups, and five quarterback hurries.

“For a team that relied so heavily on the defense to keep the game close, Jake Ryan was the anchor and leader from the linebacker position,” said Derick.

“Hands down rock star on this team,” said Joe. “He may have started slow, but came on strong as the season progressed. His presence on the field will be missed!”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: Devin Gardner (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Jeremy Gallon
2012: Denard Robinson
2011: Denard Robinson

Chappuis Offensive Player of the Year  Devin Gardner & Devin Funchess (tie)

Gardner-FunchessMichigan’s offense stunk this season. There’s no denying it. It finished second to last in the Big Ten in scoring, last in total offense, eighth in rushing, 11th in passing, second to last in first downs, eighth in third down conversions, and tied for last in turnovers. Does anyone really deserve to be named offensive player of the year? Alas, we had to vote, and the Devins each received two.

“The lone bright spot (at least for a few games) was junior Devin Funchess, whose physical skillset on the outside went underutilized,” Sam said. “Funchess still had fewer receiving yards than he did in his breakout sophomore campaign, but his fireworks in the first few games were pretty much the lone bright spot on the year.”

Joe made the case for Devin Gardner:

“Okay, stick with me on this one. His numbers weren’t great, but he showed tremendous heart and never gave up on this team in spite of all the adversity. Love him or hate him, he is a heckuva young man.”

Votes: 2 each
Others Receiving Votes: Amara Darboh (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Jeremy Gallon
2012: Denard Robinson & Devin Gardner (tie)
2011: Denard Robinson

Schulz Defensive Player of the Year  Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan vs Miami OHHad Frank Clark not had an off-the-field incident and been kicked off the team, he would have been in the running for defensive player of the year. But Ryan was the best player on a defense that was pretty good but never really lived up to expectations. He led the team with 112 tackles (67 solo) and 14 tackles for loss and recorded two sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles, three pass breakups, and five quarterback hurries.

“Jake Ryan made some head-scratching mistakes in his role as middle linebacker, but he also reminded us how great of a player he can be on more than one occasion,” said Sam. “He was the unforgettable heart and soul of a very forgettable team.”

“Easy pick, and we look forward to watching him play on Sundays,” said Joe.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Jourdan Lewis (1), The field (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Blake Countess
2012: Jake Ryan
2011: Mike Martin

Yost Coach of the Year Greg Mattison

MattisonThe defense brought high expectations into the season, and although it finished a very respectable seventh nationally in total defense, no one would consider it one of the top seven defenses in the country. The failures of the offense had a lot to do with that, putting the defense in tough spots time and again and forcing the defense to carry the team, but the defense often struggled to get key stops and takeaways. Even so, there’s no question who the most important coach on the staff was this season.

All told, it ranked third in the Big Ten in total defense, fifth in scoring defense, third against the run, sixth against the pass, seventh in sacks, second in opponent first downs, and eighth in opponent third-down conversions.

“Greg Mattison’s defense was underrated because of the massive amount of time it spent on the field,” said Derick. “The offense constantly put them up against a wall, and the defense still ranked among the best in the conference.”

“The defense was the one bright spot of the team this year, if there was one,” said Josh.

Votes: 5
Others Receiving Votes: None

Previous Winners:
2013: Jeff Hecklinski
2012: Greg Mattison
2011: Brady Hoke & Greg Mattison (tie)

Little Brown Jug Game of the Year Under the Lights III win over Penn State

UTLIII winFor the second straight year a loss to Ohio State nearly won this category. What does that say about the state of the program the past couple years? Instead, Michigan’s 18-13 win over Penn State took the cake. The third night game in Michigan Stadium history was a festive occasion amidst an otherwise forgettable season, and although Penn State wasn’t anything special in 2014 either, it was a big win at the time.

Wearing all blue uniforms for the first time ever, Michigan held Penn State to just 214 total yards and sacked Christian Hackenberg six times. Devin Gardner went 16-of-24 for 192 yards and a touchdown, Devin Funchess caught seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown, and Matt Wile made field goals of 37, 42, and 45 yards. Michigan moved to 3-4 on the season and 1-2 in the Big Ten, but remained perfect under the lights in the Big House.

“The night game against Penn State was the only game that really brought magic to the Big House,” said Derick. “Penn State was considered a solid team at the time.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Sticking with Ohio State (2)

Previous Winners:
2013: Under the Lights II win over Notre Dame
2012: Last second field goal to beat Michigan State
2011: 40-34 win over Ohio State

Howard Play of the Year Frank Clark stops Northwestern two-point conversion

Frank Clark vs NorthwesternHis Michigan career ended unceremoniously, but Frank Clark gets the nod for play of the year. It ended up being the last play of his career, and at the time kept Michigan in postseason contention. For the third straight season, Michigan and Northwestern played an ugly, down-to-the-wire game. Michigan had won the previous two in overtime, and this time Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald wanted no extra football to be played.

When the Wildcats scored a touchdown with three seconds to play, Fitzgerald kept the offense on the field instead of kicking the extra point that would have tied the game. Quarterback Trevor Siemian rolled to his right, planning to stop and throw back to his left, but Clark shot right through the blockers to cut him off. As Siemian tried to stop, he lost his footing and fell to the ground untouched to end the game. After the game, Clark and other Michigan defenders said they knew exactly what play was coming.

“Frank Clark’s stop looked like the play that would get Michigan into a bowl game,” said Derick. “Even though that didn’t happen, it did essentially win a game on its own.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Willie Henry fat-guy touchdown (1), Ben Gedeon blocked punt return vs App State (1)

Past Winners:
2013: Fire drill field goal to force overtime at Northwestern
2012: Roy Roundtree’s acrobatic catch against Northwestern
2011: Denard’s touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree to beat ND

Biakabutuka Performance of the Year Devin Gardner’s 254 yards, 2 TDs vs Ohio State

Devin Gardner vs OSULike the season as a whole, there weren’t many individual performances that stood out. Drake Johnson’s 122-yard, two-touchdown performance against Indiana won two votes, while Devin Funchess’ seven-catch, 95-yard, three-touchdown performance and Derrick Green’s 15-carry, 170-yard, one-touchdown performance against Appalachian State were nominated. But for the second straight year, Devin Gardner’s performance against Ohio State gets the nod.

Gardner finished his career with his best game of the season, completing 22-of-32 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns to keep the game much closer than anyone expected. He began the game with an interception that led to Ohio State’s first touchdown, but shook it off and found Jake Butt for Michigan’s first touchdown of the game. On Michigan’s next drive, Gardner ran for 10 yards on third down to keep the drive alive and set up a Drake Johnson touchdown run. Late in the game, Gardner connected with Freddy Canteen for another touchdown.

“The most impressive performances come in the biggest games, and the fact that Gardner kept this Michigan team in the game for nearly three quarters against a national championship game participant was nothing short of a miracle,” said Derick.

“Once again, Michigan looked to be toast heading into The Game, and once again, the Wolverines hung around long enough to tease the Michigan faithful,” said Sam. “Surprisingly, it was Devin Gardner who had his best game of a miserable season, picking apart the Buckeye defense in the first half to give the Maize and Blue a fighting chance.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Drake Johnson’s 122 yards, 2 TD (7.6 ypc) vs Indiana (2)

Past Winners:
2013: Devin Gardner’s record-setting performance against Ohio State
2012: Denard recording 101% of offense vs Air Force

2011: Denard’s five TDs in win over Ohio State

Friedman Quarterback of the Year Devin Gardner

GardnerGardner had his struggles this season, but his heart and commitment to Michigan can never be questioned. He lost his starting job to Shane Morris five games into the season, but kept his head up and fought hard the rest of the way. Morris’ woeful performance and injury against Minnesota let Gardner retain the job the rest of the season and he closed his career with a good performance against Ohio State.

He finished the season 174-of-283 (61.5 percent) for 1,896 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, and rushed 98 times for 258 yards (2.6 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He finished his career sixth in career touchdown passes (44), fourth in career passing yards (6,336), and fourth in career completions (475).

“Gardner wasn’t great, but the Minnesota game made it painfully obvious that he was the best Michigan had,” said Derick.

“As previously mentioned, he really did play his tail off for this team and left it all on the field,” said Joe. “Despite the results, you have to admire this young man’s character and work ethic.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Devin Gardner
2012: Denard Robinson & Devin Gardner (tie)
2011: Denard Robinson

Heston Running Back of the Year Drake Johnson

Drake Johnson vs IULast season, Michigan’s running back situation was so bad that we didn’t even award a Running Back of the Year. This season, the running back play was much better and there were breakout performances by multiple backs, but injuries kept one back from running away with it. Derrick Green opened the season with a 15-carry, 170-yard, one-touchdown performance against Appalachian State. Two weeks later, he rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries against Miami (Ohio). But midway through the season he broke his clavicle and missed the rest of the season.

Not to be outdone, DeVeon Smith rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries in the season opener, and while he stayed healthy, he managed just one more 100-yard game the rest of the way, an 18-carry, 121-yard, one-touchdown game against Northwestern. He finished the season as the team’s leading rusher with 519 yards and six touchdowns.

But anyone who watched Michigan over the last half of the season would be hard-pressed to say anyone looked better than Drake Johnson. The redshirt sophomore began 2013 as the backup, but tore his ACL in the season opener. He returned behind both Green and Smith, but once Green went down, he filled in nicely. Against Indiana, Johnson rushed 16 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns, then he closed the season with 14 carries for 94 yards against Maryland and 15 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State before tearing his ACL once again in the third quarter. While he finished third on the team in rushing with 361 yards and had the fourth-most carries (60), he led all backs in yards per carry (6.0) and tied Gardner for second with four rushing touchdowns.

“With Green hurt and Smith never really breaking out, I believe that Johnson’s performance earned him this award,” said Joe. “If he had not have been sidelined in the Ohio game, who knows how that one could have turned out.”

“Forget recruiting rankings, Drake Johnson was the only running back who hit holes hard enough to pick up consistent gains, and he did it against OSU before the injury,” said Derick.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: De’Veon Smith (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: None
2012: Denard Robinson
2011: Fitzgerald Toussaint

Carter Receiver of the Year Devin Funchess

FunchessAfter losing Jeremy Gallon to graduation, Michigan’s receiving corps looked to Devin Funchess to carry the load. He officially made the full-time switch from tight end to receiver and switched his jersey number from 87 to 1, the first Michigan receiver to wear the iconic number since Braylon Edwards. And he opened the season in style with seven catches for 95 yards and three touchdowns against Appalachian State. Of course, no one expected him to match those numbers the rest of the season, but it was fun to project his stats out over the course of 13 games: 91 catches, 1,235 yards, 39 touchdowns.

He followed it up with 107 yards on four catches against Notre Dame, but Michigan was shut out and Funchess suffered an injury that kept him out the following week. It took until the seventh game of the season — the Under the Lights game against Penn State — for Funchess to catch his fourth touchdown and then he was held without another the rest of the season. He closed with 108 yards on seven catches against Ohio State, but with no other breakout receivers stepping up, Funchess struggled with consistency and concentration all season.

He finished the season with a team leading 62 receptions for 733 yards and four touchdowns, but while he caught more passes than 2013, his yards fell by 15 and touchdowns decreased by two, and after that first game he was never the dominant threat he should have been. Still, with enviable size, he will enter the NFL Draft this April.

“Funchess could be a force in the NFL with his lethal combination of size, speed, and athleticism, and he could have been a dominant college receiver on a better team,” said Sam. “Unfortunately, Michigan simply wasn’t able to get him the ball much, even if he did make some crazy how-did-he-do-that catches (like against Penn State) and some my-grandma-could-have-caught-that drops.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Amara Darboh (2)

Previous Winners:
2013: Jeremy Gallon
2012: Jeremy Gallon
2011: Junior Hemingway

Dierdorf Offensive Lineman of the Year Mason Cole

Mason ColeThe biggest reason for Michigan’s offensive ineptitude a year ago was the offensive line. Brady Hoke mixed and matched lineups, trying to find the right combination to protect his quarterback and pave the way for something resembling a running game, but often to no avail. Despite losing two tackles to the NFL — Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield — the line grew up a little bit in 2014. But it was a newcomer that took home the award.

Mason Cole became the first true freshman in Michigan history to start a season opener on the offensive line, replacing Lewan at left tackle from Week 1, and while he made his share of mistakes throughout the season, he generally made people forget he was in high school a few months prior. Michigan’s line allowed 25 sacks, which ranked eighth in the conference, but was 11 fewer than last season. It paved the way for an improvement of an improvement of 37.1 rushing yards per game. And Cole was a major reason why.

“Mason Cole was thrown into the fire as a true freshman left tackle and managed to not be a glaring weakness,” said Sam. “That’s a huge win in my book.”

“Cole has a bright future after a decent redshirt freshman season,” said Derick. “I was impressed with how he hung in there during the Big Ten season.”

Votes: 5

Others Receiving Votes: None

Previous Winners:
2013: Taylor Lewan
2012: Taylor Lewan
2011: David Molk

Messner Defensive Lineman of the Year Willie Henry

Willie HenryDue to Frank Clark’s dismissal from the team with two games left in the season, this category suffered from a lack of standout performers at the position, which split the vote. Had Clark finished the season, his 42 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks — totals that would have had two more games added to them — would have won the award going away.

Instead, Willie Henry was the only lineman that received multiple votes, while Ryan Glasgow, Brennen Beyer, and Mario Ojemudia garnered one apiece. Henry finished the season with 20 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and three sacks, but he made one of the most memorable plays of the season. Trailing Utah 10-3 midway through the second quarter, Michigan needed a big play and Henry provided it. On 3rd-and-12 from their own 13, Utah quarterback Kendal Thompson dropped back to throw a screen pass, but Henry leapt up and snagged it at the 6-yard line and rumbled into the end zone to tie the game.

“Tough pick here, but since Clark dug his own grave, I was quite impressed with Henry,” said Joe. “His ceiling looks to be quite high and I look forward to watching him pressuring opposing quarterbacks in the future.”

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Ryan Glasgow (1), Brennen Beyer (1), Mario Ojemudia (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Frank Clark
2012: William Campbell
2011: Mike Martin & Ryan Van Bergen (tie)

Simpkins Linebacker of the Year Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan vs NorthwesternAfter winning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, this one was a lock, although it wasn’t unanimous. James Ross III received one vote after recording 32 tackles, and three tackles for loss. Sam explains his decision to vote for Ross:

“I know, I know…Jake Ryan wins MVP and Defensive MVP and isn’t even the best linebacker? My vote is probably a lie here, but I feel that James Ross deserves some recognition for a couple bone-crushing hits on opposing linemen. This was the best unit on the entire team, and Ross should have an excellent senior season.”

The other four votes went to Ryan, giving him the Linebacker of the Year award for the third time in four years. He led the team with 112 tackles (67 solo) and 14 tackles for loss, and added two sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles three pass breakups, and five quarterback hurries. His 112 tackles were the most for a Michigan defender since Jonas Mouton recorded 117 in 2010, but Mouton did so in 13 games. It was the most in a 12-game season since Jarrett Irons recorded 115 tackles (80 solo) in 1994.

“Ryan moved over to middle linebacker despite being one of the top outside linebackers in the country. He anchored one of the top defenses in the Big Ten,” said Derick.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: James Ross III (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Desmond Morgan
2012: Jake Ryan
2011: Jake Ryan & Kenny Demens (tie)

Woodson Defensive Back of the Year Jourdan Lewis

Jourdan LewisLast season’s winner, Blake Countess, took a step back this season as Michigan’s secondary was constantly tested by opposing offenses. And while freshman Jabrill Peppers was expected to make the biggest impact, an early-season injury kept that from happening and it was another youngster that rose to the occasion. Sophomore Jourdan Lewis started seven of 12 games, and after being picked on in a Week 2 loss to Notre Dame, proved to be Michigan’s best corner as the season progressed.

Lewis finished the season with 39 tackles (28 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, and a team-leading two interceptions and six pass breakups. His third-quarter interception of Christian Hackenberg led to a game-tying field goal in Michigan’s win over Penn State, and he also made a touchdown-saving tackle against Utah in which he out-raced everyone across the field to bring down Ute running back Bubba Poole at the 25-yard line. That kind of effort was there all season from Lewis.

“Jourdan Lewis can guard any receiver in the Big Ten with his speed and coverage skills, but his work ethic is what sets him apart,” said Derick.

“Tough year for the defensive backs overall, as the passing game seemed to hurt when it counted,” said Joe. “However, Jourdan Lewis looks to have a promising future in Ann Arbor, and when matched up alongside Peppers, perhaps a few more interceptions will be in his future.”

Votes: 5
Others Receiving Votes: None

Previous Winners:
2013: Blake Countess
2012: Jordan Kovacs
2011: Jordan Kovacs

Hamilton Special Teams Player of the Year Dennis Norfleet

NorfleetThe Special Teams Player of the Year vote was close between return man Dennis Norfleet and senior punter Will Hagerup, but Norfleet edged it out. Michigan’s special teams were a disaster for much of the year, often failing to even get 11 men on the field, but Norfleet was always a constant. Although he is still looking for his first return touchdown, he is reliable at catching kicks and punts and holding onto the ball, and he had a punt return called back against Maryland.

He finished the season with a 23.1-yard average on kick returns — which ranked sixth in the Big Ten — and a 3.8-yard average on punt returns. This season, he also moved into first place in Michigan career kick returns (90) and yards (2,203), and third place in career total return yards (2,293). He also fired up the home crowd with his dance moves while awaiting kicks and punts.

“Dennis Norfleet dances, and dances well. He wins,” said Sam.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Will Hagerup (2)

Previous Winners:
2013: Brendan Gibbons
2012: Brendan Gibbons & Dennis Norfleet (tie)
2011: Brendan Gibbons & Jeremy Gallon (tie)

Hart Newcomer of the Year Drake Johnson

Drake JohnsonAlthough a redshirt sophomore in 2014, Drake Johnson was a newcomer since he tore his ACL in the first game of the 2013 season. The Ann Arbor native began the year behind Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith, and after getting three carries for 28 yards in mop-up time against Appalachian State, didn’t see a carry again until the Michigan State game after Green was lost for the season. The following week, he ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries against Indiana, and then finished the season with 168 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries (5.8 yards per carry) against Maryland and Ohio State.

“Tough choice between Mason and Drake, but Drake came alive late and provided a much needed spark to an otherwise sputtering offense,” said Joe. “I look forward to seeing him take snaps in a rotation with Isaac and Green.”

“Before the injury, Drake Johnson was looking like the running back Michigan’s been looking for over since the Sugar Bowl win,” said Derick.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Mason Cole (2)

Previous Winners:
2013: Jake Butt
2012: Devin Funchess
2011: Blake Countess

Schembechler ‘Those Who Stay’ Senior of the Year Jake Ryan

Jake RyanRyan came to Michigan as a three-star recruit from Cleveland St. Ignatius, choosing Rich Rodriguez’s Wolverines over a handful of Mid-American Conference offers. Four years and a different coaching staff later, Ryan leaves Michigan as one of the top linebackers in program history. Despite missing the first five games of the 2013 season following a torn ACL in spring practice, his 44.5 tackles for loss rank seventh in Michigan history and his seven forced fumbles rank second. He started 41 career games and earned Bennie Oosterbaan’s #47 legends jersey.

“A model student athlete for the University of Michigan,” said Joe. “He has seen the ups and downs of this program as well as his own personal uphill battle with injury. In spite of it all, he was always a dominant playmaker on the field and the face of the defense as far as I’m concerned.”

“I’ll be sad to see all of these seniors go,” said Sam. “All had their moments, and though each of them leave the University of Michigan on a sour note, they played their hearts out for four or five years on the team. I will always be particularly fond of Jake Ryan’s wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks early in his career though, and his leadership was tangible even watching on TV. Ryan was a gritty linebacker, an athletic rusher, and a guy that defenses were afraid of, and for that, he’s my Senior of the Year.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Devin Gardner (2)

Previous Winners:
2013: Jeremy Gallon
2012: Denard Robinson
2011: Mike Martin

Harris Most Improved Player of the Year Jourdan Lewis

Jourdan Lewis vs Miami OHMichigan entered the season with plenty of experience in the secondary, led by Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor, and a true freshman — Jabrill Peppers — who most expected to be a breakout star. But injuries plagued Peppers’ season and it was another youngster who rose to the occasion.

Jourdan Lewis played in eight games as a reserve defensive back in 2013, recording 17 tackles and two pass breakups, but broke out in his sophomore campaign with 39 tackles, 1.5 for loss, six passes defended, and two interceptions. He got better as the season went on and proved to be a good cover corner, leaving fans excited for him to team up with Peppers in 2015.

“If Lewis can become more of a ball hawk, he’ll become one of the better cornerbacks in the country,” said Derick. “His speed and coverage skills were the best on Michigan’s roster this season.”

“Lewis is making strides in his game, basically doubling all of his stats from last year with similar playing time,” said Joe. “As mentioned before, it’ll be fun to see him playing in the same backfield as a healthy Jabrill Peppers.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Joe Bolden (1), None (1)

Previous Winners:
2013: Devin Funchess
2012: Devin Gardner
2011: Brendan Gibbons & Fitzgerald Toussaint (tie)

Harbaugh comes home

Monday, December 29th, 2014


Harbaugh 49ers(Getty Images)

Michigan’s football season ended nearly a month ago, but the program landed its biggest win of the season on Monday when San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh landed in Detroit with his family to accept the same position at Michigan.

The move had been rumored for weeks as Michigan insiders gradually raised their odds with each passing day and NFL insiders maintained their stance that other NFL teams would swoop in and land the former Michigan quarterback. But John U. Bacon tweeted the first solid confirmation on Saturday night, ESPN’s John Clayton stated on Sunday morning on ESPN Radio that Harbaugh had begun contacting possible assistants, and Fox Sports college football writer Bruce Feldman confirmed on Sunday afternoon. Harbaugh himself made it official on Monday, a day after closing his 49ers tenure with a 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh will become the 19th head coach in program history (Malcolm Emmons, USA Today Sports)

Former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh will become the 20th head coach in program history (Malcolm Emmons, USA Today Sports)

Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in his four years in San Francisco, taking the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVIII, which they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, and the NFC Championship game in 2011 and 2013. His winning percentage of .698 ranks fifth in NFL history behind only Guy Chamberlain (.784 from 1922-27), John Madden (.763 from 1969-78), Vince Lombardi (.738 from 1959-69), and George Allen (.712 from 1966-77).

Prior to the NFL, Harbaugh turned around a suffering Stanford program, taking a team that went 1-11 in 2006 to four straight seasons with improving records. The Cardinal went 4-8 in his first season, 5-7 in his second, 8-5 in his third, and 12-1 in his fourth, finishing second in the Pac-10 and beating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. He jumped to the NFL following that season, but the roster he recruited went on to records of 11-2, 12-2, and 11-3 in the next three seasons.

Harbaugh did the same at the University of San Diego before Stanford, taking a team that had achieved just 10 seven-plus win seasons since 1956 and going 7-4, 11-1, 11-1 in his three seasons. The latter two were USD’s first double-digit win seasons in program history.

Harbaugh also spent eight seasons as an assistant coach for his father at Western Kentucky while finishing his NFL playing career, and officially began his coaching career as a quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders in 2002-2003.

As a player, Harbaugh started 140 games in 14 seasons with the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, and San Diego Chargers. He totaled 26,288 passing yards and 129 touchdowns and ranks second in Bears history in completions (1,023), attempts (1,759), and third in yards (11,567). He was also inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor in 2005.

Harbaugh is most beloved in Ann Arbor for his playing days at Michigan under Bo Schembechler when he led the Wolverines to a 24-4-1 record as a starter. He led the nation in pass efficiency in 1985 while leading Michigan to a Big Ten title and Fiesta Bowl victory. The following season, he finished third in the Heisman trophy voting and was named Big Ten Player of the Year. He became the first Michigan quarterback to throw for 300 yards in a game and finished his career in the top five in passing attempts, completions, completion percentage, passing yards, and touchdown passes.

Harbaugh becomes the 20th head coach in the 136 year history of Michigan football, replacing Brady Hoke, who went 31-20 in four seasons. He will reportedly be officially introduced on Tuesday at a 12 p.m. press conference and again during that afternoon’s basketball game against Illinois, which tips off at 3 p.m.

Stay tuned for more coverage and analysis in the days to come.

Merry Christmas from M&GB!

Thursday, December 25th, 2014


MerryChristmasMGB2015

Five-Spot Challenge 2014: Final Results

Monday, December 15th, 2014


Five-SpotChallenge_Banner1

Congratulations to JustJeepGear.com for winning the final Five-Spot Challenge of the season. JJG’s deviation of 135 was 40 points better than runner-up boggie. JJG was the closest to correctly predicting Devin Gardner’s total yards, just four away from his total of 254. JJG also tied for the closest to the game’s longest touchdown, which was Ezekiel Elliott’s 44-yard run on 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter. MichiganMack and Maizenblu62 were also only one away from that one. JJG wins the final $20 M Den gift card of the season.

Boggie was closest to Michigan’s total yards (372) with his prediction of 374. Kashkaav‘s prediction of 36 yards was the closest to the yards gained on Ohio State’s first possession (41). Kfarmer16 was exactly right with his prediction of 89 rushing yards for Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, although had Barrett not gotten injured on the first play of the fourth quarter, that total likely would have changed. Freezer566 was just one away from Dennis Norfleet’s longest return (29) with his prediction of 30, while GrizzlyJFB was just one away from Jalin Marshall’s longest return (23) with his prediction of 22. Finally, no one predicted that neither team would make a field goal.

Congratulations is also in order for kfarmer16, who won the season-long prize, a pair of tickets to next year’s home opener against Oregon State. While this season was a huge letdown, next season’s home opener should come full of hope, especially if Michigan is able to lure Jim Harbaugh away from the NFL. Freezer566 came in second, just seven points behind kfarmer16, while Hazel Parker finished third despite missing two of the 10 weeks.

No one correctly predicted the final score, though Hazel Parker was the closest with his prediction of Ohio State 38 – Michigan 28. Four of the 16 contestants picked Michigan to win by an average of two points, and the average score prediction among all of the contestants was Ohio State 38 – Michigan 18.

I will be in touch with each winner via email this week regarding your M Den gift cards and the grand prize tickets. I hope they can make for some nice Christmas gifts. Thanks for playing this season’s Five-Spot Challenge. We may hold some random challenges during basketball season, so stay tuned for those. Otherwise, the challenge will return next football season!

The weekly results and final overall standings have been updated.

Hoke let go, players react

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014


NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State(USATSI)

The Michigan football program parted ways with head coach Brady Hoke on Tuesday afternoon after four years. Interim athletic director Jim Hackett held a press conference to deliver the news and the department released the following statement.

“I met with coach Hoke today and informed him of my decision to make a change in the leadership of our football program,” said Hackett. “This was not an easy decision given the level of respect that I have for Brady. He has done a great job of molding these young men, making them accountable to their teammates, focusing them on success in the classroom and in the community. I wanted to make sure that Brady received adequate time to exhibit the results that would come from his effort and I believe that Brady and our coaching staff had enough time to produce those results and unfortunately they are not there. In the end, I feel that moving in a different direction is the right decision. I wish Brady and his family all the best in the future.”

“I feel very fortunate to have been an assistant and head coach at the University of Michigan,” said Brady Hoke. “I will always support the University and this football program. This is a special place and one that Laura, Kelly and I have enjoyed representing during our time in Ann Arbor. I want to thank all of the sons that played for our teams and appreciate the commitment that our coaches and support staff made to the program every day. I will miss the relationships that I’ve been fortunate enough to make within this university and community. I additionally appreciate all of the support that our fans, alumni, students, administration and former players have provided our program. I leave with fond memories of my experience at Michigan. Thanks and Go Blue!”

Hoke became the 19th head coach in Michigan football history on Jan. 11, 2011. A former assistant coach at U-M (1995-2002), Hoke guided the Wolverines to a 31-20 record (18-14 Big Ten) in his four seasons as head coach. Hoke led the Wolverines to an 11-2 record (6-2 Big Ten) and Allstate Sugar Bowl victory in his first season at the helm, while U-M finished the 2012 season with an 8-5 (6-2 Big Ten) mark following a bid to the Outback Bowl. The Wolverines went 7-6 in 2013 and made an appearance in the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Michigan finished the 2014 season with a 5-7 record.

Mike DeBord will oversee the day-to-day aspects of the football program as sport administrator until a new head coach is hired. Hackett will begin a search for a replacement immediately.

Hoke won Michigan fans over from day one when he said he would have walked from San Diego to Ann Arbor for the job and placed an emphasis on beating rivals in his introductory press conference. But while his passion for Michigan has never been questioned, he went just 1-3 against Ohio State, 1-3 against Michigan State, and 2-2 against Notre Dame. Mounting controversies in the past year — the lack of transparency about Brendan Gibbons, multiple player suspensions and arrests, and the handling of the Shane Morris concussion incident — combined with a declining record made it necessary for Hackett to make a change.

The impact of Hoke’s firing was felt by the players — current and former — as they reacted via Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no timetable for Hoke’s replacement, but San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, LSU head coach Les Miles, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, and former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano have been mentioned as the top candidates.

Miles and Mullen have both finished their regular seasons and await bowl games. Each could conceivable accept the job if offered at any time and forego the bowl game. Harbaugh’s 49ers are currently 7-5 and nearly out of the bowl picture with four games remaining. If the 49ers miss the playoffs, his final game is Dec. 28. It is unlikely that he would leave before then. Schiano has been out of football since being fired by the Bucs following the 2013 season.

The end: Ohio State 42 – Michigan 28

Sunday, November 30th, 2014


Garnder sportsmanship(Greg Bartram, USA Today Sports)

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was tackled behind the line of scrimmage by a trio of Michigan defenders. They all got up, but he didn’t. As he laid on the Ohio Stadium turf, surrounded by medical personnel, senior Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner trotted across the field to console him. The photo gained national attention as a grand gesture of sportsmanship amid a heated rivalry, but the act itself signaled a perfect representation of Michigan’s season.

UM-OhioState-small-final-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Ohio State
Score 28 42
Record 5-7, 3-5 11-1, 8-0
Total Yards 372 416
Net Rushing Yards 121 233
Net Passing Yards 251 183
First Downs 27 20
Turnovers 2 0
Penalties-Yards 4-38 9-84
Punts-Yards 4-165 4-196
Time of Possession 34:05 25:55
Third Down Conversions 6-of-11 7-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 1-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 0-0 5-41
Field Goals 0-for-0 0-for-0
PATs 4-for-4 6-for-6
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 3-of-3
Full Box Score

In his final game as a Michigan quarterback, Gardner completed 22-of-32 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns and gained 41 more yards on the ground. But his turnovers, the only two of the game for either team, both led to Ohio State touchdowns, which ultimately provided Michigan’s margin of defeat.

Gardner is a textbook example of the type of athlete Michigan — or any school — wants representing its program. His regular visits to Mott Children’s Hospital, his early graduation and soon to be Master’s degree, his selfless switching of positions twice in the same season, his sticking it out through two head coaches and three offensive coordinators, and finally, his display of sportsmanship in the final quarter of the final game of his career say more about the man and the future he will have than any on-field success could.

But fair or not, his performance on the field, which regressed from the point he took over for an injured Denard Robinson midway through the 2012 season through Saturday’s season-ending loss to Ohio State, will define his career in the eyes of most Michigan fans.

Michigan put a scare into the sixth-ranked Buckeyes, rebounding from a quick 7-0 Ohio State lead to score back-to-back touchdowns before Ohio State tied the game just before halftime. And after Ohio State took a 21-14 lead to start the third quarter, Gardner led Michigan right down the field for the game-tying touchdown. Ohio State took the lead for good late in the third quarter, but Michigan stayed within striking distance far longer than anyone thought they would.

The loss was Michigan’s seventh of the season, resulting in a third losing season in seven years, and effectively ending the tenure of head coach Brady Hoke. While Ohio State will face Wisconsin in next Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game and hope to gain a spot in the College Football Playoff, Michigan will turn its attention to a likely coaching search.

Gardner will hope to be selected in the NFL Draft next spring, but if he isn’t, he’ll have a Master’s of social work to carry him into his next profession. And he’ll have several single-game school records, the best offensive performance in Michigan-Ohio State history, and what is sure to be one of The Game’s most enduring moments to carry on his legacy.

M&GB staff predictions: Ohio State

Friday, November 28th, 2014


StaffPicks_banner

Michigan was unable to pick up its sixth win of the season against Maryland last Saturday, leaving the Wolverines in need of a win in Columbus for the first time in 14 years to gain bowl eligibility and avoid a third losing season in seven years. Ohio State is in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth, so it won’t take Michigan lightly. Can Michigan shock the Buckeyes, or will Ohio State continue its dominance? Here are our picks.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Ohio State
Justin 13 50
Sam 11 41
Derick 16 38
Josh 14 50
Joe 17 48
M&GB Average 14 45

Justin: Brady Hoke beat Ohio State in 2011, his first season as Michigan’s coach, but has lost the last two. Both losses were much closer than they should have been, which suggests that, even though Ohio State is the better team, Hoke has been able to get his team ready for The Game.

But no matter how ready Michigan is, it won’t be enough tomorrow. Ohio State can’t afford a narrow win since it needs to jump two teams in the next two weeks to get into the playoff.

Michigan’s defense ranks ninth nationally, but even if it contains Ohio State’s offense, the Wolverines’ offense won’t be able to score enough to win. Michigan has scored fewer than 20 points in seven of 11 games this season. Ohio State hasn’t been held below 21 yet and averages more than twice that.

Michigan will hang around in the first half, but Ohio State will blow the game wide open in the second and won’t let up. Quarterback J.T. Barrett will beat the Michigan secondary deep for a couple of big plays and Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott will wear down the front seven on the ground.

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 13

Sam: Ohio State 41 – Michigan 11

Derick:  Michigan unfortunately missed its chance to lock down a bowl game last weekend when it hosted a bad Maryland team on senior night. Now, it’ll take a mammoth upset against Ohio State, who is looking to qualify for the College Football Playoff with another undefeated Big Ten season.

The near-upset in last year’s game should be enough to keep the Buckeyes from sleeping on even this Michigan team. Ohio State needs to put up style points after trialing Indiana in the third quarter at home last week, so I think Urban Meyer will try to run up the score and pound his greatest rival.

Michigan’s defense has kept games close for most of the season, but this J.T. Barrett-led OSU attack is the best they’ll face this season. Is there a chance? The Buckeyes have faced just two defenses ranked better than Michigan’s in points allowed: A loss to Virginia Tech and an overtime win over Penn State.

Unfortunately, Michigan’s strength is not in the secondary, so Barrett can carve up Greg Mattison’s crew through the air. OSU will roll to a 38-16 win.

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 16

Josh: Oh, how I hate Ohio State. If there’s anything I hate more than Ohio State it’s Ohio State fans. Unfortunately, this century has not been very good to Michigan and aside from 2006 and 2011 Michigan hasn’t come into the game with much hope of beating a good OSU team in over a decade. This year will be no different. Yes, we can throw away the records when these two teams meet. Yes, there have been epic upsets by Michigan over highly ranked OSU teams. Yes, Penn State, Minnesota and even Indiana gave this Buckeye team a run for their money this year. And yes, Michigan almost ended Urbs’ 23 game win streak last year. But this Michigan team is, well I don’t know what this Michigan team is other than “not Michigan.”

J.T. Barrett is having one of the best seasons for a Big Ten quarterback ever. He is a redshirt freshman who was named the starter just weeks before the season. Coming into this season I didn’t think Michigan had a chance to win in Columbus, and that was when I thought we’d see marked improvement in player development and a competent offense. Now, I’m not so sure Michigan can score double digits.

This game is gonna get ugly and the rabid fans in Columbus are going to eat it up. They don’t care that Michigan is having a down decade (even though they used the “Luke Fickell isn’t a real coach” excuse when we beat them in 2011). Michigan won’t roll over and die, these kids will fight with all their hearts from start to finish. Sadly, they don’t have as much talent on the field and they definitely can’t compete with the coaching staff on the other sideline.

I feel bad for the seniors and I feel bad for Brady Hoke. Ending your Michigan career with a blowout loss to a hated rival is no way to go out. But the reality is OSU is the far better team, with a far better coaching staff and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stomach the entire game. But hey, maybe we’ll get lucky and 2014 will be like 1968 and we’ll get Bo 2.0 (Jim Harbaugh) after a blowout loss. I can dream, right?

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 14

Joe: The biggest game of the year is finally here and I’m thinking “UPSET”. Ya, I said it. “UPSET”. Unfortunately, I’m referring to the way my stomach feels during these games. This one will get ugly and out of hand by halftime. The guys will battle hard for Hoke and try to keep things close but won’t be able to contain Barrett. I think he runs wild in this one and will also hits some receivers on deep routes. As much as I want to predict a close one, I just can’t do it. The Offense has been horrible for a few months now and I can’t see things getting right this week. Not against a fired up group of Buckeyes.

Ohio State 48 – Michigan 17