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Posts Tagged ‘Ohio State’

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 4

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015


Power Rankings_header
Conference newcomer Maryland has taken over the top spot in the rankings this week for the first time, supplanting Michigan State thanks to a 75-59 win over the Spartans. Iowa shot up four spots to the second spot, while Michigan, Illinois, Northwestern, and Penn State all held steady. This week, we get several top 25 matchups, beginning on Tuesday when 25th-ranked Iowa visits 6th-ranked Wisconsin and then on Thursday when 13th-ranked Maryland visits 23rd-ranked Indiana.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3

1. Maryland (17-2, 5-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 73-65, Beat MSU 75-59 This Week: Thu at #23 Indiana, Sun vs Northwestern

Nobody saw this coming, but Maryland has taken Big Ten basketball by storm in 2015. The Terrapins just completed a season sweep of perennial power Michigan State and sit alone atop the conference standings.

2. Iowa (13-5, 4-1) – Up 4
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 77-75, Beat Ohio State 76-67 This Week: Tue at #6 Wisconsin, Sat at Purdue

Iowa delivered another punch in the gut to the Ohio State Buckeyes Saturday, riding a nine-point win to a season sweep of Thad Matta’s team. Iowa could really gain the early inside track with a win in Madison on Tuesday night.

3. Indiana (14-4, 4-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Penn State 76-73, Beat Illinois 80-74 This Week: Thu vs #13 Maryland, Sun at Ohio State

Tom Crean’s Hoosiers are slowly putting together a solid resume after another 2-0 week moved them to within a half-game of the Big Ten lead. Nationally, Indiana climbed into the top 25 for the first time this season with No. 13 Maryland coming to town Thursday.

4. Wisconsin (16-2, 4-1) – Down 2
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 70-55 This Week: Tue vs #25 Iowa, Sat at Michigan

Wisconsin rebounded nicely from an unthinkable loss to Rutgers last Sunday by waxing Nebraska 70-55 at home. Now the Badgers face a meeting with Michigan in Ann Arbor sandwiched between two games against Iowa to end the month.

5. Michigan State (12-6, 3-2) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to #14 Maryland 59-75 This Week: Wed vs Penn State, Sat at Nebraska

The Big Ten has little to hang its hat on after the top four teams, as the rest of the conference has struggled to show any signs of stability through the first third of the schedule. Michigan State is a perfect example of that, having lost five of their six games against quality opponents, with one good win in Iowa City.

6. Ohio State (14-5, 3-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Michigan 71-52, Lost to Iowa 67-76 This Week: Thu at Northwestern, Sun vs #23 Indiana

Perhaps the only team with fewer quality wins than MSU is the Buckeyes, who’ve lost all five games against teams with a pulse. They’ll get another shot Sunday against a solid Indiana squad that beat OSU on Jan. 10.

7. Michigan (11-7, 4-2) – Even
Last Week: Lost to OSU 52-71, Beat Northwestern 56-54 This Week: Tue at Rutgers, Sat vs #6 Wisconsin

After being manhandled in Columbus on Jan. 13, Michigan returned home and eked out a last-second win over Northwestern Saturday. But the cost of the victory was steep as Caris LeVert, the team’s leader in scoring, rebounding, assisting, stealing, and blocking, went down for the season due to a foot injury suffered on the final defensive play.

8. Purdue (11-7, 3-2) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Penn State 84-77 OT This Week: Wed at Illinois, Sat vs #25 Iowa

Purdue is staying afloat early in the conference season after pulling out a miracle overtime win in Happy Valley over the weekend. Now the road gets much tougher for the Boilermakers as they travel to Illinois before hosting nationally ranked Iowa and Indiana.

9. Nebraska (10-7, 2-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #7 Wisconsin 55-70 This Week: Tue vs Minnesota, Sat vs Michigan State

Nebraska’s modest two-game winning streak came to screeching halt in Madison as the Badgers manhandled Tim Miles’ team by 15 points. The Cornhuskers will need a scorching finish reminiscent of last year’s stretch run to return to the NCAA Tournament in 2015.

10. Illinois (12-7, 2-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 72-67, Lost to Indiana 74-80 This Week: Wed vs Purdue, Sat at Minnesota

A 2-4 Big Ten record doesn’t tell the whole story for Illinois, which has lost by 10 or less three times in six games. John Groce’s team is facing another disappointing conference season if it can’t find a way to win some of those toss-up contests.

11. Minnesota (12-7, 1-5) – Up 4
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 75-77, Beat Rutgers 89-80 This Week: Tue at Nebraska, Sat vs Illinois

After losing four of their first five conference games by a combined 13 points (and the other by 12 in Maryland), Minnesota finally got on the right side of a Big Ten matchup Saturday against Rutgers. Now five straight winnable games offer Richard Pitino’s team a chance to get back in the race.

12. Northwestern (10-8, 1-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 67-72, Lost to Michigan 54-56 This Week: Thu vs OSU, Sun at #13 Maryland

Last week was a heartbreaking one for Northwestern, as it dropped three straight games by single digits. The Wildcats had a chance to beat Michigan State in East Lansing before being blown out in overtime, then fell at home 72-67 to Illinois, and finally missed a wide open layup that would have forced OT in Ann Arbor. Next up: Ohio State and Maryland.

13. Rutgers (10-9, 2-4) – Down 4
Last Week: Lost to #14 Maryland 65-73, Lost to Min 80-89 This Week: Tue vs Michigan, Sat at Penn State

New Brunswick, New Jersey is still buzzing about last weekend’s upset win over Wisconsin. But in the meantime, the Scarlett Knights have dropped two straight Big Ten games. Rutgers will look to get back on track at home against Michigan on Tuesday evening.

14. Penn State (12-6, 0-5) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Indiana 73-76, Lost to Purdue 77-84 OT This Week: Wed at MSU, Sat vs Rutgers

After gifting away a win to Purdue Saturday, Penn State remained the only winless team in Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions failed to rebound a free throw with seconds remaining and allowed a game-tying long ball at the buzzer. Remember Penn State’s 12-1 nonconference start? Neither do they.

Sleepwalking: Ohio State 71 – Michigan 52

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015


UM-OSU(Greg Bartram, USA Today Sports)

After a 3-1 start to Big Ten play, Michigan had its first chance to make a statement on Tuesday night when it visited rival Ohio State. Instead, Michigan turned in a lackadaisical and unfocused performance and left with a 19-point loss.

Ohio State opened the game with a Sam Thompson dunk, but Zak Irvin answered with a three on Michigan’s first shot of the game. But that was about the only thing that went right for the Wolverines. Ohio State scored the next five points, but Michigan went on a 9-2 run to take a 12-9 lead at the 14:27 mark. But then the Wolverines went cold.

Four Factors
Michigan Ohio State
39.0 eFG% 53.5
31.6 OReb% 32.3
20.7 TO% 14.3
10.2 FTR 24.6

Michigan managed just five points over the next 9:45, and by the time Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman hit a three, Michigan was down 30-20. Ohio State closed the half with a 9-4 run to take a 39-24 lead into the locker room.

Michigan has already come back from a double-digit second-half lead this season to beat Illinois, but any hope of repeating that on Tuesday night was dashed when Michigan began the second half by missing its first 13 shots. A Max Bielfeldt tip-in ended the drought six minutes and 36 seconds into the half. Meanwhile, Ohio State had already added 13 points to its total to take a 52-26 lead.

The rest of the game was spent trying to make the final score look a bit more respectable, but the damage had been done. Michigan got within 14 points after a Mark Donnal hook shot with three minutes to play, but OSU’s Marc Loving responded with a three to ice the game.

Michigan shot just 33.9 percent from the field and 23.1 percent (6-of-26) from three-point range, while Ohio State, the Big Ten’s best shooting team, shot 49.1 percent overall, making eight more field goals than Michigan did on two fewer attempts. While the rebounding margin was close (36-33 in Ohio State’s favor) Michigan turned the ball over 13 times and was outscored off of turnovers 19-8.

Columbus native Caris LeVert led Michigan with 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting, while Irvin was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 11 points, also on 4-of-10 shooting. But the duo combined for seven turnovers. The other three starters — Derrick Walton Jr, Spike Albrecht, and Ricky Doyle — combined for just eight points and eight rebounds on 4-of-15 shooting. Donnal scored eight points off the bench and freshman Aubrey Dawkins added six.

Ohio State was led by D’Angelo Russell’s 21 points. Sam Thompson contributed 12 and Amir Williams 10.

Michigan returns home to host Northwestern (10-6, 1-2) on Saturday night. The game will be televised by Big Ten Network at 8:15 p.m. EST.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
02 Spike Albrecht* 2-4 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 3 4 0 1 0 0 29
32 Ricky Doyle* 1-4 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 1 2 2 1 0 0 15
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 1-7 1-3 0-0 0 5 5 4 2 2 1 0 0 27
21 Zak Irvin* 4-10 3-6 0-0 2 3 5 1 11 0 4 0 0 32
23 Caris LeVert* 4-10 2-5 4-4 0 2 2 4 14 1 3 0 1 31
03 Kameron Chatman 0-3 0-1 0-0 0 3 3 2 0 2 0 0 1 14
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 1-6 1-5 0-0 1 0 1 0 3 1 1 0 0 15
24 Aubrey Dawkins 3-6 0-2 0-0 2 1 3 1 6 0 1 0 0 13
34 Mark Donnal 3-7 0-2 2-2 2 2 4 0 8 0 1 0 0 17
44 Max Bielfeldt 1-2 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 6
Totals 20-59 6-26 6-6 12 21 33 16 52 8 13 0 2 200
Ohio State 28-57 5-18 10-14 10 26 36 16 71 20 9 5 11 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: #25 Ohio State

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015


UM-OSU
Michigan (10-6, 3-1) vs #25 Ohio State (13-4, 2-2)
Tuesday, Jan. 13 | Columbus, Ohio | 7 p.m. EST | ESPN
Offense
66.9 Points/gm 81.8
(368-867) 42.4 Field Goal % 51.0 (515-1,010)
(133-366) 36.3 3-pt FG % 38.9 (129-332)
(202-278) 72.7 Free Throw % 70.5 (232-329)
12.6 FT Made/gm 13.6
31.8 Reb/gm 36.6
13.0 Assists/gm 17.3
10.1 Turnovers/gm 11.7
Defense
62.2 Points/gm 60.8
(366-837) 43.7 Field Goal % 38.8 (368-948)
(110-307) 35.8 3-pt FG % 30.9 (119-385)
33.6 Opp. Reb/gm 32.9
6.5 Steals/gm 9.2
1.8 Blocks/gm 5.4
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (14.8), Zak Irvin (14.6) Points/gm D’Angelo Russell (17.9), Marc Loving (12.0)
Caris LeVert (5.0), Derrick Walton Jr (4.5) Reb/gm Amir Williams (5.1), D’Angelo Russell (4.6)

___________________________________________________________________________________

Michigan was one of two Big Ten teams to not lose a game last week — Michigan State was the other — and now gets to travel to the snake pit for the first of two battles with rival Ohio State. The Buckeyes will be in a celebratory mood after the football team beat Oregon for the college football national title last night. Although different sports, Michigan has a chance to spoil the celebration ever so slightly. Let’s take a look at the Buckeyes.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
D’Angelo Russell (G) 32.1 17.9 45.3 43.6 79.4 4.6 4.9 3.0 0.2 1.8
Marc Loving (F) 25.4 12.0 50.0 50.0 79.3 3.9 0.9 1.4 0.4 0.8
Sam Thompson (F) 29.5 10.2 50.0 22.7 63.6 3.8 2.2 0.9 0.8 1.1
Shannon Scott (G) 29.9 8.4 44.5 27.5 76.9 3.6 7.2 2.4 0.1 2.4
Amir Williams (C) 19.5 7.4 71.0 00.0 67.4 5.1 0.2 1.2 2.2 0.9
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Kam Williams (G) 16.1 8.2 52.0 42.3 88.2 1.0 0.8 0.2 0.0 0.5
Jae’Sean Tate (F) 17.2 6.7 58.8 11.1 52.8 4.4 0.2 1.2 0.6 1.1
Keita Bates-Diop (F) 12.6 4.9 45.0 38.5 65.2 2.8 0.6 0.4 0.7 0.4
Trey McDonald (C) 11.2 3.8 66.7 00.0 66.7 3.2 0.2 0.5 0.6 0.2
Anthony Lee (F) 10.7 3.3 57.9 00.0 54.5 2.3 0.1 0.5 0.2 0.1
The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 14 UMass Lowell W 92-55
Nov. 18 Marquette W 74-63
Nov. 23 Sacred Heart W 106-48
Nov. 26 Campbell W 91-64
Nov. 28 James Madison W 73-56
Dec. 2 at #5 Louisville^ L 55-64
Dec. 6 Colgate W 70-50
Dec. 10 High Point W 84-64
Dec. 13 Morehead State W 87-71
Dec. 17 North Carolina A&T W 97-55
Dec. 20 #24 North Carolina* L 74-82
Dec. 22 Miami (Ohio) W 93-55
Dec. 27 Wright State W 100-55
Dec. 30 Iowa L 65-71
Jan. 3 Illinois W 77-61
Jan. 6 at Minnesota W 74-72 OT
Jan. 10 at Indiana L 66-69
Jan. 13 Michigan
Jan. 17 at Iowa
Jan. 22 at Northwestern
Jan. 25 Indiana
Jan. 29 #14 Maryland
Feb. 4 at Purdue
Feb. 8 at Rutgers
Feb. 11 Penn State
Feb. 14 at Michigan State
Feb. 22 at Michigan
Feb. 26 Nebraska
Mar. 1 Purdue
Mar. 4 at Penn State
Mar. 8 #7 Wisconsin
*CBS Sports Classic, ^ACC-Big Ten Challenge

Michigan and Ohio State didn’t play any common non-conference opponents, but both beat Minnesota last week. The Buckeyes beat Minnesota 74-72 in overtime a week ago, while Michigan topped the Gophers 62-57 on Saturday. The other common opponent is Illinois, who Michigan beat 73-65 in overtime to open Big Ten play and Ohio State beat 77-61 four days later.

Ohio State has lost to the only two ranked teams they have played, Louisville on the road in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and North Carolina on a neutral court in the CBS Sports Classic. Michigan has also lost to the only two ranked teams it has played — Villanova and Arizona — but has a chance to pick up a win against a ranked team as Ohio State reentered the USA Today Coaches Poll this week at No.25.

The Series

Michigan trails the all-time series 76-99, but has won the last three meetings. Michigan is 28-56 all-time in Columbus, but won their last trip, 70-60, last February. Michigan also beat Ohio State 72-69 in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal last season.

Notes

• Ohio State ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring offense (81.8 points per game) but leads the Big Ten with a 21-point scoring margin

• Ohio State leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage (51.0), while Michigan ranks last in field goal percentage defense (43.7)

• Ohio State leads the Big Ten in blocked shots (5.4 per game) and turnover margin (plus-5.88)

• D’Angelo Russell ranks third in the Big Ten with 17.9 points per game and is tied with Zak Irvin for the most three-pointers made per game (2.6)

• Shannon Scott leads the Big Ten with 7.2 assists per game and ranks second with 2.4 steals per game

• Marc Loving leads the Big Ten in three-point shooting (30-of-60 for 50.0 percent)

• Amir Williams ranks second in the Big Ten in blocked shots per game (2.1)

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 3

Monday, January 12th, 2015


Power Rankings_header
Conference play is now two weeks in and there were plenty of moves up and down the rankings. Wisconsin finally relinquished the top spot as Michigan State shot up nine spots with a three-win week. Michigan joined their rivals as the only teams not to lose a game last week. The rest of the top five slid down one spot. Purdue, Northwestern, Penn State, and Minnesota each fell five spots and make up the bottom four as we head into Week 3.

Previous: Week 1, Week 2

1. Michigan State (12-5, 3-1) – Up 9
Last Week: Beat IU 70-50, Beat Iowa 75-61, Beat Northwestern 84-77 OT This Week: Sat at #14 Maryland

After a surprising home loss to start the conference season, Michigan State has bounced back with three straight wins to jump to the top of the standings. It hasn’t been pretty, as the Spartans have trailed for much of those three games, but Tom Izzo’s team is making strides.

2. Wisconsin (15-2, 3-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Purdue 62-55, Lost to Rutgers 62-67 This Week: Thu vs Nebraska

Wisconsin’s eight-game winning streak came to a shocking end Sunday, when Rutgers pulled the massive upset at home to hand the Badgers their first Big Ten loss of the year.

3. Maryland (15-2, 3-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 57-64, Beat Purdue 69-60 This Week: Wed vs Rutgers, Sat vs Michigan State

The Big Ten season got off to a great start for Maryland with wins over MSU and Minnesota. A loss to Illinois brought the highly-ranked Terrapins back down to earth, but they bounced back Saturday with a win in Purdue.

4. Indiana (12-4, 2-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Michigan State 50-70, Beat #22 OSU 69-66 This Week: Tue vs PSU, Sun at Illinois

Tom Crean’s team took a double-digit lead into halftime at the Breslin Center on Jan. 5 before falling apart in the second half and dropping its first conference game by 20 points. Then the Hoosiers bounced back in a big way, beating the Buckeyes at home Saturday.

5. Ohio State (13-4, 2-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 74-72 2OT, Lost to Indiana 66-69 This Week: Tue vs Michigan, Sat at Iowa

If there’s one team in the Big Ten that needs to prove itself, it’s the Ohio State Buckeyes. Thad Matta’s team has played just four games against teams with winning records in power-five conferences, and the Buckeyes are 0-4 in those games.

6. Iowa (11-5, 2-1) – Down 3
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 70-59, Lost to MSU 61-75 This Week: Tue at Minnesota, Sat vs Ohio State

Iowa kicked off the Big Ten season with big wins in Columbus and against Nebraska, but got trounced at home in the second half against Michigan State. The slate doesn’t get any easier for the Hawkeyes as Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin are up next.

7. Michigan (10-6, 3-1) – Up 4
Last Week: Beat Penn State 73-64, Beat Minnesota 62-57 This Week: Tue at Ohio State, Sat vs Northwestern

The defending Big Ten champs haven’t played the toughest conference schedule through two weeks, but the Wolverines have gutted out three wins and boast a share of the top spot at 3-1.

8. Nebraska (10-6, 2-2) – Up 6
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 59-70, Beat Rutgers 65-49, Beat Illinois 53-43 This Week: Thu at #7 Wisconsin

Nebraska was one of the best stories in college basketball last season after overcoming an 11-10 start to finish 19-12 and earn an NCAA Tournament bid. At 8-6, the Cornhuskers needed to turn on the gas to make another push in 2015, and two straight wins have them on the right track. A trip to Wisconsin is up next.

9. Rutgers (10-7, 2-2) – Up 3
Last Week: Lost to Nebraska 49-65, Beat #4 Wisconsin 67-62 This Week: Wed at #14 Maryland, Sat at Min

Just four games into its first season in the Big Ten, Rutgers has already knocked off the conference’s best team and potential Final Four candidate Wisconsin. The Scarlett Knights are off to a nice 2-2 start heading into another tough stretch of games.

10. Illinois (9-5, 0-1) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat #11 Maryland 64-57, Lost to Nebraska 43-53 This Week: Wed at Northwestern, Sun vs IU

A disappointing 1-3 start for Illinois’ Big Ten season is largely due to a brutal road schedule through the first two weeks. Illinois has lost in Ann Arbor, Columbus and Lincoln, three of the toughest places to play in the country. In its only home game, Illinois knocked off No. 11 Maryland 64-57

11. Purdue (10-7, 2-2) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to #4 Wisconsin 55-62, Lost to #11 Maryland 60-69 This Week: Sat at Penn State

Purdue has dropped two straight games, but Matt Painter has to be pleased with the team’s effort early in the conference season. Home wins against Minnesota and Michigan precluded single-digit losses to No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 11 Maryland to land Purdue at 2-2.

12. Northwestern (10-6, 1-2) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to Michigan State 77-84 OT This Week: Wed vs Illinois, Saturday at Michigan

After a week off to prepare for the Spartans in East Lansing, Northwestern pushed MSU into overtime but ran out of gas to fall short of a major upset. The Wildcats aren’t one of the stronger teams in the Big Ten, but Chris Collins clearly has them trending in the right direction.

13. Penn State (12-4, 0-3) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 64-73 This Week: Tue at Indiana, Sat vs Purdue

Penn State basketball was picking up steam for the first time in years after a 12-1 nonconference season. But a blowout loss to Wisconsin and two close shaves with Rutgers and Michigan have dropped the Nittany Lions to 0-3.

14. Minnesota (11-6, 0-4) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to #22 OSU 72-74 2OT, Lost to Michigan 57-62 This Week: Tue vs Iowa, Sat vs Rutgers

A weak resume of wins in the nonconference season has been exposed during the first two weeks of Minnesota’s Big Ten schedule. The Gophers are struggling to finish games and have fallen into last place at 0-4.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 2

Monday, January 5th, 2015


Power Rankings_header
A week into Big Ten play and each team has played at least one conference game. The top two teams stayed the same while everyone else shuffled up and down. Iowa and Purdue were the biggest risers while Illinois took the biggest plunge.

Previous: Week 1

1. Wisconsin (14-1, 2-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 89-72, Beat Northwestern 81-58 This Week: Wed vs Purdue, Sun at Rutgers

Wisconsin kicked off the conference season with a couple of blowout wins, smashing Penn State by 17 and Northwestern by 23. The Badgers will carry their seven-game winning streak into very winnable pair of games this week.

2. Maryland (14-1, 2-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat MSU 68-66 2OT, Beat Minnesota 70-58 This Week: Wed at Illinois, Sat at Purdue

Maryland’s resume is incredibly similar to that of Wisconsin, as the Terps have only lost their ACC/Big Ten Challenge game to a top-three opponent. Maryland picked up a huge win in their first Big Ten matchup, knocking off the Spartans in East Lansing.

3. Iowa (10-4, 1-0) – Up 5
Last Week: Beat #20 Ohio State 71-65 This Week: Mon vs Nebraska, Thurs vs Michigan State

The Big Ten season got off to a great start for Iowa, which went into Columbus and knocked off the No. 20 Buckeyes. The Hawkeyes are facing a gauntlet of a schedule over their next five games.

4. Ohio State (12-3, 1-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 65-71, Beat Illinois 77-61 This Week: Tue at Minnesota, Sat at Indiana

Thad Matta’s team quickly recovered from a stunning home loss to start the conference season by thrashing Illinois 77-61 Saturday. Now Ohio State hits the road for matchups with Minnesota and Indiana.

5. Indiana (11-3, 1-0) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 70-65 This Week: Mon at Michigan State, Sat vs #22 Ohio State

An overtime loss to Georgetown soured the end of Indiana’s non-conference season, but they bounced back to beat Nebraska on the road in their Big Ten opener, something only the conference-champion Wolverines did all of last season.

6. Purdue (10-5, 2-0) – Up 6
Last Week: Beat Minn 72-68, Beat Michigan 64-51 This Week: Wed at #4 Wisconsin, Sat vs #11 Maryland

The most surprising team through one week of Big Ten games might be the Boilermakers, who beat two teams that figured to be among the league’s leaders at the beginning of the year. If Purdue wins in Wisconsin Wednesday, that’ll turn some heads.

7. Northwestern (10-5 1-1) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 51-47, Lost to #4 Wisconsin 58-81 This Week: Sunday at Michigan State

The Wildcats were on a roll to finish out the non-conference season before hitting a brick wall at home against Wisconsin. Chris Collins might feel the wrath of an alarmingly easy schedule now that Big Ten play has started.

8. Penn State (12-3, 0-2) – Down 5
Last Week: Lost to #4 Wisconsin 72-89, Lost to Rutgers 46-50 This Week: Tue vs Michigan

Penn State was expected to lose its Big Ten opener to Wisconsin, but when it dropped Saturday’s showdown with Rutgers, the 12-1 non-conference record started to look a little fluky.

9. Minnesota (11-4, 0-2) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to Purdue 68-72, Lost to #12 MD 58-70 This Week: Tue vs #22 OSU, Sat at Michigan

Richard Pitino’s team has only played three tough games, and Minnesota lost all three of them by at least nine points. The Gophers will carry an 0-2 conference record into a matchup with Ohio State.

10. Michigan State (9-5, 0-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #12 Maryland 66-68 2OT This Week: Mon vs Indiana, Thu at Iowa, Sun vs NW

After righting the ship against The Citadel following an unthinkable loss to Texas Southern, Michigan State dropped its Big Ten opener at home to newcomer Maryland.

11. Michigan (8-6, 1-1) – Up 3
Last Week: Beat Illinois 73-65 OT, Lost to Purdue 51-64 This Week: Tue at Penn State, Sat vs Minnesota

It looked like Michigan might start to turn its season around with a win over Illinois in the Big Ten opener, but a horrific offensive display in the second half against Purdue has dropped Michigan near the bottom of the league in contention status.

12. Rutgers (9-6, 1-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to NW 47-51, Beat PSU 50-46 This Week: Thu at Nebraska, Sun vs #4 Wisconsin

Rutgers has struggled to put together a consistent stretch all season, never winning more than two games in a row. The trend continued in the conference opener, when the Scarlet Knights fell at home to Northwestern.

13. Illinois (10-5, 0-2) – Down 7
Last Week: Lost to Mich 65-73 OT, Lost to #20 OSU 61-77 This Week: Wed vs #11 Maryland, Sun at Neb

No, this week’s Illinois games were not re-runs. For the third straight season, Jon Groce’s team put together a strong non-conference season, only to drop the ball at the beginning of Big Ten play.

14. Nebraska (8-5, 0-1) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to Indiana 65-70 This Week: Thu vs Rutgers, Sun vs Illinois

Nebraska may be the only team more disappointing than Michigan in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers have no great wins and three ugly losses with a loaded conference slate on tap.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 1

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014


Power Rankings_header
Welcome to our first Big Ten basketball power rankings of the season. We waited until the non-conference season was over so we could get a more complete picture of each team without preseason expectations impacting our rankings. These will be re-ranked each week for the remainder of the season. Also, please note that this week’s rankings were done before Tuesday’s games and was meant to be posted at the beginning of the week, but a little football news happened (you may have heard), so this got pushed. It will be posted Monday or Tuesday the rest of the season.

1. Wisconsin (12-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Cal 68-56, Beat Buffalo 68-56 This Week: Wed vs Penn State, Sun at Northwestern

Wisconsin’s nonconference season lacked a major splash after it lost to Duke, the only ranked team on its schedule, but the Badgers are still 12-1 with a national championship as their ceiling.

2. Maryland (12-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Oakland 72-56 This Week: Tues @ MSU, Sat vs Minnesota

Here’s the best surprise in the Big Ten so far: The Maryland Terrapins. Maryland won 12 games before the start of its first Big Ten schedule, including an upset victory over Iowa State in November. Now the Terps will start the conference season with a bang in East Lansing.

3. Penn State (12-1, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Dartmouth 69-49 This Week: Wed @ #4 Wisconsin, Sat @ Rutgers

Penn State looks ready to take another step in the right direction this season, winning all but one of their nonconference games. An overtime loss to Charlotte is overshadowed by quality wins over Virginia Tech and USC.

4. Indiana (10-3, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat New Orleans 79-59, Lost to Georgetown 87-91 OT This Week: Wed @ Nebraska

Though they dropped three games during the nonconference season, Indiana played one of the toughest schedules in the Big Ten and picked up wins over SMU, Butler and Pitt.

5. Ohio State (11-2, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Miami OH 93-55, Beat Wright St 100-55 This Week: Tue vs Iowa, Sat vs Illinois

It’s tough to judge the new-look Buckeyes at this point in the season, as they weren’t very competitive in either of their marquee matchups, falling to both Louisville and North Carolina.

6. Illinois (10-3, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Kennesaw State 93-45 This Week: Tue @ Michigan, Sat @ #20 Ohio State

John Groce’s team was one rough stretch away from having an incredible nonconference season, as it dropped three of four games in early December. Nonetheless, Illinois is 10-3 and carries one of the nation’s most dangerous offenses into Big Ten play.

7. Minnesota (11-2 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Furman 86-76, Beat UNCW 108-82 This Week: Wed @ Purdue, Sat @ #12 Maryland

Louisville and St. John’s knocked off the Gophers early in the season, but Richard Pitino’s team has won eight straight games heading into the Big Ten gauntlet.

8. Iowa (9-4, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat North Florida 80-70 This Week: Tue @ #20 Ohio State

Iowa’s preconference season was filled with ups and downs, including a major road win over North Carolina in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and last week’s loss to Northern Iowa.

9. Michigan State (9-4, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat The Citadel 82-56 This Week: Tue vs #12 Maryland

Tom Izzo teams always seem to struggle early in the season and improve as the tournament draws nearer, but an offseason with four losses, including one to an awful Texas Southern team, has raised concerns in East Lansing.

10. Northwestern (9-4, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat UIC 63-46, Beat N. Kentucky 76-55 This Week: Tue @ Rutgers, Sun vs #4 Wisconsin

The Big Ten isn’t expecting much of Northwestern this season, but the Cats did with nine games before the conference schedule and have a chance to play spoiler like they did in 2014.

11. Nebraska (8-4, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Hawaii 58-66, Beat LMU 50-42 OT, Beat Ohio 71-58 This Week: Wed vs Indiana

What a disappointing start for Nebraska. A team that entered the season with heightened expectations has fallen to four unranked teams and sits near the bottom of the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers won’t play their first ranked team until Jan. 15 against Wisconsin.

12. Purdue (8-5, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Gardner-Webb 84-89 This Week: Wed vs Minnesota, Sat vs Michigan

Purdue battled through another mediocre nonconference season in 2014, winning eight games but entering conference play on a three-game losing streak. It did make a nice three-game run in November-December, topping Missouri, BYU and N.C. State in a row.

13. Rutgers (8-5, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Sacred Heart 79-54, Beat Monmouth 59-58 This Week: Tues vs Northwestern, Sat vs PSU

Rutgers was a punching bag for much of their for Big Ten nonconference season, losing four games by double digits and scoring just 26 points in a loss to Virginia. Now the school’s first Big Ten schedule looms, starting at home against Northwestern.

14. Michigan (7-5, 0-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Coppin State 72-56 This Week: Tue vs Illinois, Sat at Purdue

The Wolverines were the talk of the nation for the latter part of the offseason, losing four straight games to N.J.I.T., Eastern Michigan, Arizona and SMU. Michigan suffered through the worst offseason of any contending team in the country, and will have to make a huge splash in the conference season to earn a tournament bid.

Five-Spot Challenge 2014: Final Results

Monday, December 15th, 2014


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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.

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.

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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


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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

Michigan-Ohio State game preview

Friday, November 28th, 2014


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For many years, Michigan and Ohio State ended the regular season with a clash that decided the Big Ten title. When the two rivals meet tomorrow afternoon in Columbus, they’ll both have something to play for beyond just bragging rights, but their goals couldn’t be more different.

Michigan missed an opportunity to gain bowl eligibility with a 23-16 loss to Maryland last Saturday, which means the Wolverines will have to beat the Buckeyes to extend their season. Ohio State, on the other hand, is still vying for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

UM-OhioState-small-final
Quick Facts
Ohio Stadium – 12 p.m. EST – ABC
Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 138-26 (34-3 at Ohio State)
Offensive Coordinator: Tom Herman (3rd season)
Defensive Coordinators: Chris Ash (1st season)
Luke Fickell (9th season)
Returning 2013 Starters: 11 (4 offense, 7 defense)
Last Season: 12-2 (8-0 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: OSU 42 – UM 41 (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 58-46-6
Record in Columbus: Michigan leads 27-25-2
Record in Ohio Stadium: Ohio State leads 24-21-1
Brady Hoke vs OSU: 1-2
Last Michigan win: 2011 (40-34)
Last UM win at OSU: 2000 (38-26)
Current Streak: Ohio State 2

Ohio State already has the Big Ten East division wrapped up, but trails Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Mississippi State, and TCU in the rankings. Only the top four will get in. Ohio State will get a chance for another big win in next week’s Big Ten Championship game, but if they struggle with a 5-6 Michigan squad at home, it would be hard to make a case for moving the Buckeyes ahead of any of those other teams unless they lose.

TCU took care of business on Thursday night with a 48-10 win over Texas, and only has Iowa State remaining. Mississippi State visits in-state rival Ole Miss tomorrow, but the Rebels have lost three of their last four after opening the season 7-0. Unless Alabama loses to Auburn tomorrow, MSU won’t reach the SEC Championship game. If the Crimson Tide can top Auburn, they’ll face Missouri or Georgia next week for the SEC title. Oregon, like Ohio State, faces a 5-6 team, Oregon State, and then the Pac-12 Championship game. That leaves Florida State, the reigning national champion and the only unbeaten team.

A lot can happen this week and next, but in order to avoid getting left out, Ohio State has to beat Michigan and look good doing it. Playoff committee chair Jeff Long started a controversy when releasing this week’s rankings by describing the committee’s use of “game control” as an evaluation metric, which is essentially rewarding teams for running up the score. A 42-41 win over Michigan like last year will not win Ohio State any points in that category, so Urban Meyer will look to keep his foot on the gas pedal and send Brady Hoke packing.

As fans on both sides are fully aware, anything can happen in a rivalry of this magnitude. Because of this, OSU fans are approaching tomorrow’s matchup with caution, despite having won 11 of the last 13. Michigan fans, meanwhile, have already set their sights on Jim Harbaugh and can’t wait until the game is over to close the book on yet another lost season.

Does Michigan have a chance to knock off the Buckeyes in Columbus for the first time since 2000? Or will Ohio State simply take care of the inevitable, ensuring Michigan a third losing season in the last seven years? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

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

Although they lost running back Carlos Hyde, Ohio State entered the season with high hopes offensively, mostly because of senior quarterback Braxton Miller who would be entering his fourth season as a starter. The two-time defending Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year was near the top of most preseason Heisman trophy watch lists. But after re-injuring his throwing shoulder in fall camp, Miller was forced to spend the season on the sidelines.

Enter J.T. Barrett.

The redshirt freshman, who hadn’t seen the field since his junior year of high school thanks to a senior-year injury of his own, was thrust into action much earlier than expected. And while there were some early-season hiccups that resulted in a loss to Virginia Tech — which could ultimately cost the Buckeyes a shot at the national title — he has had one of the most impressive seasons in the country. The Wichita Falls, Texas native has completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 2,658 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, and has rushed for 849 yards and nine scores. Two more solid performances and he will likely earn an invitation to New York at season’s end.

Barrett ranks second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game, first in passing efficiency, and first in total offense. He may not match Miller’s 2012 rushing total of 1,271 yards, but he has far and away surpassed Miller’s best numbers.

But it hasn’t been a one man show in Columbus. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott picked up right where Hyde left off with 1,061 yards through 11 games. He ranks sixth in the Big Ten in rushing with 96.5 yards per game and fifth with 5.9 yards per carry. He has topped 100 yards in five of the last eight games, including a 23-carry, 154-yard, two-touchdown performance against Michigan State.

Ohio State doesn’t have a receiver that ranks in the top ten in the conference in yards or receptions, but the Buckeyes have a group of very solid receivers. Senior Devin Smith is the big-play receiver, leading team with 610 yards on just 25 receptions. Sophomore Michael Thomas has 12 more catches, but five fewer yards. Both have eight touchdowns. Freshman Jalin Marshall has emerged as a threat as the season has gone on. He caught just six passes for 39 yards and two touchdowns in the first five games, but has 18 for 308 yards and four scores in the last six. Elliott has actually caught the second-most passes on the team (25) for 201 yards. Tight end Jeff Heuerman, who caught a touchdown against Michigan last season, doesn’t have nearly the production he had a year ago but is still a threat with 16 catches and two touchdowns.

The offensive line was a major question mark entering the season, but has progressed pretty well throughout and has had the luxury of starting the same group all 11 games. After giving up eight sacks in the first two games — seven in the Virginia Tech loss alone — the Bucks have allowed just 15 in the last nine games. Some of that has to do with the progression of Barrett, but the line has done its part. Left tackle Taylor Decker is the anchor alongside redshirt freshman Billy Price, junior center Jacoby Boren, redshirt sophomore guard Pat Elflein, and fifth-year senior right tackle Darryl Baldwin.

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

Last season, Ohio State’s defense didn’t do much to help its offense, but new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash has helped shore it up. While it’s still not where Meyer wants it to be, it ranks 30th nationally in scoring defense (22.5 points per game), 41st against the run (147.8 yards per game), 15th against the pass (182.5 yards per game), and 19th overall (330.4 yards per game). It also ranks 18th in sacks (32).

It all starts up front for the Buckeyes with one of the best defensive lines in the nation. The group took a hit when last year’s sack leader, defensive end Noah Spence, was suspended for failing a drug test after last season’s Big Ten Championship game. Slated to miss the first two games of the season, he failed another test and was summarily suspended for the entire season. The other end, sophomore Joey Bosa, has been an absolute star, leading the Big Ten with 11.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Spence’s replacement, senior Steve Miller has recorded six tackles for loss and one sack.

In the middle, Ohio State is led by senior Michael Bennett and junior Adolphus Washington. Bennett finished fourth in the Big Ten with 15 tackles for loss in 2013, but has fallen off that pace this season with 7.5 so far and three sacks. Washington has seven and 2.5.

The linebacking corps had to deal with the loss of Ryan Shazier to the NFL, but has developed great cohesion with the same three players picking up 32 of the possible 33 starts. Junior weak side linebacker Joshua Perry leads the team with 99 tackles to go along with 8.5 for loss, three sacks, an interception, and two passes defended. Redshirt freshman strong side linebacker Darron Lee ranks fourth on the team with 50 tackles but second with 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, and also has two interceptions. Senior middle linebacker Curtis Grant has 47 tackles, three for loss, and one sack.

The secondary was the unit that got torched over and over again last season, but has fared much better this year. Cincinnati and Michigan State both passed for over 350 yards on Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have held five of 11 opponents below 150 yards through the air. Redshirt freshman Eli Apple and senior Doran Grant are the starting corners and have five interceptions and 18 passes defended between them. Sophomore safety Vonn Bell is the team’s second-leading tackler with 68 and also has three picks, while the other safety, redshirt sophomore Tyvis Powell, ranks third with 57 and also has three takeaways.

Special Teams: The other third

True freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger has made just 10 of his 16 field goal attempts on the season with a long of 49 yards. Interestingly, he has yet to attempt a field goal between 30 and 39 yards or over 50 yards all season. He is 5-of-6 from 20-29 yards and 5-of-10 from 40-49 yards. Punter Cameron Johnston, on the other hand, ranks third in the Big Ten with an average of 43.6 yards per punt. He has downed 19 of his 31 punts inside the 20-yards line and booted nine of them over 50 yards with just three going into the end zone.

The Buckeyes rank 18th nationally in punt returns and 19th in kick returns. Marhsall ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 13.6 yards per punt return and has taken one to the end zone. Dontre Wilson ranks fourth in the conference with 24 yards per kick return — 0.1 more than Dennis Norfleet — but a broken foot suffered against Michigan State has sidelined him for the rest of the regular season.

Prediction

There are two likely scenarios for Michigan on Saturday. Either the team plays with nothing to lose, inspired by its soon to be former head coach and gives Ohio State a run for its money, or it packs it in at the first sign of distress and gets pushed around for 60 minutes resulting in the worst defeat in the history of the rivalry.

Michigan had no business nearly beating Ohio State last season, but came within a failed two-point conversion from doing just that. But heading into that game there was at least an indication that Michigan’s offense could outscore the Buckeyes. This year, however, Michigan’s offense has been stuck in neutral, failing to score 20 points in seven of 11 games. Ohio State hasn’t scored fewer than 21 points in a game all season and averages more than twice that.

The only hope Michigan has is if its defense plays its best game of the season, contains Barrett’s legs, and pressures him into mistakes that he — like any first year starter and freshman — can be prone to make. But that’s certainly no easy task and one that even Michigan State’s defense couldn’t do. And even if the defense can do that, Michigan will have to avoid costly turnovers that have plagued the offense all year. And even if both of those things happen, Michigan will need Dennis Norfleet to break a return that doesn’t get called back. In other words, Michigan needs a perfect storm.

Michigan has allowed just nine first half points in its last three games combined, and will hang with Ohio State early on. But Michigan won’t be able to keep the Bucks at bay for long, and if they can’t find the end zone themselves, will see the game slip away in a hurry. Expect a fairly close game at halftime that Ohio State blows wide open in the second half with a couple of deep balls to Smith or Thomas and the running combo of Elliott and Barrett wearing the defense down. Meyer goes for two at the end to get to 50 and earn style points with the playoff committee, Hoke is fired shortly after, and Jim Harbaugh comes home to reignite the rivalry.

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 13