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Posts Tagged ‘Urban Meyer’

#9 Ohio State 31 – Michigan 20: QB play, missed opportunities doom Michigan in The Game

Saturday, November 25th, 2017


(Patrick Barron)

Michigan’s offense took the field with 2:47 remaining and a chance to go win the ball game. Instead, John O’Korn dropped back to pass and heaved the ball downfield to a wide open Ohio State safety. With two open receivers on the play, the fifth-year senior misread the coverage, according to Jim Harbaugh after the game, and Michigan fell for the fourth time this season and the sixth straight time to rival Ohio State, 31-20.

The sequence of events perfectly summed up the entire game as Michigan often took a step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, and two more steps back. The game plan was good enough to win but the quarterback play wasn’t. It’s as simple as that.

Final Stats
Michigan  Ohio State
Score 20 31
Record 8-4 (5-4) 10-2 (8-1)
Total Yards 295 350
Net Rushing Yards 100 226
Net Passing Yards 195 124
First Downs 16 17
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties-Yards 6-50 9-75
Punts-Yards 7-288 6-270
Time of Possession 28:43 31:17
Third Down Conversions 9-of-17 8-of-16
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 3-13 5-43
Field Goals 0-for-0 1-for-2
PATs 2-for-3 4-for-4
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 2-of-2
Red Zone TDs-Chances 3-of-3 2-of-2
Full Box Score

O’Korn loves the University of Michigan and has poured his heart and soul into it. He has been heavily involved off the field, paying visits to U of M Mott’s Children’s Hospital and befriending superfan Larry Prout Jr. For all of those things, he’s the model Michigan Man and deserves to be commended. But he simply wasn’t good enough on Saturday, and when you play big-time college football you have to accept due criticism as well.

Michigan got the ball first, but was forced to punt. After the defense forced an Ohio State punt, the offense went to work, driving 77 yards on 13 plays for the game’s first touchdown. To his credit, O’Korn made some nice throws, including a 27-yard strike to Zach Gentry on 3rd-and-8 to set up the opening score.

At the end of the first quarter, facing a 4th-and-20, Urban Meyer called timeout to allow his punter to kick with the wind instead of letting the quarter run out. Donovan Peoples-Jones made him pay, returning the punt 42 yards to the Ohio State 11-yard line. An Ohio State holding penalty moved it to the six. Two plays later, O’Korn found tight end Sean McKeon in the end zone to put Michigan ahead 14-0.

But Ohio State answered, mounting an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive of its own on the ensuing possession. However, Michigan had a great chance to continue its momentum when Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett overthrew his receiver right into the hands of safety Josh Metellus. But he couldn’t hold on and Barrett made him pay with a 21-yard touchdown scamper on the next play to pull OSU within 14-7.

After a Michigan punt that gave Ohio State the ball near midfield, the Buckeyes evened the score with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Barrett to tight end Marcus Baugh. The teams went into the half knotted at 14.

Ohio State began the third quarter with possession, but Michigan’s defense forced a three-and-out, gaining the field position edge that resulted in a go-ahead score two drives later. Starting at their own 49, O’Korn hit Kekoa Crawford in the flat, who raced 43 yards to the Ohio State 8-yard line. Three plays later, Karan Higdon scored from two yards out, but Quinn Nordin’s extra point attempt was blocked, putting Michigan ahead 20-14 midway through the third.

As has been the case much of the season, Michigan’s stout defense surrendered a score following an offensive score, allowing Ohio State to drive 78 yards on 11 plays. Midway through the drive, Barrett went down with a leg injury and was replaced by Dwayne Haskins, who made two big plays. First, he connected with receiver Austin Mack for a 27-yard gain on 3rd-and-13. Mack held onto the ball despite a vicious hit by Tyree Kinnel that left Kinnel injured with a likely concussion. Two plays later, he evaded a rushing Maurice Hurst and galloped 22 yards to the 1-yard line. J.K. Dobbins finished the job to put the Buckeyes ahead 21-20.

Michigan’s offense failed to get anything going the rest of the way as O’Korn was sacked four times and threw the game-ending interception. Ohio State added a 44-yard field goal and a 25-yard Mike Weber touchdown run in garbage time to expand the margin of victory.

For the game, Michigan rushed for 100 yards and passed for 195, essentially equaling the total yardage Ohio State’s defense allows per game. O’Korn completed 17-of-32 passes for 195 yards, a touchdown, and the interception. Chris Evans amassed 101 total yards, rushing for 67 on 6.1 yards per carry and catching five passes for 34 yards, to lead the team in both rushing and receptions. Higdon added 55 yards on 5.1 yards per carry, while Crawford led the team with 57 receiving yards.

Defensively, Michigan held Ohio State to 350 total yards — 200 below their season average — and just 124 yards through the air. Barrett completed 3-of-8 passes for 30 yards and a touchdown, while Haskins completed 6-of-7 for 94. Dobbins topped the century mark with 101 rushing yards on 6.7 yards per carry, while Weber added 67 on 4.5.

Michigan finishes the regular season with an 8-4 record overall and 5-4 in Big Ten play, while Ohio State improves to 10-2 and 8-1 and will face undefeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game next Saturday in Indianapolis. Michigan will await its bowl fate following next weekend’s conference championship games. Most signs are pointing toward the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec .28 with the Wolverines facing either Harbaugh’s former team (Stanford) or Michigan’s former coach, Rich Rodriguez’s new team (Arizona).

Game Ball – Offense

Chris Evans (11 carries for 67 yards, 5 receptions for 34 yards)
It was apparent from the outset that Evans was playing determined football, fighting through tackles and gaining extra yards on Michigan’s first few possessions. On Michigan’s first touchdown drive, he had runs of nine yards and 24 yards and also a 13-yard reception on 3rd-and-11. On Michigan’s next possession, he converted a 3rd-and-4 with a 5-yard catch. He finished the game with three explosive runs (of 10 yards or more) and three of Michigan’s nine third-down conversions. It was his third game ball in Michigan’s final four weeks.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
Week 2 — Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Week 3 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 receptions for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 104 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 4 — John O’Korn (18-of-26 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 5 rushes for 12 yards)
Week 5 — Karan Higdon (12 carries for 65 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 2 receptions for 33 yards)
Week 6 — Karan Higdon (25 carries for 200 yards, 3 touchdowns, 8.0 yards per carry)
Week 7 — None
Week 8 — Brandon Peters (10-of-14 for 124 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 9 — Karan Higdon (16 carries for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns) & Chris Evans (18 carries for 193 yards and 2 touchdowns)
Week 10 — Chris Evans (15 carries for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns, 2 receptions for 29 yards)
Week 11 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (4 receptions for 64 yards)

Game Ball – Defense

Rashan Gary (10 tackles — 5 solo — 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
The old sports adage is that great players rise to the occasion in big games. Michigan’s star sophomore defensive end, Rashan Gary, did just that. He has been unfairly criticized at times this season for not posting gaudy numbers while taking on double teams and allowing others to make plays. Today, he was a force from the start. He sacked Barrett for a three yard loss on Ohio State’s second possession and again on OSU’s second possession of the second half, that time for a loss of six on 3rd-and-5 to force a punt. Then, when Michigan needed to get the ball back for a chance to win, he stuffed Weber for a loss of two on 3rd-and-1, setting up a 43-yard field goal, which the Buckeyes missed. To make the performance even more impressive, Gary injured his shoulder in the first half — some reports said he dislocated it but popped it back in and continued playing. It was an inspiring performance by the star of Michigan’s defense.

Previous:
Week 1 – Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 2 – Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception return for touchdown)
Week 3 – Chase Winovich (9 tackles – 3 solo – 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry)
Week 4 — Chase Winovich (6 tackles — all solo — 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks
Week 5 — Maurice Hurst (8 tackles — 6 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss)
Week 6 — Rashan Gary (7 tackles — 3 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries)
Week 7 — Khaleke Hudson (4 tackles — 4 solo — 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 pass breakup)
Week 8 — Maurice Hurst (8 tacles — 2 solo — 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)
Week 9 — Khaleke Hudson (13 tackles — 11 solo — 7.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
Week 10 — 4 tackles — 3 solo — 1 pass breakup, 1 interception returned 80 yards)
Week 11 — Khaleke Hudson — 9 tackles — 3 solo — 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup, 1 quarterback hurry)

The Game preview: Michigan vs #9 Ohio State

Friday, November 24th, 2017


(Patrick Barron)

It seems like just a few weeks ago that we were eagerly anticipating a big season opener against Florida, hopeful of a big win to kick off a good season despite losing nearly every major contributor from 2016. Michigan did win, 33-17, but it raised expectations and set up what has seemed to be a disappointing season to date. Saturday offers one last chance at redemption as Michigan hosts 9th-ranked Ohio State.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12p.m. EST – FOX
Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (6th season)
Coaching Record: 174-31 (70-8 at OSU)
Offensive Coordinator: Kevin Wilson (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Greg Schiano (2nd season)
Last Season: 11-2 (8-1 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: OSU 30 – UM 27 2OT (2016)
All-Time Series: Michigan 58-49-6
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 31-22-4
Jim Harbaugh vs Ohio State 0-2
Last Michigan win: 2011 (40-34)
Last Ohio State win: 2016 (30-27 2OT)
Current Streak: Ohio State 5
Ohio State schedule to date
Opponent Result
at Indiana W 49-21
#5 Oklahoma L 16-31
Army W 38-7
UNLV W 54-21
at Rutgers W 56-0
Maryland W 62-14
at Nebraska W 56-14
#2 Penn State W 39-38
at Iowa L 24-55
#12 Michigan State W 48-3
Illinois W 52-14

The national narrative surrounding the Michigan football program has become that the Jim Harbaugh tenure has been a failure and that he may be looking to get out of Ann Arbor. Kirk Herbstreit spewed the nonsense on ESPN College GameDay last Saturday, ESPN anchors discussed if Harbaugh is a candidate for UCLA’s opening prior to Michigan’s basketball game on Monday night, and Paul Finebaum has been shouting Harbaugh’s demise from rooftops all season. Right or wrong, only one thing can change that narrative and that’s beating the Buckeyes on Saturday.

Michigan hasn’t done so since Brady Hoke took advantage of the Jim Tressel-to-Urban Meyer transition by topping Luke Fickell in 2011. Ohio State has won the last five, though if you ask anyone outside Columbus, J.T. was short last year. Michigan took the Buckeyes to double-overtime in the Horseshoe and appeared to have stopped J.T. Barrett short of the line to gain on 4th-and-1, but it was ruled a first down. One play later, Curtis Samuel scored the game-winning touchdown.

And so has been the torturous past decade and a half for one half of the sport’s greatest rivalry. To say Michigan is due for a win and Harbaugh is due for a big rivalry win would be an understatement. But that’s not how it works. Whether Michigan has won 14 of the last 16 or lost 14 of the last 16 it doesn’t change the fact that they enter tomorrow’s matchup as a double-digit underdog and will need to play their best game of the season to pull off an upset.

Ohio State may have the most upside as any team in the country, but they also might have the lowest floor of any of the teams still in contention to make the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes have one of the nation’s most potent offenses and have averaged 50.4 points in their nine wins, but have scored a total of just 40 points in their two losses.

Their performance against Iowa three weeks ago gives Michigan a sliver of hope that even the mighty Buckeyes can have an off day. Michigan averages a half point more per game than Iowa does, has a slightly better offense and a considerably better defense, so if they play well and catch a break or two, anything can happen.

Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Ohio State offense

Last offseason, Urban Meyer did what many Michigan fans hope Jim Harbaugh does this offseason: go out and land a top-notch offensive coordinator. Meyer pulled in Kevin Wilson, who was fired from Indiana following the 2016 season for player mistreatment. Last year’s co-offensive coordinator was hired by former offensive coordinator Tom Herman at Texas and the other co-offensive coordinator, Ed Warinner, was let go in favor of Wilson.

Wilson was known as a great offensive mind during his six years in Bloomington. Although he went just 26-47, he constantly featured one of the top offenses in the Big Ten. He was summoned to Columbus to bring back the tempo that Herman installed but Beck and Warinner got away from. All he has done is guide an offense than ranks 3rd nationally and 1st in the Big Ten in scoring (44.9 points per game), 12th and 1st in rushing (252.5 yards per game), 20th and 1st in passing (293.6 yards per game), and 4th and 1st in total offense (546.2 yards per game).

The obvious leader of the Buckeye offense is senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who is looking to become the first quarterback in the history of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry to win four games over the other. He’s the team’s second-leading rusher with 605 yards and eight touchdowns, but his passing acumen has always been his knock. However, he ranks third in the Big Ten with 245.3 passing yards per game and leads the conference with a completion rate of 66.9 percent. He also has a 32-to-7 touchdown to interception ratio, though five of those seven picks have come in the two losses and six of the seven have come in the last three weeks.

Barrett has the fortune of one of the nation’s best true freshmen in the backfield. J.K. Dobbins ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing with 99.0 yards per game behind Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for 132 yards on 6.9 yards per carry against Michigan last Saturday. Dobbins is averaging 7.3 yards per carry this season with four 100-yard rushing games, though he has done so just once in the past four weeks and twice since Week 3. He has found the end zone just once in the past month, but he has been sharing the backfield lately with redshirt sophomore Mike Weber, who has topped 100 yards in each of the last two weeks and has scored four touchdowns.

Junior Parris Campbell is the team’s leading receiver, averaging 51.8 yards per game, though he hasn’t been as much of a factor lately as he was in the early part of the season. He caught six passes for 136 yards and a score in the season opener and also topped 100 yards in Week 4 against UNLV, but has averaged just 2.8 catches for 32.7 yards over the last six weeks. Redshirt sophomore K.J. Hill leads the team in receptions with 49 thanks to a 12-catch, 102-yard performance against Penn State. He averages just 9.5 yards per reception, which is worst among all receivers.

Junior Johnnie Dixon is the big-play guy, averaging 24.3 yards per reception and he leads the team with eight touchdowns on just 17 receptions. But the oft-injured Dixon missed the Michigan State game two weeks ago and didn’t catch a pass last week. Junior Terry McLaurin and sophomore Binjimen Victor have combined for 12 touchdowns and nearly 700 yards receiving.

Ohio State defense

While the Ohio State offense is operating under a new coordinator this season, the defense is in its second year under former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. His defense is good this season, but not quite as good as it has been in recent years. It ranks 22nd nationally and 5th in the Big Ten in scoring (19.8 points per game), 12th and 4th against the run (114.0 yards per game), 15th and 4th against the pass (177.5 yards per game), and 8th and 3rd in total defense (291.5 yards per game).

The strength of Ohio State’s defense — like usual — is the defensive front, led by sophomore end Nick Bosa and senior tackle Tyquan Lewis. Bosa leads the team with 11.5 tackles for loss and five sacks, while Lewis, last year’s Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, is close behind with 4.5 sacks. Add in junior end Sam Hubbard, senior tackle Tracy Sprinkle, senior end Jalyn Holmes, and redshirt sophomore tackle Dre’Mont Jones, and it’s enough to give Michigan fans nightmares given the Wolverines’ troubles with pass protection this season. Like Michigan’s, it’s a deep and extremely talented defensive line.

Senior linebacker Chris Worley started 14 games at outside linebacker the past couple seasons but moved inside this year and ranks fourth on the team with 43 tackles and five tackles for loss. Junior Jerome Baker and senior Dante Booker are the outside ‘backers, though both missed the Michigan State game two weeks ago. With those injuries, Worley moved back to the outside two weeks ago and redshirt freshman Tuf Borland filled in admirably in the middle.

The secondary got picked apart early in the season, but has gotten better as the season has progressed. In the season opener, Indiana threw for 420 yards and the Buckeyes couldn’t stop Simmie Cobbs, who caught 11 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Oklahoma threw for 386 yards a week later, but OSU’s secondary has been much better since. Still, it gave up 244 passing yards to Iowa’s 87th-ranked passing offense three weeks ago.

Redshirt sophomore Damon Arnette and junior Denzel Ward are the starting corners and have combined for 66 tackles, five for loss, three interceptions, 20 passes defended, and 17 pass breakups. Sophomore Jordan Fuller and senior Damon Webb are the safeties and the two leading tacklers on the team with a combined 103 tackles. Webb leads the team with three interceptions.

Ohio State special teams

Redshirt junior kicker Sean Nuernberger is dependable, having made 13-of-15 attempts this season with a long of 38. He was the team’s kicker as a freshman during the 2014 national championship run, making 13-of-20, but lost the job the next season and redshirted in 2016. Sophomore punter Dru Chrisman was the top-rated punter in the 2016 class and ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 43.5 yards per game.

Campbell leads the Big Ten in kick returns, averaging 36.6 yards per return with a long of 82, though he hasn’t scored a touchdown. Hill is the team’s main punt returner, averaging just 3.5 yards per return.

Prediction

I’m not going to sugar coat it. If Brandon Peters is out tomorrow, I don’t give Michigan much of a chance. John O’Korn is a great guy and clearly loves Michigan, but based on what we’ve seen this season, combined with the offensive line’s struggles in pass protection, Ohio State’s front seven is going to have a field day.

The hope is that Harbaugh, Tim Drevno, and Pep Hamilton have been able to come up with a few wrinkles that can squeak out some points and help get the running game going. Remember last week when they lined Chris Evans up in the wildcat to no avail? Hopefully that’s not the wrinkle tomorrow, but perhaps it was put in against Wisconsin to set up another wrinkle against Ohio State. Who knows, but simply lining up and trying to run at Ohio State isn’t going to work without at least some passing threat.

Defensively, Michigan needs to load the box to stop the run while keeping Barrett in sight at all times and forcing him to throw the ball. If he beats Michigan’s top-rated pass defense with his arm, fine. But don’t let him beat you with his legs. At least one of Barrett, Dobbins, or Weber will likely break a big run, but if the defense can’t keep Barrett contained, it’s going to be a long day.

I think Michigan holds close through the first half thanks to a strong defense, but fades in the second similar to the Wisconsin game. Ohio State simply has too much firepower to leave on the field for long periods of time if Michigan’s offense can’t sustain drives.

Score Prediction: Ohio State 31 – Michigan 13

 

First Look: #8 Ohio State

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017


Michigan put up a fight for 40 minutes in Madison last Saturday, leading the fifth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers 10-7 until midway through the third quarter, but disaster struck in the form of a head injury to quarterback Brandon Peters and the Wolverines suffered a 24-10 defeat to drop to 8-3 on the season and 5-3 in Big Ten play. They have one regular season game remaining and it’s the big one — the one that is simply referred to as The Game. It presents one last chance to salvage what most consider to be a disappointing season and spoil Ohio State’s hopes of a College Football Playoff berth.

Ohio State & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
44.9 3rd 26.3 82nd PPG 19.8 22nd 17.1 11th
2,778 2,136 Rush Yds 1,254 1,285
252.5 12th 194.2 35th Rush/Gm 114.0 12th 116.8 15th
6.0 4.6 Rush Avg 3.2 3.4
3,230 1,828 Pass Yds 1,953 1,588
293.6 20th 166.2 111th Pass/Gm 177.5 15th 144.4 1st
6,008 3,964 Total Off. 3,207 2,873
546.2 4th 360.4 102nd Total Off./Gm 291.5 8th 261.2 3rd
25.0 15th 19.5 99th KR Avg 17.6 14th 15.6 2nd
3.8 117h 7.5 63rd PR Avg 1.0 1st 10.5 100th
28:40 91st 32:02 22nd Avg TOP 31:20 27:58
50% 4th 33% 112th 3rd Down% 30% 14th 25% 1st
16-96 30th 29-205 102nd Sacks-Yds 29-208 23rd 36-251 8th
65 35 TDs 29 23
13-15 (87%) 15-20 (75%) FG-ATT 5-10 (50%) 9-14 (64%)
54-61 (89%) 36th 31-36 (86%) 53rd Red Zone 23-30 (77%) 22nd 21-26 (81%) 45th
41-61 (67%) 19-36 (53%)  RZ TD 18-30 (60%) 15-26 (58%)
3.79 2nd 2.27 57th OFEI/DFEI 1.39 15th 1.35 11th
40.9 4th 27.8 69th S&P+ 18.8 12th 18.1 8th

When everything is clicking Ohio State may have the most upside of any team in the country. But as their two losses indicate, they also may have the lowest floor of any of the teams in contention to make the final four. The Buckeyes have two good wins, both at home, over then-No. 2 Penn State (39-38) and then-No. 12 Michigan State (48-3). But their two losses to then-No. 5 Oklahoma and then-unranked Iowa have come by a combined 46 points.

The Iowa loss was the most surprising as the Hawkeyes took a 31-17 lead into the half and kept piling on in the second, eventually winning 55-24. They have since dropped their last two games at Wisconsin and at home to Purdue by a combined 33 points to fall to just 6-5 overall and 3-5 in conference play. They’re simply not a very good team, and yet they handed Ohio State a 31-point loss. In fact, in their two games before the Ohio State game and their two games since, they’ve combined to score a total of 56 points — one more than they scored against the Buckeyes.

So is there hope for Michigan? Objectively, sure. The Wolverines average about a half a point more than Iowa does, have a slightly better offense, and a considerably better defense. And in a rivalry game like this, anything can happen. But when applying recent history, its hard to imagine Michigan breaking out of the slump that has seen them lose 14 of the last 16 meetings.

This season, Ohio State features one of the nation’s most explosive offenses, ranking 3rd nationally in scoring (44.9 points per game), 12th in rushing (252.5 yards per game), 20th in passing (293.6 yards per game), and 4th in total offense (546.2 yards per game).

The Buckeyes have been held below 25 points just twice this season and both were losses — 24 points against Iowa and 16 against Oklahoma. They’ve scored 48 or more points in eight of 11 games with a high of 62 against Maryland. The only game in which they scored fewer than 48 but more than 24 was the 39-38 come-from-behind win over Penn State.

The running game hasn’t been held below 163 yards in a single game this season. Michigan’s rush defense, which ranks 15th nationally, allows just 116.8 yards per game and has allowed 163 or more just four times in 11 games, although it has done so in each of the past two. Ohio State has topped 200 yards rushing eight times and 300 yards in each of the last two weeks. The same Michigan State defense that held Michigan to 102 rushing yards on 39 carries yielded 335 yards on 42 carries to OSU.

The passing game isn’t quite as good under senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, but it’s still dangerous and the Buckeyes’ receivers have matured throughout the season. In the two losses, Barrett has thrown a combined five interceptions — four of which came against Iowa — and in the nine wins, he has thrown just three. Iowa and Oklahoma held the Bucks to just 195.5 passing yards per game on just a 53.6 percent completion rate. Those other nine games? He’s averaged 315.4 passing yards on a 69.6 percent completion rate.

Michigan boasts the nation’s top pass defense, allowing just 144.4 yards per game, and with a healthy Lavert Hill back, they’ll present the toughest matchup OSU has faced to date. Michigan has allowed just one opponent — Penn State — to pass for more than 200 yards.

Defensively, Ohio State isn’t nearly as good as they were a year ago but they still rank among the nation’s best. The Buckeyes rank 22nd nationally in scoring defense (19.8 points per game), 12th against the run (114.0 yards per game), 15th against the pass (177.5 yards per game), and 8th in total defense (291.5 yards per game).

With the exception of two games, OSU’s defense has been tough against the run. One of those two, Army, is excusable because they’re a service academy that runs a wacky offense like Michigan’s defense saw with Air Force. The other was Iowa, who inexplicably rushed for a season-high 243 yards on 6.4 yards per carry. To put that in context, Iowa has rushed for more than 200 yards just one other time (against North Texas) and has been held to just 89 yards or fewer four times.

Ohio State’s pass defense has been more susceptible, though it rebounded from a very poor start to the season. In the season opener, Indiana passed for 420 yards and Oklahoma threw for 386 a week later. Since then, Ohio State has allowed more than 200 yards passing just twice and has held three opponents — Army, Maryland, and Illinois — to fewer than 20 passing yards. The exceptions were Nebraska’s 27th-ranked passing offense which threw for 349 yards and Iowa’s 87th-ranked passing offense that passed for 244.

On special teams, Ohio State is one of the nation’s best in kick returns, but one of the worst in the punt return game. They’re also among the nation’s best at defending both kick and punt returns. Kicking-wise, Ohio State has converted 13-of-15 field goals.

The Buckeyes will be the most talented team Michigan has faced this season, but as Iowa showed three weeks ago, they’re beatable. Just how much of a chance Michigan will have will likely depend on the health of Peters.

#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)

M&GB staff predictions: The Game

Saturday, November 26th, 2016


StaffPicks_banner20152

Previously this week: First Look: Ohio State, Tailgate Tuesday, Five-Spot Challenge, Big Ten power rankings, The Numbers GameGame preview

The day we look forward to all year is finally here. For the first time in 10 years both teams enter with enormously high expectations. Not only is a Big Ten championship game berth on the line, but a potential spot in the College Football Playoff is up for grabs. Win and you’re still alive. Lose and you’ll get a decent bowl game as a consolation prize.

Let’s not waste any more time with the pleasantries. You know the stakes. Here are this week’s picks:

Justin (2)

I’ll start with a disclaimer. This prediction is based on Speight being able to play the whole game. If he’s unable to play, or if he’s knocked out of the game, I predict a Michigan loss. But I’m hedging my bets on his shoulder not being quite as bad as Harbaugh let on the past couple of weeks.

In a game like this where both teams rank among the nation’s best both offensively and defensively, and both teams will come in full of emotion in a rivalry game, I like to think that they’ll both keep doing what the are good at — what got them there.

Staff Predictions
Michigan    Ohio St   
Justin 26 24
Derick 14 24
Sam 17 24
Josh 13 27
Joe 21 20
M&GB Average 18 24

As we saw in this week’s The Numbers Game, Ohio State’s defense has been susceptible to big plays, especially in the run game where they rank 77th nationally, giving up 5.91 explosive runs per game. In fact, they’re slightly worse in that regard than Indiana, which entered last week surrendering 5.7 per game — 70th nationally. We all know what Michigan’s running game did to the Hoosiers, racking up seven explosive runs including De’Veon Smith’s scampers of 39, 34, and 25 yards. We also know that on drives in which Michigan has an explosive play they score 73 percent of the time.

Michigan’s offense averages 11.36 explosive plays per game and OSU’s defense surrenders 8.09 per game. Let’s say Michigan’s offense gets eight and scores points on 75 percent of those. Even if they’re all field goals, that’s 18 points. But Michigan will score at least one touchdown, so now we’re into the 20s. Two puts them at 26 points — two touchdowns and four field goals — and I think that’s enough to win the game.

Michigan’s defense surrenders just 6.09 explosive plays per game — fifth nationally — while Ohio State’s offense averages 11.09 (16th). The Wolverines haven’t surrendered more than nine explosive plays in non-garbage time this season. But even so, even if Ohio State’s powerful offense gets its average of 11, Michigan’s defense gives up points just 35 percent of the time. That equates to four scores and I doubt all four will be touchdowns as Michigan has surrendered just 14 all season. Three touchdowns and a field goal is 24 points.

Sure, it may be slightly ridiculous to base a prediction on explosive play stats, but they’ve been pretty accurate all season. And now we have 11 games worth of data to use. If Speight plays, Michigan’s offense will be able to move the ball well enough to put up some point on the Buckeyes, even if they settle for field goals. Senior Kenny Allen will come up big by making all of them. Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will empty the kitchen sink trying to soften the Buckeye defense for Smith to get the running game going.

On the other side, Michigan will surrender a few big plays, likely including the 50-yard touchdown run up the middle that has become standard for OSU in this game. But by and large, the U-M defense will hold strong and keep the Bucks out of rhythm.

The game live up to its billing, going down to the wire. Allen boots a game-winning field goal, Michigan escapes the snake pit with its first win in 16 years, and heads to Indy for a rematch with Wisconsin. Of course, if Speight doesn’t play, this could be all moot.

Michigan 26 – Ohio State 24

Derick (1)

It’s finally time for the game everyone has been waiting for, and it’s even more important than we all imagined. Michigan and Ohio State will be fighting to stay alive in the College Football Playoff race, while the loser will be out of the running.

Last year, Michigan appeared to have a good chance to take down Ohio State at home, but the combination of J.T. Barrett and an excellent running back tore the Wolverines apart. Unfortunately for Michigan, that combination still exists.

Three weeks ago, I thought Michigan was the better team, but after a loss to Iowa and an awful offensive performance against Indiana at the home finale, that confidence has started to slip away.

I think Michigan is one of the three best teams in the country this season, but I think it will come up short on Saturday.

Ohio State 24 – Michigan 14

Sam (3)

So this is what it has all come down to. This, for all the marbles. A win for Michigan means a Big Ten championship game berth for the first time since its inception and one game closer to their first ever appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Unfortunately, I’m not nearly as hopeful about the outcome of this game as I was about three weeks ago when it looked as if the Wolverine offense was inching closer to their vaunted defense. One miserable performance and one quarterback injury later and the offense is looking fairly pedestrian of late while the defense continues to play about as well could be reasonably expected.

If the Maize and Blue are to have any shot it’s going to need to come in a defensive slugfest with a ground game that’s just good enough to put a couple scores on the board. I have an inkling that if Jabrill Peppers records his first ever interception, the visitors will walk away victorious. I also have an inkling that we we won’t be seeing that.

I trust Don Brown’s defense to hold the Buckeyes at bay for the most part but I have little faith that Michigan’s offense is going to be able to consistently churn yardage out against a stout OSU defense with what is likely to be a one-dimensional attack. In the end, J.T. Barrett will make the difference over John O’Korn to maintain Buckeye dominance of late in this yearly war and keep Harbaugh’s squad out of the final four. As much as it pains me to say it, give me Ohio State.

Ohio State 24 – Michigan 17

Josh (1)

I’ll just come out and say it: If anyone other than a close to 100 percent Wilton Speight comes out on the first series I don’t see Michigan winning this game. I said in my preseason prediction that Michigan would lose to Iowa (they did) and OSU. I also said that serious injuries to key players could derail the season. If Speight is out, Michigan loses; plain and simple. I just don’t see how John O’Korn can lead them to victory in Columbus.

That said, IF Wilton Speight does play I think Michigan has an excellent chance to win.

On defense, Michigan needs to have figured out how to stop the missed tackling issues and they need to seal the edge. If not, Curtis Samuel is going to run rampant downfield. J.T. Barrett doesn’t scare me if he’s forced to pass, the problem is when the defense loses contain. I’m interested to see what Don Brown has cooked up. Personally, I’d use the pass rush to contain him and just slowly close the pocket around him and trust the back end to do their jobs. But Don Brown is not exactly known for being a passive, sit back and wait coordinator. However, this is why he was brought in; to solve the problem OSU’s offense presents and to win The Game.

If they can keep Barrett from escaping pressure and finally seal the edge to keep Samuels and Mike Weber from breaking free for long runs then Michigan should be able to give the offense enough to work with to come out with the win.

On offense, Michigan needs to keep OSU honest with a balanced attack and they ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO hit a few deep balls so the running game doesn’t get bottled up. As much as I love the running backs Michigan has not one of them possesses all the skills of an elite back. Penn State’s Saquan Barkley and Michigan State’s L.J. Scott had some great games against this defense, but I don’t think any one back on Michigan is as good as either of those two. Every single guy who carries the ball has to bring his A-game for Michigan to win. OSU needs to be thinking about who is back there and what he can and cannot do, information overload.

Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson just need to keep being themselves but Jake Butt and his tight end cohorts need to be a bigger part of the passing attack. They are built to wreak havoc against OSU’s defense.

All signs point to O’Korn, not Speight, being the quarterback this weekend and I don’t see how he can improve that much from last week to be able to pull out a win in Columbus. I called this a loss in the preseason and unfortunately I am going to keep it that way.

Ohio State 27 – Michigan 13

Joe (6)

It’s finally here. The biggest game of the entire NCAA football season. This one will be special on all fronts. I’m not even going to go into all the different scenarios and player predictions. Let’s just say Michigan wins by one.

Michigan 21 – Ohio State 20

The Game preview: #3 Michigan at #2 Ohio State

Friday, November 25th, 2016


um-osu-game-preview-header(Dustin Johnson)

Ten years ago, No. 2 Michigan met No. 1 Ohio State on a crisp fall day in Columbus in what was being called The Game of the Century. With the Big Ten championship game and College Football Playoff still years away, the winner of The Game would earn a spot in the BCS Championship Game.

um-ohiostate_small
Quick Facts
Ohio Stadium – 12p.m. ET – ABC
Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (5th season)
Coaching Record: 164-28 (60-5 at OSU)
Offensive Coordinator: Ed Warriner (5th season)
Co-Defensive Coordinators: Greg Schiano (1st season)
Luke Fickell (12th season)
Last Season: 12-1 (7-1 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: OSU 42 – UM 13
All-Time Series: Michigan 58-48-6
Record in Columbus: Michigan 27-26-2
Jim Harbaugh vs OSU 0-1
Last Michigan win: 2011 (40-34)
Last Ohio State win: 2015 (42-13)
Current Streak: Ohio State 4
Ohio State Schedule to date
Opponent Result
Bowling Green W 77-10
Tulsa W 48-3
at #14 Oklahoma W 45-24
Rutgers W 58-0
Indiana W 38-17
at #8 Wisconsin W 30-23
at Penn State L 21-24
Northwestern W 24-20
#10 Nebraska W 62-3
at Maryland W 62-3
at Michigan State W 17-16

After delivering a rousing speech to the team on Thursday night, Bo Schembechler passed away on Friday morning, the day before the game. The loss of the patriarch of Michigan football sent shockwaves around college football and completely changed the tone of the game. Whether it made an impact on the outcome of the game will never be known, but the game turned out to be a shootout. Michigan marched down the field for the game’s first touchdown. Ohio State answered and took a 28-14 halftime lead. Michigan fought back to within four, but was unable to pull it out as Ohio State won 42-39.

We all know the long and painful story from there. Michigan went on to lost the Rose Bowl to USC, then lost the first two games of the next season to Appalachian State and Oregon. Lloyd Carr retired at the end of the season and Michigan suffered through seven seasons of Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke.

Ohio State, meanwhile, went on to win four Big Ten championships, two BCS bowls, and play in three national championship games, winning one of them. During that span, they’ve beaten Michigan all but once, when the Wolverines pulled off a 40-34 win in Hoke’s first season, which was also a transition season between Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer.

Jim Harbaugh returned to Michigan in December 2014 and immediately locked in a solid recruiting class in short time and then turned a 5-7 team into a 10-3 team that beat SEC East champion Florida in the Capital One Bowl. But he wasn’t able to beat Ohio State, falling 42-13 in Ann Arbor. Now, 30 years after his infamous guaranteed victory over the Buckeyes, he takes his Wolverines into Columbus to try to earn a spot in the Big Ten championship game.

Ohio State comes in with an identical 10-1 overall record and 7-1 conference record as Michigan. The Buckeyes’ only loss was a 24-21 defeat at Penn State just a couple weeks after Michigan beat the Nittany Lions by 39 points. But OSU has beaten now-8th-ranked Oklahoma and 6th-ranked Wisconsin, both on the road. Add in a 62-3 thumping of now-16th-ranked Nebraska, and Ohio State has proven it can play with anyone.

Like that Game of the Century a decade ago, this year’s matchup figures to be a monumental battle between two of college football titans. In college football’s greatest rivalry, what more could you ask for? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Ohio State has the ball

Despite losing their running back, quarterback, tight end, most of the receiving corps, and their left tackle to the NFL, Ohio State’s offense hasn’t really missed a beat. It leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth nationally in scoring (43.8 points per game), leads the Big Ten and ranks eighth nationally in rushing (263.1 yards per game), ranks fifth in the Big Ten and 68th nationally in passing (230 yards per game), and leads the Big Ten and ranks 21st nationally in total offense (493.1 yards per game).

That the Buckeyes lost last season’s quarterback is slightly overstated given that junior J.T. Barrett is back. He started his freshman season, going 11-1 in 2014 before ending his season against Michigan and watching Cardale Jones lead the team to the national title. Jones won the starting job last season, but Barrett saw ample playing time, including a four-touchdown performance in last year’s Michigan game.

This season, Barrett leads the Big Ten with 24 passing touchdowns, though he ranks sixth in yards per game (209.5) — one spot behind Wilton Speight’s 215.6 — and third in pass efficiency (147.7) — one behind Speight’s 148.9. He has completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 2,304 yards and just four interceptions. But he’s coming off his worst passing performance of the season against Michigan State, in which he completed just 10-of-22 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. Still, he’s even more dangerous with his legs as he rushed for 105 yards. He has thrown for more than 200 yards in seven of 11 games, including a five-game stretch leading up to the MSU game, and he’s also tied for the team lead with eight rushing touchdowns.

Michigan fans will be familiar with redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber, the Detroit Cass Tech product who originally committed to Brady Hoke, decommitted in favor of Ohio State, and nearly switched back to Michigan after Harbaugh was hired. But he stuck with the Buckeyes and has rewarded them with a 1,000-yard season in his first campaign. He currently ranks fourth in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 95.1 yards per game. He has rushed for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns on 6.3 yards per carry. But after opening the season with three 100-yard games in his first four, he has just one in the last seven games. He rushed for 111 yards on 14 carries at Michigan State last Saturday. Penn State and Wisconsin held him to a combined 3.6 yards per carry.

The receiving corps is lead by the dangerous H-back Curtis Samuel. The junior from Brooklyn, N.Y. has 61 receptions for 790 yards and seven touchdowns — all team highs — and he also has 84 carries for 650 yards and seven scores. His 14 total touchdowns rank third in the Big Ten (non-quarterbacks) and he ranks second in the conference behind Penn State’s Saquon Barkley with 132.5 all-purpose yards per game. Sophomore Noah Brown is the team’s second leading receiver with 27 catches for 345 yards and seven touchdowns, while senior Dontre Wilson has 26 for 343 and five. Junior tight end Marcus Baugh is the only other Buckeye receiver with 20 or more receptions with 21 for 242 yards and two scores.

Ohio State’s offensive line is good but not great. They’ve given up one more sack than Michigan’s has this season, but some of that success is a result of Barrett’s mobility. Senior center Pat Elflein and junior right guard Billy Price are the are the best linemen on the team. Elflein was a second-team All-American last season. Sophomore right tackle Isaiah Prince and freshman left guard Michael Jordan are the weaknesses on the line where Michigan’s talented defensive front will attack. Junior left tackle Jamarco Jones has improved throughout the season and is a solid bookend.

When Michigan has the ball

The Buckeye defense ranks second in the Big Ten and third nationally in scoring defense (13 points per game), fourth in the Big Ten and 18th nationally against the run (120.3 yards per game) second in the Big Ten and third nationally against the pass (159.5 yards per game), and second in the Big Ten and fourth nationally in total defense (279.8 yards per game).

Like on the offensive side, despite losing much of their defense to the NFL, the Buckeyes still present the best and most athletic defense Michigan has faced yet this season. But they’re not as great at getting to the quarterback as they have been in years past, ranking just sixth in the Big Ten and 57th nationally with 24 sacks — two-thirds of Michigan’s total. Junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis leads the way in that category with 7.5 sacks, while the other end, sophomore Sam Hubbard, has three. Reserve ends, junior Jalyn Holmes and freshman Nick Bosa, have another six combined. The interior of the OSU line is lead by redshirt freshman Dre’Mont Jones and junior nose tackle Michael Hill who have a combined 59 tackles and five tackles for loss, but no sacks. Freshman backup tackle Robert Landers is also talented with 7.5 tackles for loss and one sack on the season.

There’s no dropoff at linebacker where junior Raekwon McMillan is one of the best middle linebackers in the country. He’s Ohio State’s leading tackler with 71, has 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. He’s much more athletic than your typical middle ‘backer. Sophomore WILL Jerome Baker and junior SAM Chris Worley are solid with 103 combined tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, and six passes defended.

The secondary is lead by sophomore safety Malik Hooker, who leads the Big Ten with five interceptions and is dangerous with the ball in his hands, having returned two of them for touchdowns. He ranks third on the team with 60 tackles in addition to 4.5 tackles for loss, half a sack, and nine passes defended. He’s all over the field, both in coverage and run support. Junior Damon Webb — another Cass Tech star that got away from Michigan — is the other safety and he has 48 tackles, two for loss, one interception, and four passes defended. Junior Gareon Conley — a former Michigan commit — and sophomore Marshon Lattimore are the corners and both are very good.

The other third

Fifth-year senior punter Cam Johnston is one of Ohio State’s best weapons, leading the Big Ten in punting average by a whopping 4.5 yards! He’s averaging 46.3 yards per punt with 13 of 43 punts over 50 yards and nearly half (21) downed inside the 20. Senior kicker Tyler Durbin has been the Big Ten’s most reliable placekicker, converting 16-of-17 field goals, the only miss being the block at Penn State. But the former walk-on’s long all season has been 45 yards.

Sophomore receiver Parris Campbell is a dangerous kick returner even though he hasn’t taken one all the way yet. He averages 26.6 yards per return. Wilson is the main punt returner, averaging 6.3 yards per return.

Prediction

I’ll start with a disclaimer. This prediction is based on Speight being able to play the whole game. If he’s unable to play, or if he’s knocked out of the game, I predict a Michigan loss. But I’m hedging my bets on his shoulder not being quite as bad as Harbaugh let on the past couple of weeks.

In a game like this where both teams rank among the nation’s best both offensively and defensively, and both teams will come in full of emotion in a rivalry game, I like to think that they’ll both keep doing what the are good at — what got them there.

As we saw in this week’s The Numbers Game, Ohio State’s defense has been susceptible to big plays, especially in the run game where they rank 77th nationally, giving up 5.91 explosive runs per game. In fact, they’re slightly worse in that regard than Indiana, which entered last week surrendering 5.7 per game — 70th nationally. We all know what Michigan’s running game did to the Hoosiers, racking up seven explosive runs including De’Veon Smith’s scampers of 39, 34, and 25 yards. We also know that on drives in which Michigan has an explosive play they score 73 percent of the time.

Michigan’s offense averages 11.36 explosive plays per game and OSU’s defense surrenders 8.09 per game. Let’s say Michigan’s offense gets eight and scores points on 75 percent of those. Even if they’re all field goals, that’s 18 points. But Michigan will score at least one touchdown, so now we’re into the 20s. Two puts them at 26 points — two touchdowns and four field goals — and I think that’s enough to win the game.

Michigan’s defense surrenders just 6.09 explosive plays per game — fifth nationally — while Ohio State’s offense averages 11.09 (16th). The Wolverines haven’t surrendered more than nine explosive plays in non-garbage time this season. But even so, even if Ohio State’s powerful offense gets its average of 11, Michigan’s defense gives up points just 35 percent of the time. That equates to four scores and I doubt all four will be touchdowns as Michigan has surrendered just 14 all season. Three touchdowns and a field goal is 24 points.

Sure, it may be slightly ridiculous to base a prediction on explosive play stats, but they’ve been pretty accurate all season. And now we have 11 games worth of data to use. If Speight plays, Michigan’s offense will be able to move the ball well enough to put up some point on the Buckeyes, even if they settle for field goals. Senior Kenny Allen will come up big by making all of them. Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will empty the kitchen sink trying to soften the Buckeye defense for Smith to get the running game going.

On the other side, Michigan will surrender a few big plays, likely including the 50-yard touchdown run up the middle that has become standard for OSU in this game. But by and large, the U-M defense will hold strong and keep the Bucks out of rhythm.

The game live up to its billing, going down to the wire. Allen boots a game-winning field goal, Michigan escapes the snake pit with its first win in 16 years, and heads to Indy for a rematch with Wisconsin. Of course, if Speight doesn’t play, this could be all moot.

Michigan 26 – Ohio State 24

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.

Comparing the Big Ten’s returning production from 2015: Offense

Thursday, July 28th, 2016


MSU 2015(Joe Robbins, Getty Images)

With less than six weeks remaining until college football returns the Michigan hype train is in full force entering Jim Harbaugh’s second season at the helm. The main questions the Wolverines face are at the quarterback position — Harbaugh’s specialty — and linebacker where do-it-all burgeoning superstar Jabrill Peppers will step in. But how does Michigan compare to the rest of the Big Ten in terms of who’s coming back?

It’s time to take our annual look at how each team in the Big Ten compares in terms of returning production. Of course, this is just one metric to use to predict each team’s success in the upcoming season, not the be all end all, but we’ll take a look at how it panned out the past two years as well and see if we can make any predictions on outcomes this fall.

The first year we tracked this, 2014, eventual champion Ohio State returned 60 percent of both its offense and its defense from the previous season. Last season, Big Ten champion Michigan State returned 54 percent of its offense and 67 percent of its defense, or just over 60 percent of its total returning production from 2014.

The teams with the most returning production both years — Maryland in 2014 with 90 percent and Ohio State in 2015 with 81 percent — both failed to reach the Big Ten championship game. Maryland finished third in the East with a 7-6 overall record and a 4-4 conference record, while Ohio State finished second in the East with a 12-1, 7-1 record.

Will this season follow the trend of the past two? Let’s take a look at this year’s returning offensive production.

Offense

Returning offense
Team Percent Returning 2015 Total Offense Ranking
Nebraska 88% 34
Minnesota 85% 103
Northwestern 82% 115
Rutgers 79% 84
Maryland 79% 87
Purdue 72% 95
Illinois 71% 88
Iowa 71% 72
Penn State 54% 105
Michigan 53% 69
Indiana 45% 14
Wisconsin 43% 79
Michigan State 38% 73
Ohio State 28% 41
Returning scoring offense
Team Percent Returning 2015 Scoring Offense Ranking
Nebraska 86% 43
Minnesota 85% 106
Maryland 78% 95
Northwestern 75% 114
Iowa 75% 54
Illinois 73% 103
Rutgers 72% 78
Purdue 69% 92
Wisconsin 60% 81
Penn State 54% 101
Michigan 54% 50
Michigan State 48% 60
Indiana 40% 24
Ohio State 32% 28

Nebraska is this year’s Maryland and Ohio State with the most returning production in the conference. That returning production falls in between the Terrapins and Buckeyes in terms of the previous season’s total offense rating (34th versus Ohio State’s 9th and Maryland’s 75th) and scoring offense rating (43rd versus OSU’s 5th and Maryland’s 84th). Both of those offensive units actually went backwards the following season even with so much returning production. Maryland slid 34 spots to 109th in total offense, while Ohio State slid seven spots to 41st. It is important to note that the Maryland comparison is apples to oranges since the Terps moved from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten between the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

The good news for Nebraska is that the offense returns quarterback Tommy Armstrong, who ranked second in the Big Ten in passing last season. In 2014, Maryland had to replace quarterback CJ Brown. Last season Ohio State returned J.T. Barrett, but Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tim Beck played musical chairs with he and Cardale Jones, which held the offense back from what could have been much more potent.

Minnesota returns the second most offensive production (85 percent) and scoring (85 percent) but ranked near the bottom nationally in both categories a year ago at 103rd and 106th, respectively. Aside from leading receiver K.J. Maye, everyone of importance is back for the Gophers offense. However, the offensive line returns just one player who started all 13 games, right tackle Jonah Pirsig. That means 115 career starts are gone and only a combined 37 return.

The next four teams with the most returning production are all pretty much in the same both. Northwestern (82/75 percent), Rutgers (79/72), Maryland (79/78), Purdue (72/69), and Illinois (71/73) return a lot of offense, but all five ranked between 84th and 115th nationally in total offense in 2015. All five return their primary quarterback, so that’s good news, but they all have too big a hill to climb to make a serious challenge for the Big Ten title.

Iowa returns 71 percent of its offense that ranked 72nd last season and 75 percent of its 54th-ranked scoring offense. Quarterback CJ Beathard figures to be one of the best in a down year at the position in the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes have to replace leading rusher Jordan Canzeri and two of their top three receivers. Like Minnesota, Iowa has major losses to replace along the line with All-Big Ten performers, right guard Jordan Walsh and center Austin Blythe, taking 86 career starts with them to the NFL.

Penn State and Michigan are neck-and-neck in terms of returning offensive production this season. Penn State returns 54 percent of its offense and 54 percent of its scoring, while Michigan returns 54 and 53 percent, respectively. The big difference, however, is what that production accomplished in 2015. Michigan’s offense ranked 69th nationally and 50th in scoring, while Penn State’s ranked 105th and 101st. Both have to replace their starting quarterbacks, but all bets should be on Harbaugh to produce a better one than James Franklin. Michigan returns 72 percent of its rushing and 92 percent of its receiving, while Penn State returns 78 and 85.

Indiana and Wisconsin both return approximately the same (45 percent and 43 percent of offense respectively). Offense has never really been an issue for the Hoosiers under Kevin Wilson and there’s no reason to think this year will be much different. Defense is another story. More on that later. Wisconsin has to replace quarterback Joel Stave, more than 50 percent of its receiving production, and second-team All-Big Ten left tackle Tyler Marz.

Michigan State and Ohio State round out the returning offensive production. The Spartans bring back 38 percent of the nation’s 73rd-best offensive unit and 48 percent of the 60th-best scoring offense. They have to replace quarterback Connor Cook, 65 percent of their receiving production, and center Jack Allen and left tackle Jack Conklin’s combined 85 career starts. The three-headed rushing attack of L.J. Scott, Gerald Holmes, and Madre London will have to carry the load until the passing game finds its stride.

Ohio State’s mass exodus for the NFL leaves just 28 percent of its offense and 32 percent of its scoring behind. The good news for Meyer is that he still has Barrett behind center without Jones to muddle things and the Big Ten media picked Barrett as the preseason offensive player of the year. The other good news is that Meyer’s recruiting dominance over the past few seasons means he has plenty of talent waiting in the wings. Just how well it will step up is the question. Only 132 rushing yards return from the running back position (Barrett is the returning leader with 727) and only 19 percent of last season’s receiving yards return.

Stay tuned for our defensive breakdown and conclusions coming soon.

#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