That school in Columbus could be undefeated heading into this year’s edition of The Game. That alone should be motivation enough for Brady Hoke’s Wolverines to continue their 2012 season with ambition.
The Big Ten Leaders Division looks as if it will be won by the Nebraska Cornhuskers, thanks to their 23-9 thumping of the Wolverines on Oct. 27. Their remaining games are against Minnesota and Iowa. Those schools aren’t exactly winning football programs this season.
So, without much to play for in terms of Big Ten contention, the Wolverines have one of the biggest rivalries currently in college football to fall back on.
Last year, Michigan won its first game in the series since 2003 in dramatic fashion. The Buckeyes, reeling from a scandal that resulted in Jim Tressel’s resignation and Terrelle Pryor’s early entry into the NFL draft, lost a school-record seven games last year.
This year, the 10-0 Buckeyes look like a brand new team under the leadership of former national champion head coach Urban Meyer.
For Denard Robinson and the senior Wolverines, they will attempt to score the first back-to-back wins over the Buckeyes since the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
The biggest matchup for this year’s game will be Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison against his former colleague Urban Meyer. Mattison served under Meyer as his defensive coordinator at Florida.
Mattison has inspired a culture change since coming to Michigan, leading to a defensive turnaround of epic proportion. The Wolverines are playing tough, hard-nosed defense and are 16th in the nation (18 points per game) in scoring defense as a result.
But the Buckeyes, like Northwestern, have the ability to stretch this defense with a mobile quarterback. The difference with the Buckeyes is that they aren’t as one-dimensional as the Wildcats team that put up 31 points on the Wolverines on Nov. 10.
Braxton Miller is the nation’s 15th-leading rusher but has also demonstrated a big leap in his ability to throw the ball downfield in comparison to last season.
The Wolverines’ defense is largely built around being schematically sound against opposing looks, putting players in position to make plays. However, they’ve struggled against the type of inverted veer and speed option that the Buckeyes have had success with this season.
If the Buckeyes can get Mattison guessing, Braxton Miller may be able to add another highlight-reel performance to his resume as a result.
What’s at stake?
There are usually bowl implications attached; without them, it’s still going to be one heck of a ballgame for everyone involved.
No BCS implications? No problem. This rivalry has the bitterness and unpredictable nature to make this one of the year’s best games.
Regardless of what happens to either team in Week 12, make sure you tune in to the Horseshoe next week to witness the nation’s best rivalry. There’s no other way to end the season.