Michigan Wolverines 7-4 (3-4 Big Ten) v.s. Ohio State Buckeyes 11-0 (7-0 Big Ten)
Michigan Last Week: The Wolverines fell at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes, in a 24-21 loss. Despite only having 113 total yards of offense at the half, the Wolverines went into the locker room with three touchdowns. The Maize and Blue would not be so fortunate in the second half, as they only gained 45 more yards of total offense and were blanked on the scoreboard. Iowa rallied behind sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock to come back from a 14 point deficit and hand the Wolverines their fourth loss of the season. Michigan ended the day with a dismal 158 yards of total offense (98 passing and 60 rushing).
Ohio State Last Week: The Buckeyes extended the nation’s longest winning streak another week with their 42-14 win over the Indiana Hoosiers. The day was an overwhelming success for the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller struck through both the air and ground, scoring two rushing and two passing touchdowns. Carlos Hyde became head coach Urban Myer’s first running back to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season. The Buckeye defense did not allow a touchdown until there was only 5:59 left in the game. There was some concern for Miller’s health when he was upended by a Hoosier defender on his way to a four yard touchdown run, however Miller remained in the game and his performance did not appear to suffer.
Passing-Devin Gardner 176/300, 2,509 yards, 17 touchdowns
Rushing- Fitzgerald Toussaint 178 carries, 613 yards, 3.4 average, 11 touchdowns
Receiving- Jeremy Gallon 71 receptions, 1,109 yards, 15.6 average, 8 touchdowns
Ohio State Leaders:
Passing- Braxton Miller 132/195, 1,626 yards, 19 touchdowns
Rushing- Carlos Hyde 138 carries, 1,064 yards, 7.7 average, 13 touchdowns
Receiving- Philly Brown 49 receptions, 596 yards, 12.2 average, 9 touchdowns
Michigan National Ranking:
Passing- 62nd 234.0 yards-per-game
Rushing- 100th 12.8 yards-per-game
Points for- 48th 33.1 points-per-game
Points Against- 52nd 25.1 points-per-game
Ohio State National Ranks:
Passing- 75th 216.2 yards-per-game
Rushing- 5th 314.7 yards-per-game
Points for- 3rd 48.7 points-per-game
Points against- 8th 18.4 points-per-game
Michigan has nothing to lose and Ohio State has everything to gain. The Wolverines will not be in a bowl they would have hoped for with a win or a loss, while the Buckeyes have their eyes fixed on a national title. For the Michigan faithful, a win against Ohio State would salvage a sub-par season. The task at hand is not a light one. The Buckeyes will enter the Big House with the longest winning streak in college football and are favored by more than two touchdowns.
Michigan and Ohio State’s defenses are extremely similar. Both are in the top 25 in rushing defense and both struggle defending the pass. In fact, Michigan is ranked 80th in pass defense with Ohio State just one spot below them at 81st.
Hyde and Miller in the backfield is enough to give defenses nightmares. The Buckeyes lead the nation with 6.91 yards-per-carry. However, Michigan did a good job of caging Northwestern dual-threat quarterback Trevor Siemian, holding him to -9 rushing yards. Obviously, Braxton Miller is a more elite weapon than Siemian, but the Wolverines have shown the ability to stop the option attack. The Buckeyes’ air strike is not as threating as their rushing game, but still affective. They lack a standout receiver, but Miller makes up for it with good ball distribution and smart choices.
Michigan’s offensive line has been a pressing issue for the entire season. Positions have been swapped and back-ups have been promoted to starters, but nothing seems to be working. The Wolverines lead the nation in tackles-for-loss given up and have been atrocious in blocking for quarterback Devin Gardner. The past four games have included a total of 130 net rushing yards for the Wolverines. Hits on Gardner have clearly taken a toll on his confidence. On every drop back, he does not wait long to start looking for running lanes. To add to Michigan’s woes, the Buckeyes will be returning two defensive starters- linebacker Curtis Grant and cornerback Doran Grant.
The only way the Wolverines have a shot at being in ‘The Game’ is if the offensive line shows up to play. Everything has revolved around them this season. When the line does not play well, the defense is put in bad situations and left on the field for far too long. If Michigan can’t control the line of scrimmage, then the game could quickly get out of hand. Ohio State has too talented of a defense for Gardner to scramble around for four quarters, like he has against less abled teams. Last Saturday, Gardner came up limping quite a bit, probably due to the fact that 156 carries on the year is beginning to wear down his body. If Gardner were to come out against Ohio State, that would leave freshman Shane Morris (5/9 on the year for 9 yards) to come in against a top-ranked Buckeyes defense. It’s all up to the defensive line to keep Gardner healthy and establish a running game.
Matt Moore contributes writings about the NFL Draft and Michigan Football for ProFootballCentral. Follow Matt on Twitter @Matt23Moore
photo via: www.cleveland.com