“It’s going to be a physical fight, because that’s what it is — like Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali.”
—Junior quarterback Denard Robinson

Two quarterbacks will carry the weight of The Game on Saturday. One is a junior, adapting to a new offense. The other a true freshman, tasked with stabilizing a program shaken by scandal.

Both can change the game with their dynamic abilities. Both face an elite top-20 defense.

Both are Muhammad Ali, floating like butterflies, stinging like bees.

Michigan junior Denard Robinson can single-handedly keep the Wolverines’ offense churning if he executes, or he can drown it all if he turns the ball over.

Last Saturday, as Robinson was coming off the field after scoring a touchdown, his hands waved wildly in front of his face as he trotted back to the sidelines. He motioned an imaginary spoon towards his mouth.

“This program has been starving for a while,” Robinson said Monday. “It’s time for us to make something happen this year.”

If No. 17 Michigan plans to get its fill, it’ll have to do so riding Robinson into battle with Ohio State. On the line: the Wolverines’ first 10-win campaign and first BCS bowl berth since the 2006 season.

Robinson’s counterpart in Saturday’s heavyweight bout is equally as maddening, nearly as amazing, Braxton Miller.

Two weeks ago, down six points on the road against Purdue, the Ohio State freshman quarterback faced a 4th-and-3 with only a minute left. In true Robinson fashion, Miller scrambled to his right when the pocket collapsed, jumped over a defender, and with two more Boilermakers in his face, he threw off his back foot and hit an open receiver in the endzone. Ohio State missed the extra point and lost the game, but Miller’s talent was undeniable.

“He’s a great quarterback,” Robinson said. “He’s got a lot of growing (to do), but I think he’s going to be good. And we’ve got to be prepared for him Saturday because he can run around and he can throw it.”

Michigan coach Brady Hoke defended Robinson’s performance in the middle of the season, saying he too was “growing.”

Robinson looked all grown up against Nebraska last weekend, accounting for 263 total yards and four touchdowns in what can be considered his best all-around game of the season.

The nagging mechanical issues that hurt him earlier in the season are less worrisome now, said offensive coordinator Al Borges. Instead, Borges has created a monster — one that listened too well, stays in the pocket too long and doesn’t scramble as much as he should.

“They want to prove that they can throw the ball, but there’s a point where you have to use your skills,” Borges said.

A few weeks ago, Robinson’s father felt the need to call his son, whose rushing numbers diminished with each Big Ten game.

“If nothing’s there, just make a play,” his father told him. “You’ve got that ability to do it, so just do it.”

Borges talks to Robinson about how his best check down may be himself. To that point, footwork is key. Robinson’s feet scream what he’s going to do with the football, whether he’s sliding in the pocket still looking to throw or moving to an open space to run it.

Hoke said Robinson ran with more “authority” against the Cornhuskers. The junior signal caller seemed less hesitant as he ran for 83 yards — his highest total since Oct. 8 against Northwestern.

What may help Robinson most is heeding the advice Borges gave him during spring practice, when the two were still getting to know each other: “Make plays and let the good Lord make miracles.”

Ohio State coach Luke Fickell said he’d offer similar advice to his dual-threat quarterback before The Game.

“We don’t need anything superhuman, we just need you to be who you’ve been and have some confidence in what you do,” Fickell said.

Miller’s signature moment so far may have been when he launched a 40-yard touchdown pass on the run with less than 30 seconds left to topple then-No. 15 Wisconsin. It was Robinson-like, making the impossible play out of nothing.

But Miller shares Robinson’s pension for poor passing. Albeit, his kryptonite is accuracy, not turnovers.

In the eight games Miller has started, he has completed just 46 percent of his throws and has topped 100-yards passing only once.

Miller’s youth, multiplied by suspensions to key contributors running back Dan Herron and wide receiver DeVier Posey, have the Buckeyes’ offense ranked 108th in the Division I.

“I’m disappointed right now in the way we’ve played the last three weeks as a team,” Fickell said. “With the type of people we’re dealing, with the youth and the different things we have … you can’t just point a finger.”

Now, Miller will be fed to a Wolverine defense coming off their best two games of the season. Having Mattison dialing up exotic blitzes and disguising coverages will only exaggerate Miller’s problems.

Considering everything surrounding The Game — Ohio State’s series streak on the line, the departures of Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor amidst program strife and the resurgence of Michigan — Fickell thinks Miller’s youth may help him in this fight.

“Sometimes the best thing you can be as a young guy and not realize exactly the magnitude,” Fickell said. “Sometimes the younger guys, they’re almost oblivious. … Hopefully that’s the way he continues to attack it.”

Robinson, meanwhile, is completely aware. He remembered how he felt walking off the field at Ohio Stadium last year, losing Michigan’s seventh-straight game in the rivalry.

“Everybody hates that taste,” Robinson said. “We still have that taste in our mouth, losing last year. We want to change that.

“We’ve been starving. This program’s been starving. So it’s time for us to eat.”

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