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Posts Tagged ‘The Game’

The Numbers Game: U-M big play offense fizzles, defense holds Bucks below average

Friday, December 2nd, 2016


um-defense-vs-osu(Dustin Johnson, Maize ‘n Brew)

Previously: Is Don Brown’s defense high-risk? The numbers say noMichigan’s Harbaughfense will be more explosive in Year 2, Run game makes big plays in Week 1, While UCF loaded the box Michigan went to the air for big plays, Michigan offense doubles 2015 big play pace through 3 weeks, UM’s smothering defense narrows gap between 2015 D’s big play pace, U-M offense maintains big play pace versus tough Wisconsin D, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1, Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news, U-M offense third most explosive, defense best at preventing big plays, MSU wins big play battle, Michigan wins the war, As big play defense falls back to earth, U-M offense continues to soar, U-M’s dynamic big-play offense stalls in Iowa loss, U-M offense, defense remain among nation’s best entering The Game

Let me get this out of the way first: while the officiating was egregious, it was NOT why Michigan lost last Saturday’s game. It sure didn’t help when Ohio State was getting the calls on identical plays where Michigan wasn’t, but in comparison to the three turnovers it was insignificant. You simply cannot turn the ball over three times, especially on the road, and expect to win. Take away just one of the interceptions and Michigan wins comfortably in regulation. Regardless, it was a game that came down to the wire and Michigan had shot itself in the foot too many times to win and still almost pulled out a win. Heartbreaking? Absolutely. But let’s not forget that just two years ago this was a 5-7 team.

Now, some good news. Michigan racked up an absurd 13 total tackles for loss and eight — yes EIGHT — sacks. They held a potent OSU offense that was averaging over 11 big plays per game to eight — two of which came in overtime. The bad news is the offense couldn’t generate many big plays of their own, recording just three total — one run and two pass. That’s well below their season average of 11.36 coming in. Add in losing the turnover battle three to one and Michigan’s toxic differential this game was minus-7, a far cry from their per game average of plus-6 coming in.

Losing both the big play battle and the turnover battle, on the road, is not a recipe for winning and yet they were still there in the end and could have won. Despite all that, with some chaos this weekend there is an ever so slight chance Michigan could make the playoff. #HarbaughEffect #DonBrownEffect

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 regular season comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 83 45 128 14.71% 4.67% 59
2015 43 42 85 10.25% -0.70% -4

Michigan’s three  total big plays is by far the lowest total of the year. Wilton Speight’s undisclosed injury likely led to no downfield shots and a contributing factor for the lack of big plays, but that is neither here nor there.

For the 2016 regular season Michigan averaged 6.92 explosive runs per game (27th nationally) and 3.75 explosive passes (46th) for a total of 10.67 explosive plays per game (24th) with a big play percentage of 14.71 percent (28th) and a total toxic differential of 59 — good for eighth on a per game basis.

The last three weeks of the season have seen Michigan drop dramatically in all of those metrics, from 12th to 27th in explosive runs, 14th to 46th in passes, second to 24th overall big plays, and 4th to 28th for big play percentage. Not ideal, as the end of the year is not when you want to see your team come back down to Earth, but as I said above, two years ago this was a 5-7 team. For some additional context, and to help hammer home the point that Jim Harbaugh is indeed building a DeathStar with this program let’s look at the 2015 end of regular season numbers.

The 2015 Michigan offense averaged 3.58 explosive runs per game and 3.5 explosive passes for a total of 7.08 explosive plays per game. Their big play percentage was 10.25 percent and their total toxic differential was minus-4.

The 2016 run game took huge leap forward, almost doubling the per game output, the pass game got slightly better and the overall was 50 percent better than last year’s at this point. Their toxic differential went from a negative to a very large positive (-4 to 59) and we’re only scratching the surface of what Jim Harbaugh is bringing to Michigan. It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.

Garbage time

There was no garbage time during this game, and I expect future versions of The Game to stay that way. For the year just over one-third — 35.94 percent — of Michigan’s explosive plays came during garbage time. They did the bulk of their damage before the game got out of hand.

Defensive big play allowed
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 regular season comparison
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 4.33 1.92 6.25 10.04% 4.67% 59
2015 4.67 2.25 6.92 10.95% -0.70% -4

The defense held its ground during regulation, keeping Ohio State to just six explosive plays, which is right at Michigan’s average coming in and almost half of OSU’s average. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes added two very big plays in overtime and finished the day with those eight explosive runs. Michigan did not allow a single explosive pass.

For the regular season, Michigan’s defense averaged 4.33 explosive runs per game (34th) and 1.92 explosive passes (2nd) for a total of 6.25 explosive plays per game (9th). Their big play against percentage was 10.04 percent and their big play differential was 4.67 percent (16th). Michigan improved upon every single defensive measurement under the tutelage of Don Brown. Not by leaps and bounds, but significant going by rankings.

Their 2015 numbers were 4.67 explosive runs per game and 2.25 explosive passes per game for a total of 6.92 explosive plays given up per game. Their big play against percentage was 10.95 percent and their big play differential was -0.70 percent. In 2016, those would rank, 45th in runs, 10th in passes, and 25th in overall big plays surrendered. Big play against would be 28th compared to this year’s numbers and big play differential would have been 82nd. Michigan had a very good defense last year, and Don Brown came in and managed to improve upon it. Taking out the two overtime explosive runs and this defense held OSU to half their 2015 total versus Michigan. I think it’s safe to say Don Brown knows what he’s doing.

Garbage time

Again, there was no garbage time during this game. For the year Michigan allows 37.84 percent of their big plays during garbage time.

Sacks and tackles for loss

Michigan’s eight sacks and 13 tackles for loss adds to their already impressive season totals. Their 44 total sacks at 3.67 per game both rank second nationally. Their 114 total tackles for loss and 9.5 per game are both first overall. They are the only team to average over nine TFL per game. This is just the first year under Don Brown’s aggressive scheme, and I think it’s safe to say the Michigan defense will find itself amongst the top teams in sacks and TFL as long as he’s in Ann Arbor.

Big plays by down

um-offense-big-plays-by-down-week-13

An explosive play was equally as likely on first down (54) as it is on second down (54). An explosive run was more likely on second (39) than first down (36) and an explosive pass play was slightly more likely on first (18) than second down (15). Third down is highly unlikely to see an explosive run (only 8.43 percent of explosive runs happen on third down) but better than a quarter (26.67 percent) of the explosive pass plays happen on third down.

opp-big-plays-by-down-week-13

On defense, Michigan was also about almost as likely to give up an explosive play on first down (31) than second down (29) with third down a good deal behind (13). They only surrendered one fourth down explosive play. Almost half of the explosive runs given up happen on second down (24), followed by first (20), and then third (7). Explosive pass plays are more likely to occur on first down (11) than second (5), third (6), and fourth (1) downs.

Big play percentage of total yards

Ohio State had six drives with at least one explosive play against Michigan and they scored on three of them. However, during regulation, they had four drives but only scored on one of them. They were two for two during overtime. Michigan had just one drive with at least one explosive play and scored on it. For the year, Michigan has had 82 total drives on which they’ve had at least one explosive play, and they’ve scored on 60 of them, or 73.17 percent of the time. On defense, they’ve surrendered just 20 scores on 54 drives with an explosive play, just 37.04 percent of the time.

What this means is that almost two-thirds of the time an opponent had a drive with an explosive play (which doesn’t happen often) they still can’t score on this Michigan’s defense. Remember, teams are likely to score 75 percent of the time they have an explosive play on a given drive.

Since we do not know Michigan’s bowl fate we cannot take a look ahead at their next opponent so we’ll end our regular season edition with a look at the individual big play leaders.

Michigan’s big play leaders

De’Veon Smith was the overall leader with 22 big plays (all runs), averaging an astounding 19.55 yards per big play. Amara Darboh led the pass catchers in big plays with 16 and a 33.81 yards per big catch average. Freshman Chris Evans was second overall in total and run plays with 17 and Karan Higdon held the highest average per run with 23.9 on his 10 big run plays. Overall, thirteen players recorded at least one explosive run, 10 recorded at least one explosive catch and five had at least one run and one catch.

#2 Ohio State 30 – #3 Michigan 27 (2 OT): Stunning loss a tragic tale in The Game’s lore

Monday, November 28th, 2016


barrett-4th-down(Jamie Sabau, Getty Images)

Michigan nearly did it all on Saturday in Columbus. They played well enough to beat rival Ohio State and earn a spot in the Big Ten championship game. They also played well enough to lose, turning the ball over three times, which lead to 14 OSU points. Ultimately, they didn’t play well enough to overcome both those turnovers and several questionable calls. In the end, the Wolverines suffered a fifth straight loss to their bitter rival, falling 30-27 in double overtime and may have exited the College Football Playoff race.

um-ohiostate_small-final
Final Stats
Michigan  Ohio State
Score 27 30
Record 10-2, 7-2 11-1, 8-1
Total Yards 310 330
Net Rushing Yards 91 206
Net Passing Yards 219 124
First Downs 16 23
Turnovers 3 1
Penalties-Yards 7-59 2-6
Punts-Yards 7-332 6-276
Time of Possession 31:13 28:47
Third Down Conversions 9-of-19 3-of-16
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 2-of-3
Sacks By-Yards 8-27 2-16
Field Goals 2-for-2 1-for-3
PATs 3-for-3 3-for-3
Red Zone Scores-Chances 5-of-6 4-of-6
Red Zone Scores-TDs 3-of-6 3-of-6
Full Box Score

Nationally, the game will go down as an all-time thriller in college football’s greatest rivalry. For those who bleed maize and blue, it will join 1974 as one of the great tragedies of the rivalry.

In the 1974 Michigan-Ohio State game, Michigan kicker Mike Lantry booted a game-winning field goal from 33 yards out that would have given the 4th-ranked Wolverines a 13-12 victory and secured an undefeated record. But the officials called the kick no good and the home crowd stormed the field.

Bo Schembechler later told John U Bacon, “Those refs knew where they were reffing. They were reffing in Columbus that game, and that mattered.”

Fast forward 42 years and Bo’s sentiment rang true once again. The officiating crew on Saturday certainly knew where they were reffing, and in a great game between two titans that took two overtimes to be decided, that mattered.

In the second overtime, on 4th-and-1, Michigan’s defense stopped Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett right at the line to gain. Michigan fans will go to their graves knowing that he was stopped short, just as Lantry’s field goal was good. Instead, the officials ruled that he crossed the line and upheld it after replay. One play later, Curtis Samuel found the end zone to end the game.

But that wasn’t the only controversy. Michigan was penalized seven times for 59 yards in the game while the Buckeyes were flagged just twice for six yards. Michigan entered the game as the fourth-least penalized team in the Big Ten, averaging just 4.7 penalties per game. Ohio State came in as the third-most penalized team in the conference, averaging 6.5.

In fact, OSU had one game all season with fewer than four penalties and just four games all season with fewer than six. Did the Buckeyes suddenly become so disciplined that the only fouls they committed all game were one false start and a one-yard personal foul at the 2-yard line?

Sure, if you don’t think this is pass interference:

That was on third down in double overtime, forcing Michigan to kick a field goal. A correct pass interference gives Michigan a fresh set of downs around the Ohio State 12. Would Michigan have punched it into the end zone? Who knows. But they should have gotten the chance. Michigan safety Delano Hill got called for the exact same thing on 3rd-and-7 on Ohio State’s game-tying drive, keeping the Buckeyes’ drive alive.

Sure, Ohio State played a clean game if you don’t consider this pass interference:

That was also on third down, stopping a Michigan drive short and forcing a punt. A correct call would have given Michigan either 10 yards (if called holding) or 15 yards (if pass interference), putting the Wolverines on the cusp of field goal range. It was also one possession after Michigan defensive back Channing Stribling was called for defensive holding on Buckeye receiver Noah Brown.

Sure, Ohio State committed just two penalties. If you don’t think this isn’t a personal foul:

In an era of hyper-sensitivity surrounding concussions and CTE, a blind-side hit on a defenseless player away from the ball is called every single time. Except on the Buckeyes in Columbus. The umpire was right there watching it happen. But kept the flag on his hip.

Sure, Ohio State played perfectly. If you don’t consider this holding:

Fortunately on that play, Michigan safety Jordan Glasgow fought off the hold and made the tackle, stopping punter Cam Jonston short of the first down — much to the officiating crew’s chagrin. But that’s just one example of several holds that went uncalled.

Michigan played well enough to win on Saturday, and should have done so despite their mistakes. The Wolverines led for 39 minutes and trailed for just three and change. They controlled most of the game and they made a game-winning stop in the second overtime. But their drives were stopped short due to no-calls while Ohio State’s drives were extended by calls in their favor. Michigan was on the wrong side of every single call made in the game. And that’s not debatable. Don’t just take my word for it, the Michigan blogger. Ask those with no dog in the fight. Like Mike Greenberg. Or Spartan/Michigan-hater Jemele Hill. Every non-partial observer I talked to over the past 24 hours said the same thing.

Oh, those refs knew where they were reffing. They were reffing in Columbus, and that mattered.

Game Ball – Offense

Kenny Allen (2-of-2 field goals, 7 punts for 47.4 average, 5 downed inside 20)
Michigan’s offense moved the ball well early in the game, but struggled to get consistency in the second half. Part of that was penalties killing drives and part of it was that Ohio State just has a great defense. Wilton Speight completed 23-of-36 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns, but he also committed three turnovers, which led to 14 Ohio State points. Amara Darboh could have gotten the game ball after catching eight passes for a game-high 68 yards and a great touchdown grab in overtime. But senior punter/kicker Kenny Allen gets the nod for the second time in three weeks. He made both field goals attempted — a 28-yarder in the second quarter and a 37-yarder in the second overtime. He also consistently pinned Ohio State’s offense deep in its own territory with a 47.4-yard average on his seven punts. OSU punter Cam Johnston entered the game as the Big Ten’s best punter, but Allen was the best punter on Saturday.

Previous
Week 1 — Chris Evans (8 carries, 112 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 2 — Wilton Speight (25-of-37 for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns)
Week 3 — Jake Butt (7 receptions for 87 yards)
Week 4 — Grant Newsome, Ben Braden, Mason Cole, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson (326 rush yards, 0 sacks allowed)
Week 5 — Amara Darboh (6 receptions for 87 yards, 1 touchdown)
Week 6 — Khalid Hill (2 carries for 2 yards and 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 19 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 7 — Wilton Speight (16-of-23 for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Week 8 — Amara Darboh (8 receptions for 165 yards)
Week 9 — Wilton Speight (19-of-24 for 362 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 carries for 16 yards, 1 touchdown)
Week 10 — Kenny Allen (2-of-2 FGs, long of 51)
Week 11 — De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 158 yards, 2 touchdowns)

Game Ball – Defense

Taco Charlton (9 tackles (6 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks)
Michigan’s defense struggled in overtime, but for 60 minutes, it held the fifth-best scoring offense in the country to just 10 points, seven of those coming after Ohio State’s second interception gave them possession on the Michigan 13. A major part of the success was the dominant performance by Michigan’s defensive line, which led the way in sacking Barrett eight times and recording 12.5 tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Taco Charlton proved to be one of the nation’s best pass rushers, sacking Barret 2.5 times on his way to a nine-tackle performance. He finishes the regular season with a team-high 8.5 sacks.

Previous
Week 1 — Mike McCray (9 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 2 — Rashan Gary (6 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks)
Week 3 — Jabrill Peppers (9 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 kick ret. for 81 yards, 4 punt ret. for 99 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — Maurice Hurst (6 tackles, 3 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 5 — Channing Stribling (2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass breakups)
Week 6 — Taco Charlton (2 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 7 — Mike McCray (3 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 2 quarterback hurries)
Week 8 — Jabrill Peppers (7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 two-point conversion fumble recovery return)
Week 9 — Delano Hill (6 tackles (5 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions)
Week 10 — Chris Wormley (6 tackles (2 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 11 — Ryan Glasgow (7 tackles (5 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble)

Five-Spot Challenge 2016: Ohio State

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016


Congratulations to Grahambino for picking up his first win of the season. His deviation of 163 was seven points better than second place Glhermance. Grahambino won because of his realistic expectations of John O’Korn’s first start. His prediction of 175 passing yards was the second closest to O’Korn’s actual of just 59 yards. He was also fifth closest to Indiana’s rushing yards (64, 61 away), fourth closest to the minutes until Michigan’s first punt (four, four away), and fifth closest to IU’s longest pass (37 yards, five away). He wins a prize box of product from our sponsors, Lane’s BBQCultivate Coffee & Tap House, and Chayder Grilling Company.

Gvanneste was the closest to O’Korn’s passing yards at 66 away. GrizzlyJFB was the closest to Indiana’s rushing yards, just eight away. TheZachster and Northsiders7 were each just one away from the yards gained on Michigan’s first possession (39), while sckonwin was only one away from the minutes until Michigan’s first punt (four). Finally, Zigmun correctly predicted that Indiana’s longest pass completion would be 37 yards.

As usual, no one correctly predicted the final score. Last week’s Five-Spot Challenge winner, Sistersueblue, was the closest with her prediction of Michigan 28 – Indiana 17. The 26 contestants predicted an average score of Michigan 36 – Indiana 14.

The weekly results and season standings have been updated.

The week we’ve all been waiting for all season has arrived. In three days, Michigan and Ohio State will square off with a spot in the Big Ten championship game on the line. As usual, since the stakes are higher for this one, we’ve added a few extra questions for The Game.

First Look: #2 Ohio State

Monday, November 21st, 2016


osu-cheerleader-fall

Michigan rebounded from its loss to Iowa with a workmanlike win over Indiana on Saturday. It certainly wasn’t pretty, but it showed resilience, and finding a way to win without starting quarterback Wilton Speight will give the Wolverines some confidence heading into Columbus on Saturday.

Ohio State comes in with an identical 10-1 record overall and 7-1 in the Big Ten. Like the classic Michigan-Ohio State battles of old, The Game will have a major impact on the Big Ten title race. If Michigan wins, the Wolverines head to Indianapolis to face Wisconsin (assuming the Badgers beat Minnesota). If Ohio State wins and Penn State beats Michigan State, the Nittany Lions will win the East and head to Indy. If OSU wins and Penn State loses, the Buckeyes will play for the title. In other words, Michigan just needs to win.

Let’s take a look at how the teams compare through the first 11 games of the season.

Ohio State & Michigan statistical comparison
Ohio State | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 43.8 | 42.3 5 11
13.0 10.9 3 1
Rushing Yards 2,894 2,588 1,323 1,195
Rush Avg. Per Game 263.1 | 235.3 8 19
120.3 108.6 18 10
Avg. Per Rush 5.7 | 5.2
3.4 3.0
Passing Yards 2,530 2,374 1,755 1,507
Pass Avg. Per Game 230.0 215.8 68 82 159.5 137.0 3 1
Total Offense 5,424 4,962 3,078 2,702
Total Off Avg. Per Game 493.1 451.1 21 38 279.8 245.6 4 1
Kick Return Average 24.1 17.3 14 121 18.4 21.0 25 | 78
Punt Return Average 5.2 16.0 96 6 3.1 7.6 11 63
Avg. Time of Possession 34:25 33:06 4 15 25:35 | 26:54
3rd Down Conversion Pct 51% | 44% 9 | 42
29% | 21.0% 7 1
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 17-100| 16-103
30 24
24-169 | 36-247 57 9
Touchdowns Scored 62 60
15 | 14
Field Goals-Attempts 16-17 14-19
13-15 | 7-13
Red Zone Scores (50-56) 89%|(53-58) 91% 29 | 16
(21-30) 70%|(13-19) 68% 8 5
Red Zone Touchdowns (37-56) 66%|(40-58) 69% (9-30) 30%|(8-19 42%
Off. S&P+/Def. S&P+ 38.6 36.1 14 25 15.1 | 5.6 7 1

I won’t sugarcoat anything. Ohio State is the best team Michigan has faced this season. That doesn’t mean they aren’t susceptible — they almost lost to Michigan State this past Saturday — but there’s no denying that they’re a more talented team than Michigan has faced to date. And the numbers show that.

Wisconsin has a defense to rival Ohio State’s, but not the offense. Colorado has a top-30ish offense and defense, but not on OSU’s level. Same with Penn State.

The Buckeyes’ lone loss was a 24-21 defeat in Week 7 at Penn State. At the time, it looked to be a bad loss as the Nittany Lions were just 4-2 coming into that one with a loss to Pitt and a 39-point loss to Michigan. But Penn State has reeled off four straight wins since that upset of Ohio State and sits poised to capture the Big Ten East division crown if Ohio State beats Michigan on Saturday.

The Buckeyes rank fifth nationally in scoring offense, averaging 43.8 points per game — a point and a half more than Michigan. They have topped 60 points three times and surprisingly, none were against Rutgers, through they did score 58 against the Scarlet Knights. They’ve eclipsed 50 points in four of 11 games, but have been held to 30 or fewer points in four of their last six games. Their lowest point total of the season came this past Saturday when they managed just 17 points at Michigan State.

Ohio State does it mostly with their rushing game, which ranks eighth nationally, averaging 263.1 yards per game. That’s about 28 yards more than Michigan averages. OSU has topped 200 rushing yards in nine of 11 games with only Wisconsin (185) and Penn State (168) holding them under 200. By comparison, Michigan has tallied under 200 yards five times, including against Wisconsin (130), but ran all over Penn State to the tune of 326 yards. Against common opponents, Ohio State has averaged 255 rushing yards, while Michigan has averaged 271.

The passing game isn’t nearly as dominant, despite a senior quarterback with a lot of experience. The Buckeyes rank 68th nationally with 230 passing yards per game. They average about 14 more passing yards per game than Michigan. But that’s a result of Wilton Speight’s injury forcing John O’Korn to play this past Saturday, as the Wolverines entered the IU game averaging 231.5. Ohio State has thrown for fewer than 100 yards twice and 152 yards or fewer in four of 11 games. They had a season-high 417 passing yards in the season opener against Bowling Green’s 110th-ranked pass defense. Their most impressive performance was a 352-yard output against a decent Nebraska defense three weeks ago. Against common opponents, Ohio State has thrown for three more passing yards per game than Michigan (206 versus 203).

Defensively, the Buckeyes feature an elite defense that isn’t quite on Michigan’s level, but not far behind. They rank third nationally in scoring defense, allowing 13 points per game. Only four opponents have scored more than 20 points and they’ve held five to 10 points or fewer.

The rush defense ranks 18th nationally, allowing 120.3 yards per game, about 12 more than Michigan’s 10th-ranked run defense allows. Wisconsin and Michigan State both topped 200 yards on the ground against the OSU defense with 236 and 207, respectively. Wisconsin averaged 5.1 yards per carry and Michigan State averaged 5.9 — both about a yard more per carry than their respective season averages. The Buckeyes have held six of 11 opponents under 100 rushing yards, but those six opponents have an average Rushing S&P+ ranking of 63. Michigan’s defense has held eight of 11 opponents under 100. Against common opponents, Ohio State has allowed 132 rushing yards per game, while Michigan has held opponents to just 89 rushing yards per game.

Ohio State’s pass defense allows just 159.5 yards per game, which is good for third nationally. It’s 22.5 yards more than Michigan’s top-ranked pass defense allows. Three of 11 opponents — Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Northwestern — have topped 200 passing yards. The Buckeyes held Rutgers to just 33 passing yards (Michigan held them to five) and also had the fortune of knocking Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong out of the game early, and thus, holding the Cornhuskers to just 126 passing yards. Against common opponents, OSU’s pass defense has allowed about six fewer passing yards per game than Michigan has.

On special teams, Ohio State is pretty solid all around, ranking 14th nationally in kick return average, 25th in kick return defense, and 11th in punt return defense. The one weak spot is that they rank 96th in punt returns, averaging 5.2 yards per return. Michigan ranks sixth in that category thanks to Jabrill Peppers’ average of 16 yards per return, which means he essentially gives the Wolverines an additional first-down worth of field position on each return. The Buckeyes are also consistent with field goals (16-of-17), red zone scoring (89 percent), and third down conversions (51 percent, ninth nationally).

As you can see, this game is destined to be a dog fight for 60 minutes. Michigan’s defense will keep the Wolverines in the game. The main question will be whether or not Wilton Speight is healthy enough to play. If he is — and has full mobility — the Michigan offense can move the ball similar to the way MSU did. But if Speight can’t go, Ohio State will do a much better job shutting down Michigan’s running game than Indiana did, and O’Korn will have to make plays with his arm. That’s not a good proposition for the Wolverines.

#8 Ohio State 42 – #10 Michigan 13: Surrender

Monday, November 30th, 2015


Harbaugh vs OSU(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

College football can be a strange and cruel game.

It doesn’t care that Ohio State torpedoed it’s national title hopes with a clunker last week, falling to Michigan State 17-14 to end a 23 game winning streak. All the Buckeyes did was rebound with their best performance of the season, turning a 14-10 halftime lead into a second half rout over rival Michigan.

It doesn’t care that Michigan’s defense was among the nation’s best for 11 weeks, surrendering just 14.9 points and 100.2 rushing yards per game. Ezekiel Elliott channeled his inner Tshimanga Biakabutuka, barreling through the Michigan defense like a snowball rolling down Mount Everest.

UM-OhioState-small-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Ohio State
Score 13 42
Record 9-3 (6-2) 11-1 (7-1)
Total Yards 364 482
Net Rushing Yards 57 369
Net Passing Yards 307 113
First Downs 20 25
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 7-72 5-39
Punts-Yards 4-157 2-70
Time of Possession 29:54 30:06
Third Down Conversions 9-of-18 7-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-3 1-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 1-2 2-11
Field Goals 2-for-2 0-for-0
PATs 1-for-1 6-for-6
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 5-of-6
Red Zone Scores-TDs 1-of-3 5-of-6
Full Box Score

It doesn’t care that sometimes the underdog rises to the occasion with an unexpected conference title to play for in the final week of the season, because sometimes the team with better athletes across the board exerts its will, leaving no doubt which team is better.

It doesn’t care that Michigan has outperformed all expectations in Year 1 of the Jim Harbaugh era. A stinging loss to their most bitter rival makes the season feel like a failure anyway, even if it isn’t.

Michigan and Ohio State both entered Saturday with Big Ten title hopes on the line. In the end it didn’t matter because Michigan State won the afternoon game to clinch the Big Ten East, but neither could know that at the time.

Ohio State struck first with a 94-yard drive on their second possession of the game. Michigan’s defense had forced a three and out to start the drive, but Tyree Kinnel was flagged for roughing the punter, giving the ball back to the Bucks. Instead of Michigan taking over around the 50, Elliott burst through the line for a 66-yard gain two plays later. Two plays after that, J.T. Barrett found the end zone from seven yards out and Ohio State never looked back.

Michigan got a field goal on a 14-play, 72-yard drive, but Ohio State answered with another touchdown, this time a 5-yard Elliott run. Michigan struck just before the half with a 92-yard touchdown drive to pull within four when Jake Rudock found Jehu Chesson from five yards out.

But any thoughts of victory quickly evaporated in the third quarter when Ohio State ran 24 plays to Michigan’s 10 and turned a 14-10 game into an insurmountable 28-10 lead. The Buckeyes put on a rushing clinic in the third and fourth quarters, taking advantage of Michigan’s depleted front seven with 34 rushes and just nine pass attempts.

Harbaugh will never admit as much, but Michigan sorely missed nose tackle Ryan Glasgow, who suffered a season ending pectoral injury against Rutgers. In the nine games with Glasgow clogging the middle, Michigan allowed just 80.6 rushing yards per game and no opponent tallied more than 144 yards. In the three after Glasgow’s injury, the Wolverines surrendered 248.7 yards per game, and two of the three opponents rushed for more than 300 yards. To put it another way, in the first nine games Michigan allowed a total of 725 rushing yards. Post-Glasgow, the Wolverines gave up 746 in three games.

Would Glasgow’s presence have changed the outcome? It’s hard to believe one player — a former walk-on at that — could make such a difference, but it may have helped keep the game within reach.

But in the end, there was no doubt which team was better. Ohio State’s starting lineup averaged 4.13 stars coming out of high school, while Michigan’s averaged 3.56, according to 247 Sports composite. Ohio State had four five-stars in its starting lineup while Michigan had one — Jabrill Peppers — who was so important to Michigan’s success that he lined up all over the field on Saturday. Stars don’t mean everything, but there’s a reason the teams atop the recruiting rankings have dominated the national championships in the past decade.

Harbaugh has Michigan on the rise, taking an underachieving 5-7 team and going 9-3 in his first season with 15 more practices and a bowl game to look forward to. His performance on the recruiting trail will also help close the gap and it received a boost after the game when the nation’s 43rd best player, defensive tackle Jordan Elliott, pledged his commitment to the Wolverines.

It has been a perilous decade for Michigan, having lost 11 of its last 12 to Ohio State, and they’ll have to wait at least another year to get them back. Michigan fans, too, will have to endure another year of razzing from Buckeye fans that we’ve become all too used to.

College football is a strange, cruel game. But that’s why it keeps us coming back for more.

M&GB staff predictions: Ohio State

Friday, November 27th, 2015


StaffPicks_banner2015

Michigan hosts Ohio State at noon tomorrow in the 112th meeting between the two rivals. For the first time in years a Big Ten championship game appearance is still within reach for the winner. Here are our predictions.

Justin

Ohio State laid an egg against Michigan State last week and it’s hard to imagine them doing so two weeks in a row. That’s the bad news for Michigan. The good news is the Wolverines have played well at home all season and have plenty of motivation with a potential Big Ten Championship Game appearance on the line. The weather calls for a perfect late November Saturday with cloudy skies, 42 degrees, and no precipitation, so the scene will be set for a classic Ohio State-Michigan game. And I think that’s exactly what we will get.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Ohio State
Justin 27 24
Derick 28 24
Sam 21 24
Josh 27 23
Joe 28 27
M&GB Average 26 24

Make no mistake about it; Ohio State is the better team. But the gap that has separated the two teams for the last decade will be as narrow as it has been since the last time the two faced off as top 10 teams in 2006. Michigan will need to break out its bag of tricks, but won’t need to fully rely on them like they have the past several meetings. Michigan has a legitimate chance to win. The biggest key will be giving Jake Rudock time to throw. It’s unlikely that Michigan will be able to move the ball consistently on the ground, since it hasn’t done so against anyone since early in the season. But Rudock has been as good as any quarterback in the Big Ten during conference play, and especially the last three weeks when the passing game has taken off. Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh will have trouble getting open against Conley and Apple, and Jake Butt will meet his match against Bell, so if Rudock is constantly under pressure, it will be a long day for Michigan’s offense.

Fortunately, I believe Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will pull out all stops with Jabrill Peppers. Harbaugh hinted at using the dynamic sophomore more at running back earlier this week, and with a month off between this game and a bowl — barring a Michigan State loss — there’s no need to hold Peppers back. I could see a running back rotation of Peppers and De’Veon Smith with Peppers getting the majority of the snaps in a variety of looks to not only get the ball to him in space, but use him as a decoy to get others open. That’s really the best shot Michigan has at being able to move the ball with any consistency.

On defense, Michigan will have to stop Elliott. That’s really what it comes down to. The chance of him getting just 12 carries is about as likely as Rudock running the triple option. Elliott may get 12 carries in the first quarter until Michigan proves it can stop him. Remember the Indiana game when Jordan Howard ran and ran and ran again? That’s what Ohio State’s game plan will be. If Michigan’s front seven can rise to the occasion and slow him down, Ohio State’s offense is much more containable. Miller is a threat when he gets the ball in space and has the ability beat the defense deep, but the rest of the offense isn’t as dangerous as anyone else Michigan has faced and Jourdan Lewis can lock down Thomas.

If Elliott is gashing through Michigan’s defense for six to eight yards a pop, Michigan will lose. If Michigan’s defense is holding him in check like Michigan State’s did, and forces the Buckeyes to rely on Barrett’s arm and legs, I like Michigan’s chances. I think the latter will happen. Michigan will sell out to stop Elliott and may give up a big play or two to Miller or Barrett, but will gladly take that over getting the ball rammed down its throat play after play after play. Peppers puts together a performance for the ages in all three phases of the game, reminiscent of his idol, Charles Woodson’s, performance 18 years ago, and leads Michigan to a thrilling narrow win.

Michigan 27 – Ohio State 24

Derick

After watching them lay an egg in their first competitive game of the season, it’s difficult to know what to expect from the Buckeyes on Saturday. That said, I expect Urban Meyer’s team to come out angry and desperate to bounce back.

Michigan just might be a better all-around football team than Ohio State this season, which is wild when you think about how both teams finished last season. Ohio State was off winning a national title with its third-string quarterback while Michigan lost to Maryland at home to fall short of a bowl game.

But the Wolverines’ defense really bounced back in a tough road game against Penn State last weekend and looks to be trending in the right direction after disappointing efforts against Minnesota and Indiana. Can it bully the Buckeyes in the trenches like the Spartans’ defense did? If so, the Wolverines should win the game.

I think J.T. Barrett will be much more comfortable in the driver’s seat of the offense Saturday as it should be a much clearer day in Ann Arbor. He’ll have to be very careful behind the wheel of that OSU offense and avoid turning the ball over to a hot Michigan offense. Blake O’Neill will be critical in forcing Barrett to drive the length of the field against a solid secondary. If Barrett puts his foot on the gas pedal and rushes for over 100 yards, the Wolverines will be in big trouble.

Michigan’s linebackers — Desmond Morgan, James Ross III and Joe Bolden — will be critical in containing Barrett and defending the middle of the field. If they can put together their best performance of the season, I really like Michigan’s chances.

I think it’ll be a close game, but it’s one that Jim Harbaugh really wants. Michigan will hold off a late Ohio State push and win The Game.

Michigan 28 – Ohio State 24

Sam

Ohio State 24 – Michigan 21

Josh

Last week Michigan held up their end of the bargain, defeating Penn State on the road. Ohio State, however, did not. You can never count on the Buckeyes. This causes two problems for me, 1.) we need Penn State to beat Sparty for us to get a shot at the Big Ten title game and, 2.) after a very flat, uber-conservative game plan OSU is sure to be even more fired up this week.

To do what Harbaugh has done this year is nothing short of incredible, he’s way ahead of schedule (though he won’t ever say he had a schedule to bring Michigan back) but the sad fact is Ohio State is arguably the most stable football program in the country, and hasn’t experienced any talent dips for as long as I can remember. The Buckeyes are loaded with more talent than Michigan at the moment and feature a read-option quarterback/running back combo that can do a lot of damage.

On offense: While the running game has all but vanished the past few weeks Jake Rudock and the passing game has come on strong. They will face a challenge in OSU’s defensive line but it’s not something that cannot be overcome. Joey Bosa will find his way to Rudock on numerous occasions but if the offensive line can just give him enough time to find his receivers more often than not then Michigan should be in good shape. The lack of running game concerns me because a one-dimensional offense will be easy for OSU to stop. However, we have Harbaugh and this guy named Jabrill Peppers, who I expect to see at least 15-20 snaps on offense, namely at running back. He’s the most explosive athlete on the team and our best running back by far. Harbaugh will hold nothing back and unleash Peppers’ fury all over the field. He tops 100 offensive yards and two touchdowns.

On defense: The aforementioned read-option quarterback/running back duo will be a test for this defense but with the new front alignment it should be mitigated. Make no mistake, Barrett and Elliott will get yards and they will score but Michigan should be able to keep them from breaking the game wide open allowing our offense to keep pace. Especially if Michigan can keep the passing game in check, which they should. Barrett is deadly with his legs but not so elite with his arm, yes he can beat you through the air but he hasn’t faced a secondary like Michigan’s all year. Even accounting for Cardale Jones getting in the game at certain points, and I’m sure Urbs throw out all the stops, Michigan shouldn’t get gashed through the air like they did against Minnesota and Indiana.

This will be a close, back and forth game that comes down to the 4th quarter. Ohio State has a better roster top to bottom but Michigan has Jim Harbaugh. OSU has Urban Meyer battling a hangover from a dream season, and doesn’t seem to have control of the entitled/selfish attitude that has overcome his team as of late. Michigan has Jim Harbaugh, a man who probably does race himself as he ties his shoes. OSU is coming off a dreadful performance. Michigan is aching to finally get its seniors a win over their No. 1 rival. Did I also mention Michigan has Jim Harbaugh?

I thought this was a guaranteed loss coming into the season, now I think it’s an even match-up with Harbaugh making up for the current talent disparity. In what should be an incredible game I give the edge to the good guys. Michigan wins a close one at home and keeps alive their hopes for a New Years Six bowl game while sending Ohio State to back to back losses and solidifying shutting them out of the playoff and Rose Bowl. Go Blue!

Michigan 27 – Ohio State 23

Joe

THE GAME is finally here and things are very interesting.  It appears that Michigan is rolling again and the guys from down south are reeling a little. Now is the time for Michigan to assert themselves and reestablish elite status. We’re not there yet, but well on our way. I think this is a low scoring battle to start but will get going once each team gets comfortable and settles down.  Look for the big names to carry the day for both teams with Peppers leading the way. Rudock will have a good day and protect the ball. Michigan wins this one in a close one.

Michigan 28 – Ohio State 27

The Game preview: #10 Michigan vs #8 Ohio State

Friday, November 27th, 2015


Game Preview_OhioState_banner

College football’s best rivalry renews at high noon tomorrow, and for the first time in years a lot is at stake for both teams. Both have a shot at a Big Ten championship game appearance, though it depends on the outcome of the Michigan State-Penn State game later tomorrow afternoon. If Penn State beats the Spartans, the winner of The Game will advance to Indianapolis to face Iowa for the conference title.

UM-OhioState-small
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12p.m. EST – ABC
Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (4th season)
Coaching Record: 152-27 (48-4, 30-1 at OSU)
Co-Offensive Coordinators: Ed Warriner (1st season)
Tim Beck (1st season)
Co-Defensive Coordinators: Luck Fickell (4th season)
Chris Ash (2nd season)
Last Season: 14-1 (8-0)
Last Meeting: OSU 42 – UM 28 (2014)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 58-47-6
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 31-21-4
Record in Michigan Stadium: Michigan 23-19-3
Jim Harbaugh vs Ohio State: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 2011 (40-34)
Last Ohio State win: 2014 (42-28)
Current Streak: Ohio State 3

But even if Michigan State seals their fate with a win, there’s still plenty to play for. Ohio State is still alive for a second straight College Football Playoff berth, though they need a lot of help. Michigan, meanwhile, has lost nine of the last 10 to their rivals from Columbus and would love nothing more than to cap the first season of the Jim Harbaugh era in the same fashion as his mentor, Bo Schembechler: by beating Ohio State. A win would essentially clinch a New Years Six bowl for Michigan, likely the Rose Bowl against whichever Pac-12 team doesn’t make the playoff.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, the biggest game of the season is tomorrow. The game lost some of its luster a week ago when Ohio State lost to Michigan State, ending its 23-game winning streak, but that should only give Michigan more confidence that it can make it two in a row for the Buckeyes. After plowing through the Big Ten last season, dominating Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game, cruising past Alabama and Oregon to win the national title, and winning their first 10 to open this season, Ohio State was starting to look invincible. But last Saturday they were exposed by the first team with a pulse they’ve played all season, tallying just 132 total yards of offense in a 17-14 loss to the Spartans.

Prior to that, the combined record of their 10 opponents was a paltry 43-58. The only Power 5 team Ohio State had played was Penn State, who they beat 38-10. Their second best win was a 20-13 victory over Northern Illinois in Week 3. In other words, probably close to a dozen teams nationally would have been 10-0 with that schedule.

So was the Michigan State game just an aberration? Or did the schedule from the first 10 weeks simply mask larger problems? Let’s take a look at the matchup.

When Ohio State has the ball

Ohio State fans are increasingly upset with new offensive coordinators Ed Warriner and Tim Beck. The architect of last year’s offense, Tom Herman, moved on to Houston and currently has the Cougars at 10-1 and ranked 21st in the AP and Coaches polls.

This season, Ohio State ranks 48th nationally and 3rd in the Big Ten in total offense (424.1 yards per game), 15th and 1st in rushing (230.4 yards per game), 100th and 10th in passing (193.7 yards per game), 37th and 2nd in pass efficiency (141.61), and 36th and 2nd in scoring (34.4 points per game).

The talk leading into the season centered around the trio of quarterbacks at Urban Meyer’s disposal, and while Braxton Miller made the switch to receiver, Meyer let the quarterback race hang in suspension for too long. Cardale Jones got the nod to start the season, but has since lost it in favor of J.T. Barrett. Neither has found consistency. Jones has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 1,460 yards, eight touchdowns, and five interceptions, while Barrett has completed 64.4 percent for just 668 yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions. Barrett’s legs have been more dangerous, scoring eight rushing touchdowns with an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Miller, meanwhile, is the third leading receiver with 324 yards and three touchdowns and the third leading rusher with 227 yards and one score.

The best player on the offense is junior running back Ezekiel Elliott, who up until last week was one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates. He ranks second in the Big Ten with 132.5 rushing yards per game and had rushed for at least 100 yards in each game until being held to just 33 yards on 12 carries last week. The fact that he got only 12 carries is a sore subject among Buckeye fans as Meyer chose to run Barrett more often than his workhorse. Elliott made his feelings known after the game that he wasn’t happy with the play calling and essentially announcing his intention to enter the NFL Draft after the season.

Junior Michael Thomas is the leading receiver with 47 receptions for 659 yards and eight touchdowns. He has had two 100-yard receiving games with seven catches for 107 yards against Maryland and five catches for 103 yards against Rutgers. The other nine games he has been pretty consistent with four or five catches for 60-80 yards. The one outlier is last week when he caught just two passes for eight yards. Much of that is a result of Ohio State only throwing a few passes due to the weather, but Michigan State’s secondary has been porous all season and he wasn’t able to take advantage of it. Sophomore Jalin Marshall is the second leading receiver with 29 receptions for 417 yards and four touchdowns. He had a six-catch, 110-yard game against Indiana, but the has been pretty pedestrian since then.

The offensive line is experienced, returning four starters from last year’s dominant line, but like the offense as a whole, has been consistent all season. Senior left tackle Taylor Decker is the leader and a likely first-round NFL draft pick next spring. The line was dominated by Michigan State’s defensive front last Saturday, and the question begs whether the team’s rushing success is more of a product of Elliott than the line’s ability to open holes. It has done pretty well in pass protection, having allowed 16 sacks this season — the same number Michigan has allowed.

When Michigan has the ball

Ohio State’s defense ranks 8th nationally and 3rd in the Big Ten in total defense (298 yards allowed per game), 30th and 7th against the run (133.7 yards per game), 5th and 3rd against the pass (164.3 yards per game), 7th and 4th in pass defense efficiency (100.64), and 2nd and 2nd in scoring defense (14.1 points per game).

The defensive line was considered one of the best in the nation last season and is very good again this year. Junior defensive end Joey Bosa is the one everybody talks about after leading the Big Ten in tackles for loss (21) and sacks (13.5) in 2014. He won the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year award last season. He hasn’t been quite as dominant at getting to the quarterback in 2015 with just four sacks, but he does still lead the team with 15 tackles for loss (third in the Big Ten) and 12 quarterback hurries. The other defensive end, Tyquan Lewis, ranks second on the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and leads the team with 6.5 sacks. Inside, senior tackle Adolphus Washington is a force for offensive linemen to block. He has seven tackles for loss and four sacks. The other starting tackle spot is a rotation between senior Tommy Schutt and sophomore Michael Hill. Schutt has five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, while Hill has gotten more playing time as of late and has a half of a tackle for loss.

Once you get past the front four, it doesn’t get any easier. The linebacking corps is fast and versatile, led by sophomore Raekwon McMillan, who leads the team and ranks third in the Big Ten with 105 total tackles. He also has four tackles for loss and one sack, but more than getting into the backfield, he flies around the field making tackles. Senior weak side linebacker Joshua Perry ranks second on the team with 88 tackles, fourth with seven tackles for loss, and fifth with three sacks, while sophomore strong side linebacker Darron Lee has 52 tackles, eight for loss, and 2.5 sacks.

The secondary is also very talented, led by junior safety Vonn Bell, who leads the team with nine pass breakups and ranks third with 59 tackles. He also has two interceptions. Junior Tyvis Powell is the other safety. Michigan fans will remember him as the guy who intercepted Devin Gardern’s two-point conversion attempt two years ago in the Big House. He has 59 tackles, three pass breakups and two interceptions. The corners are sophomores Gareon Conley and Eli Apple, who have combined for 63 tackles, three for loss, half a sack, 10 pass breakups, and three interceptions. Both are very good in coverage.

The other third

One area of weakness for Ohio State has been field goal kicking. Meyer has seemingly lost confidence in senior kicker Jack Willoughby‘s ability to make anything longer than 40 yards. He’s 7 of 11 on the season, but is 0-3 from 40-49 yards and just 3 of 7 from 30 yards or more. Punting, on the other hand, isn’t a problem for the Buckeyes. Junior Aussie punter Cameron Johnston ranks second in the Big Ten with a 43.9-yard per punt average. Of his 54 punts, 17 have gone longer than 50 yards, 24 have been downed inside the 20, 20 have been fair caught, and just six have gone into the end zone for a touchback.

Junior H-back Dontre Wilson and sophomore running back Curtis Samuel are the kick returners, averaging 23.9 and 22.8 yards per return, respectively. Marshall is the punt returner, and a dangerous one at that, averaging 12.8 yards per return.

Prediction

Ohio State laid an egg against Michigan State last week and it’s hard to imagine them doing so two weeks in a row. That’s the bad news for Michigan. The good news is the Wolverines have played well at home all season and have plenty of motivation with a potential Big Ten Championship Game appearance on the line. The weather calls for a perfect late November Saturday with cloudy skies, 42 degrees, and no precipitation, so the scene will be set for a classic Ohio State-Michigan game. And I think that’s exactly what we will get.

Make no mistake about it; Ohio State is the better team. But the gap that has separated the two teams for the last decade will be as narrow as it has been since the last time the two faced off as top 10 teams in 2006. Michigan will need to break out its bag of tricks, but won’t need to fully rely on them like they have the past several meetings. Michigan has a legitimate chance to win. The biggest key will be giving Jake Rudock time to throw. It’s unlikely that Michigan will be able to move the ball consistently on the ground, since it hasn’t done so against anyone since early in the season. But Rudock has been as good as any quarterback in the Big Ten during conference play, and especially the last three weeks when the passing game has taken off. Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh will have trouble getting open against Conley and Apple, and Jake Butt will meet his match against Bell, so if Rudock is constantly under pressure, it will be a long day for Michigan’s offense.

Fortunately, I believe Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will pull out all stops with Jabrill Peppers. Harbaugh hinted at using the dynamic sophomore more at running back earlier this week, and with a month off between this game and a bowl — barring a Michigan State loss — there’s no need to hold Peppers back. I could see a running back rotation of Peppers and De’Veon Smith with Peppers getting the majority of the snaps in a variety of looks to not only get the ball to him in space, but use him as a decoy to get others open. That’s really the best shot Michigan has at being able to move the ball with any consistency.

On defense, Michigan will have to stop Elliott. That’s really what it comes down to. The chance of him getting just 12 carries is about as likely as Rudock running the triple option. Elliott may get 12 carries in the first quarter until Michigan proves it can stop him. Remember the Indiana game when Jordan Howard ran and ran and ran again? That’s what Ohio State’s game plan will be. If Michigan’s front seven can rise to the occasion and slow him down, Ohio State’s offense is much more containable. Miller is a threat when he gets the ball in space and has the ability beat the defense deep, but the rest of the offense isn’t as dangerous as anyone else Michigan has faced and Jourdan Lewis can lock down Thomas.

If Elliott is gashing through Michigan’s defense for six to eight yards a pop, Michigan will lose. If Michigan’s defense is holding him in check like Michigan State’s did, and forces the Buckeyes to rely on Barrett’s arm and legs, I like Michigan’s chances. I think the latter will happen. Michigan will sell out to stop Elliott and may give up a big play or two to Miller or Barrett, but will gladly take that over getting the ball rammed down its throat play after play after play. Peppers puts together a performance for the ages in all three phases of the game, reminiscent of his idol, Charles Woodson’s, performance 18 years ago, and leads Michigan to a thrilling narrow win.

Michigan 27 – Ohio State 24

First Look: Ohio State

Monday, November 23rd, 2015


Sad urban

The Game lost a little bit of luster when Ohio State lost to Michigan State on Saturday evening, putting the Spartans solely in possession of their Big Ten East destiny. The winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game will have to hope Penn State pulls off an upset in East Lansing; otherwise, the winner of college football’s greatest rivalry will have only bragging rights and a better bowl placement to take away from it. But bragging rights are always enough in this rivalry. Let’s take a look at how the teams compare.

Ohio State team stats & Michigan comparison
Ohio State | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 34.4 | 32.2 T36 | 51
14.1 14.9 2 6
Rushing Yards 2,534 1,775 1,471 1,102
Rush Avg. Per Game 230.4 161.4 14 81
133.7 100.2 30 4
Avg. Per Rush 5.5 | 4.2
3.4 3.1
Passing Yards 2,131 2,505 1,807 1,792
Pass Avg. Per Game 193.7 227.7 100 60 164.3 162.9 T5 4
Total Offense 4,665 | 4,280 3,278 2,894
Total Off Avg. Per Game 424.1 389.1 48 72 298.0 263.1 8 2
Kick Return Average 23.4 30.7 32 2 16.2 20.3 5 | 44
Punt Return Average 12.3 11.4 26 32 3.6 11.5 18 98
Avg. Time of Possession 28:52 | 33:19 83 | 10
31:08 | 26:41
3rd Down Conversion Pct 38.0% | 44.0% 81 34
33.0% | 23.0% T23 2
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 16-88 | 16-84
T33 | T33
32-181 | 29-224
T14 | T25
Touchdowns Scored 51 44
19 | 17
Field Goals-Attempts 7-12 14-18
8-15 | 15-18
Red Zone Scores (35-44) 80%|(43-46) 93% 93 | 7
(19-25) 76%|(21-25) 84% 23 64
Red Zone Touchdowns (28-44) 64%|(32-46) 70% (15-25) 60%|(8-25) 32%

Ohio State is averaging 2.2 more points per game than Michigan and 35 more total yards per game. However, in Big Ten play, Michigan leads the conference in points per game (34.7) and Ohio State is second at 34.3, though the Buckeyes still have the edge in total yards.

Through the first 10 games of the season, Ohio State’s rushing game was one to fear with Heisman candidate running back Ezekiel Elliott. But he got just 12 carries against Michigan State on Saturday as Ohio State was held to just 86 yards rushing as a team. Quarterback J.T. Barrett got the majority of the carries with 14 for just 44 yards and that drew the ire of Elliott in his postgame comments.

“How we lost, I just feel like we weren’t put in the right opportunity to win this game, we weren’t put in the right situations to win this game,” Elliott said. “I don’t think Michigan State was better than us. They weren’t. We didn’t execute.”

Whether that earns him a punishment or an extra helping of carries this Saturday remains to be seen, but he’s still one of the best backs in the nation and he still ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 132.5 yards per game. He also leads the conference with 17 rushing touchdowns.

The passing game, on the other hand, has been wildly inconsistent this season. It ranks 100th nationally and 11th in the Big Ten, right in between two of Michigan’s last three opponents: Rutgers and Penn State. Those two managed just 201 combined passing yards against Michigan’s pass defense that ranks fourth nationally. Barrett doesn’t rank among the top 10 quarterbacks in the Big Ten in passing, and Ohio State’s leading receiver, Michael Thomas, ranks 10th in receiving yards per game (59.9).

Defensively, Ohio State is just a hair behind Michigan, ranking 30th nationally against the run and fifth against the pass. The Buckeyes do allow less than a point fewer per game, but that’s negligible. Two main differences between Ohio State and Michigan’s defenses are third down conversion and red zone defense. Ohio State ranks a respectable 23rd nationally, allowing opponents to convert third downs 33 percent of the time compared to Michigan’s 23 percent, which is second nationally. In the red zone, Michigan has done a much better job of forcing opponents to kick field goals. Both teams have allowed 25 opponent trips to the red zone. Ohio State has given up 15 touchdowns, while Michigan has allowed just eight.

Both teams are pretty good on special teams with dynamic return men. Michigan ranks second nationally in kick returns with the trio of Jourdan Lewis, Jabrill Peppers, and Jehu Chesson, all of which is a threat to take it all the way. Ohio State’s Dontre Wilson and Curtis Samuel rank 32nd in that regard. But Jalen Marshall’s 12.8-yard punt return average has the Bucks slightly ahead of Michigan in that category.

So what can we expect on Saturday? It’s too early for a prediction, but it’s a much more even matchup than any of us thought it would be entering the season. The status of Elliott and the psyche of a team that just suffered its first loss in 24 Big Ten games will play a major part in the outcome. Will they bounce back or will they crumble from their first experience of adversity? We’ll find out at high noon on Saturday.

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.

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.