Friday, November 16, 2007

The 104th Meeting in the Greatest Rivalry in Sports: Preview

A season that has not gone as planned at least will end the way it was predicted. Tomorrow at noon Michigan and Ohio State will meet for the 104th time and again the winner will claim the Big Ten championship. Regardless of how the season has gone, this is what the Michigan seniors came back for, a chance to beat Ohio State and win a championship. With the National title out of the picture, it seems like the pre-BCS days with the two teams fighting for the conference and the Rose Bowl.

Michigan Offense vs. Ohio State Defense

Despite the declaration by Lloyd Carr that Chad Henne and Mike Hart’s statuses will be game time decisions, there is no doubt that both of them will start and play in there final game at the Big House. They will play regardless of how far along they have recovered, but if they are both at 100%, this might be the first time all season that the offense will be healthy enough to click on all cylinders. However, it will not be easy against an Ohio State defense that is one of the best, if not the best in the country. They are number 1 in the nation in scoring defense holding opponents to 11.4 points per game and second in total defense. They are led by 6-3 240 pound junior linebacker and team captain James Laurinaitis. He is the team’s leading tackler and consensus All-American at the middle linebacker spot. He has a combination of speed, size, and ferocity that has every NFL team looking at him. He’s flanked on both sides by very talented linebackers as well with 6-3 226 pound senior Larry Grant and 6-2 236 pound junior Marcus Freeman. Freeman is starting for the second year in a row and has a knack for being around the ball shown by an 18 tackle performance in the loss to Illinois last week. Grant is a versatile, athletic backer for the Buckeyes who has played all three spots and has blocked a FG and punt this season. They make up possibly the best linebacking core in the country and in front of them is a young, but very talented defensive line. The front line is lead by the eldest player among them in junior defensive end Vernon Gholston who has harassed quarterbacks all year long with 10 sacks to show for it. He normally attacks on the same side Jake Long is on so that will be quite a battle to watch. On the other end is an extremely talented freshman in Cameron Heyward. At 6-6 282 he presents a challenge for any offensive line. In the middle are two sophomores in Doug Worthington and Todd Denlinger. They are still young but big guys on the line. That front seven is undoubtedly one of the best in the country, but Illinois exploited them last week and Michigan’s offensive line which is now healthy might want to study that film. Then some holes can be opened for Mike Hart and company to establish the run. However, those gaps might close quickly with the linebacking core. Due to this, Michigan may need to go to the air to loosen up the front seven. But Ohio State is very strong there as well with the second best pass defense in the country. They have a young, but very talented secondary. Their two cornerbacks are both 6-1 in junior Malcolm Jenkins and sophomore Donald Washington. Both have returned an interception for a TD this year and Jenkins is a Thorpe award candidate. They have playmaking ability so one bad throw can be costly. The two safeties are rather inexperienced, but have improved as the year has gone on. They are both sophomores with Kurt Coleman at strong safety and Anderson Russell at free safety. This is where Michigan has the advantage. Chad Henne must be precise in all of his passes. Michigan will have the advantage if the spread out the offense first and look to go to the air with Arrington across the middle and Manningham deep if he can beat the corners. If Michigan does this successfully without turnovers like they did last season, Mike Hart should have more room to run. But Ohio State’s young defense will be hungry after last week’s performance. Still:

Advantage: Michigan if they run the offense like they did last year

Ohio State Offense vs. Michigan Defense

Ohio State’s offense is definitely led by there sophomore running back Chris “Beanie” Wells and their rushing attack. They average nearly 200 yards on the ground and rely on the running game to get the offense going. He has had 7 100 yard rushing games this year, but was held to 76 yards on 20 carries last week in the loss to Illinois. Ohio State needs to get him going in order to have success. The veteran offensive line in front of Wells has to have a big day opening up holes for the Buckeyes. Led by 5th year senior Kirk Barton, the Buckeyes are a veteran bunch with 3 juniors and one sophomore under center. Look for them to favor the right side with Barton although they have another great tackle on the other end with junior Alex Boone. The key for Michigan’s defense will be to fill in the gaps and hit Wells early allowing teammates to flock to him. He’s tough to bring down alone so the defensive line and linebackers have to have a great effort flying to the ball. Look for Jamar Adams to come up in run defense as well. While the Buckeyes like to run the ball, as the season has progressed, junior quarterback Todd Boeckman has developed into a pretty good passer. He has completed 65% of his passes for 2121 yards 23 TDs and 11 INTs. In addition, last week he even showed some mobility with 68 yards on the ground. Still, his mobility will not present near the challenge Troy Smith’s did the last three years, but his arm sure can with the wide receivers who have developed for Ohio State. Brian Robiskie has become the main weapon with the departure of Gonzalez, Ginn, and company and he has 864 yards and 10 TDs receiving this season. He is complemented by Brian Hartline who has 610 yards and 5 TDs this season. While these are the two main weapons, do not be surprised if Ohio State has saved some weapons for Michigan and decides to spread the field and go five wide. They have talent with Jake Ballard, Dane Sazenbacher, and Ray Small all inexperienced talents. Also, tight end Rory Nicol can become a weapon if Michigan leaves the middle of the field open. For Michigan, obviously the main concern is slowing down the rushing attack. That will take a complete team effort. Other than that, in the passing game, the key still lies with the front seven getting pressure on the quarterback. Michigan must bring blitzes and change up their coverages to rattle the young Buckeyes. The secondary has stepped it up with Morgan Trent and Donovan Warren really coming along. Jamar Adams was the only player who played well last week in Madison and hopefully he will continue that. And Shawn Crable must make up for his costly penalty last season with a great effort. If Michigan does that then they should have success, but the last two games have season runningbacks run all over the Wolverines.

Advantage: Ohio State

Special Teams:

To sum it up very simply, Ohio State has a solid kicker in Ryan Pretorius. Ohio State also coaches to special teams. Michigan doesn’t. That is unfortunate considering special teams can make a world of difference in these games. Michigan needs to play by far their best special teams game to compete.

Advantage: Ohio State


It sounds cliché, but in the greatest rivalry in all of sports, both teams will be giving it their all. I would like to say Michigan will play harder, but that is not true. The only thing working in Michigan’s favor is Ohio State being knocked out of the national title picture last week. People are still complaining about a fumble not called in the game against Illinois last week and it could be a distraction for the Buckeyes. On the other hand Michigan seemed to play the Wisconsin game just because they had to and were waiting for the game against Ohio State. This being Chad Henne, Mike Hart, and Jake Long’s last game, after coming back specifically to beat Ohio State, should give Michigan an advantage. However, Ohio State should come out just as hard since this is the biggest game of the year. But since it is in the Big House, I’ll give the slight nod to Michigan

Advantage: Michigan

This is the last chance for Michigan to salvage the season, otherwise, it could turn into the same type of season as 2005 when the team had a record of 7-5. There is no way around it: that would be a FAILURE for Michigan football.

-Rushi Vyas

1 comment:

Dmachine said...

OSU wins this game and covers the spread hands down. got two more locks for tomorrow on