EVANSTON — The same 80-mile-an-hour
force that ripped through Michigan Stadium’s concessions area
during its bye week — leaving a daunting clean-up job for the
Big House’s crew — left its mark in Evanston on
Saturday.

Mira Levitan

If anything was to be learned from this new weather front, it
was that there is hardly much that can stop it when it’s
blowing at full force.

The Wolverines’ 41-10 blowout of Northwestern was about as
surprising as cold weather in November, but the real shock came in
the abruptness of how each was dealt in the past week. In the same
way Mother Nature showed the United States who was boss with a
powerful winter storm, Michigan told the nation — especially
a certain team from Columbus — that the pre-storm hype was
legit.

There would be no slip-ups, no falling apart and certainly no
repeat of the 2000 debacle.

But for every cold front that has laid destruction on a part of
the world, there is a warm one just as strong looking for
competition.

Now, for the first time since 1997, both Michigan and Ohio State
will collide along the plains as top-five teams, producing a storm
that is bound to be epic.

Leading the cold front is none other than No. 1 himself, and not
because of his postgame comments that said he, Jason Avant and
Steve Breaston couldn’t be denied a big game.

“To be honest, no,” said Braylon Edwards of whether
any secondary could get the job done against the trio. “I
don’t want to make that an arrogant comment, but Jason, Steve
and I, we’re a great team. You can’t stop
us.”

Edwards will have to lead, because the offense’s success
runs through him. If he’s making big plays, he’ll draw
double coverage, freeing up Avant and Breaston against an Ohio
State secondary that hasn’t been the same since safety Mike
Doss’ graduation last year.

In reality, what Edwards said was more fact than a call-out.

Although, if the trio doesn’t produce, many will look to
Edwards’ Northwestern postgame comments unfairly.

If Ohio State’s secondary produces anything, it
won’t be because of Chris Gamble or any of that crew.
Anything that the Buckeyes’ defensive backs or linebackers
make will be due to the front defensive four.

Michigan’s Chris Perry said he didn’t know whether
the Wolverines would be able to run against the other half of the
Big Two — and he shouldn’t know. Ohio State’s
defensive linemen, Will Smith and Darrion Scott, are the same type
of playmakers that Edwards and Avant are — they just
don’t have the stats that the wideouts have. But the seven
players behind them do.

Each of the fronts had their strongest precipitation going for
them on Saturday, as both Avant and Edwards had a touchdown grab,
and Ohio State’s Allen and Tim Anderson forced a fumble that
resulted in the Buckeyes’ only touchdown of the day.

So now comes the showdown: Michigan’s offense versus Ohio
State’s defense.

Not to imply that Ohio State’s offense nor
Michigan’s defense won’t come into play, but unless
Maurice Clarett is coming back, the Buckeyes won’t be taking
too many risks, especially with their special teams and defense
producing points the way they are.

But as paper matchups, talk of how all this game means as a
senior and media blowups of player’s comments increase, the
real focus of the rivalry will emerge.

To keep with the recent trend, this game will be more
truth-telling than anything else.

In 1995 and 1996, Michigan proved that Ohio State wasn’t
ready to be amongst the nation’s elite. In 1997 the
Wolverines proved that they were. The following season, the
Buckeyes showed they could get revenge. In 1999 and 2000, Michigan
proved John Cooper wasn’t the answer. The past two seasons,
Jim Tressel has shown he is.

In this rivalry, everything is exploited. Light winds become
hurricanes, sprinkles become torrential downpours.

When Saturday comes around, one front will overtake the other.
Either Scott and Allen will flood John Navarre and Perry in the
backfield all day or Edwards, Avant and Breaston will blow through
Gamble and crew. There will be no draw in this. The truth will come
out, and one of the powers will rise above the other.

No matter what happens, be sure to bring an umbrella.

— Kyle O’Neill would like to tell all those who
believe Michigan State is Michigan’s biggest rival that they
haven’t seen anything yet. He can be reached at
“mailto:kylero@umich.edu”>kylero@umich.edu.

 

 

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