Like every Michigan-Ohio State football game, there’s plenty on the line on Saturday. But instead of it being a one-sided affair, with Michigan just hoping for a happy ending to a brutal season, the Wolverines are back on top.
What’s at stake? Well, Michigan is looking to add to its 57-44-6 all-time series record and likely earn its first BCS-bowl berth since 2007.
Michigan pass offense vs. Ohio State pass defense
Michigan junior quarterback Denard Robinson bounced back from consecutive poor outings with an 11-for-18, 180-yard passing day in the Wolverines’ 45-17 shellacking of No. 17 Nebraska last Saturday. But the passing game is still a work in progress, and the Buckeyes’ secondary is no liability.
Ohio State has registered 12 interceptions this season — five more than Michigan — and is led by redshirt junior safety Orhian Johnson and promising first-year cornerback Bradley Roby, who both have three interceptions. And Robinson is an interception machine, as he’s thrown 14 picks on the season.
Edge: Ohio State
Michigan rush offense vs. Ohio State rush offense
The emergence of redshirt sophomore running back Fitzgerald Toussaint to complement Robinson in the running game has given the Wolverines one of the most dangerous backfields in the nation. Robinson is seven yards from breaking the 1,000-yard mark this season, and Toussaint is 102 yards behind. Commanding the bulk of Michigan’s carries in the past four games, Toussaint has gained on 550 yards and five touchdowns on 93 carries in that time.
Staring the running back down from across the line of scrimmage will be stud Buckeye defensive linemen John Simon and Jonathan Hankins. The pair anchors the Big Ten’s fifth-leading rush defense, which is allowing just 130 rushing yards per game. Still, Ohio State’s only chance to stop the two threats in Michigan’s backfield is to plug the holes in the middle and contain the outside. With Michigan’s veteran offensive line, that’s a stretch for any defense.
Ohio State pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense
Last season, Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor had no problem embarrassing the Wolverines’ notoriously awful secondary. Pryor ran for 63 yards and added another 220 yards and two touchdowns through the air on 18-of-27 passing. But what difference a year makes. Pryor is in the NFL, replaced by true-freshman quarterback Braxton Miller.
Miller took the starting job away from Joe Bauserman early this season, but he hasn’t impressed in the passing game. In 10 games, the mobile freshman has not eclipsed 19 passing attempts, with his completion percentage wavering dangerously at 48.6 percent.
The Michigan secondary isn’t embarrassing itself anymore, either. The nation’s 14th-best passing defense is allowing just 184.3 yards per game, though Miller won’t likely test it much.
Ohio State rush offense vs. Michigan rush defense
This Michigan-Ohio State battle will be won on the ground. If Michigan’s Robinson and Toussaint have their way with the Buckeye defense, it could be a blowout in the Big House. But if Miller and running back Dan “Boom” Herron can break the Wolverines defensive front, it’s a toss-up. Herron was suspended early in the season and will only be playing in his sixth game of the season, but is averaging 111.8 yards per game since his return.
The Wolverine defense has certainly turned a corner, and its ability to stop the ground game is a key component of the unit’s success. After struggling against quality backs early in the season, Michigan held Illinois to 37 rushing yards two weeks ago and Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead to a season-low 36 rushing yards last Saturday.
Ohio State sophomore Drew Basil is money. He’s 13-for-16 on field goals for the season, but has missed just two from inside 50 yards. Safe to say there has been no drop-off after losing Devin Barclay last season.
Redshirt sophomore kicker Brendan Gibbons can’t quite stand up to Basil’s mark, but his 9-for-13 is certainly an upgrade from last season. Michigan redeems itself on special teams by collecting three turnovers in the last two games on kickoffs and punts.
Edge: Ohio State
Considering the Buckeyes’ seven-year winning streak over Michigan, giving the Wolverines the nod isn’t easy. But it’s happening. Michigan coach Brady Hoke and Co. are world-beaters at home, with a record of 7-0 and outscoring teams 267-65. Add that it’s the final appearance at the Big House for the embattled Michigan seniors, and there’s both emotion and momentum on the Wolverines’ side. Chalk this one up for the Wolverines.
Final Score: Michigan 24, Ohio State 10