Michigan rushing offense vs. Ohio State defense
Something’s going to have to give in this category.
Michigan is the Big Ten’s second-best rushing offense, posting almost 200 yards per game. Ohio State is a defensive stalwart, holding teams to a Big Ten-best 83 rushing yards per game.
Expect to hear the names of linebackers Ross Homan and Brian Rolle being called over the loudspeakers all day for Ohio State. If the Buckeyes can stuff the Wolverines’ running attack, it will be a very long day for the maize-and-blue faithful.
To make matters worse, Brandon Minor, one of the Big Ten’s best backs, is out for Ohio State. After finally rehabbing his ankle, Minor banged up his shoulder against Wisconsin and has been very limited in practice this week.
Minor’s absence will be a huge blow to Michigan’s upset hopes.
Edge: Ohio State
Michigan pass offense vs. Ohio State rushing defense
Tate Forcier had one of his best games of the season last week at Wisconsin, completing almost 77 percent of his passes. Still, he didn’t reach the 200-yard plateau, and a few of his completions weren’t the most accurate passes, which limited potential yards after the catch.
This will be the best passing defense Forcier has faced since the Iowa game, in which he was a paltry 8-of-19 for 94 yards and an interception. Chances are, he’ll have a similar day against the vaunted Buckeye ‘D.’
Edge: Ohio State
Michigan rushing defense vs. Ohio State offense
For the past few games, the Buckeyes’ rush offense has become more and more versatile.
When Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor injured his ankle two weeks ago, the Buckeyes started running a dangerous wildcat playset. But now, Pryor is much healthier.
“We look at it as if we’ve got four different runners, and at the moment we worked it, the running backs were healthier than Terrelle,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. “The good news is I’d like to think we’ll go into Saturday and all four will be healthy.”
Coupled with Michigan’s lackluster rush defense — only Purdue is worse — this is not a good matchup for the Wolverines. If Michigan doesn’t want to break the record for points given up in a season (it would need to allow 40 Saturday), then the underperforming linebacker corps will have to play one of its best games yet — especially with the Buckeyes averaging 1.73 rushing touchdowns per game.
Edge: Ohio State
Michigan pass defense vs. Ohio State offense
This is where the stats might be a bit misleading.
Pryor’s passing ability, particularly in a non-spread offense, has been the topic of controversy at many points throughout the season. But even though Ohio State is last in the Big Ten with less than 2,000 passing yards, Pryor is greatly improved from last year through the air.
And last year against Michigan, despite throwing going 5-of-13, Pryor still racked up 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Against a Michigan secondary that has looked abysmal at times, there’s no telling the damage Ohio State’s passing attack can do — assuming its run game isn’t effective.
Sure, the Wolverine defensive coordinator Greg Robinson is pulling out all the stops schematically, and might have something up his sleeve for this week as well. But the key to Michigan stopping the Buckeyes is execution above all else.
The Wolverines have struggled to execute all year, and the result has been what seems like four or five back-breaking plays per game. Eliminating missed assignments could go a long way for the Wolverines, but they haven’t yet shown they can do that.
Edge: Ohio State
Well, Michigan does have a strong edge in punting.
Fifth-year senior Zoltan Mesko, one of the best punters in the country, is going up against a counterpart that is on the opposite end of things — last in the Big Ten.
Their seven-yard difference in punting average could come into play if this turns into a battle of field position.
Just two kickers in the conference have missed more field goals than the Buckeyes, while fifth-year senior Jason Olesnavage has been fairly consistent.
Ohio State’s only advantage might be in kickoff coverage, in which the Buckeyes are best in the Big Ten. Michigan return man Darryl Stonum hasn’t had nearly as much impact as he did in the beginning of the season, and the Buckeyes’ dominance will likely quell any influence he could have in the return game.
It’s in the Big House. It’s Senior Day. That “42-7” score is still leaving a bad taste in every Wolverines’ mouth. And, to top it all off, the coaching staff played old tapes of Bob Ufer’s best calls from the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry at practice.
Michigan is going to be jacked for this game.
Still, the stigma of Jim Tressel’s 7-1 record against Michigan and the fact that it’s been close to 2,200 days since Michigan won in The Game gives the Buckeyes a little swagger.
The fact of the matter is that this is still the greatest rivalry in sports, regardless of Michigan’s recent woes. When it comes to Michigan-Ohio State, you can throw the records out the window.
Plus, it’s the 40th anniversary of the ’69 team, which will be in attendance. Maybe that will do something for the team?
Ohio State 35, Michigan 17