Michigan vs. Ohio State: Will Denard Light the Buckeyes Up Again This Year?

David RegimbalFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2012

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 26: Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates a second quarter touchdown with David Molk #50 while playing the Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Going into last year's game, Michigan's hadn't beaten Ohio State on the football field since November 22, 2003. Back then, Michigan fans still enjoyed Lloyd Carr as their head coach and Denard Robinson was just a 13-year-old seventh grader.

Ohio State's dominance over Michigan was squeezing the life out of the Wolverines and its fanbase. The Buckeyes had won nine of the last 10 games against Michigan—including seven straight—and three of those wins had propelled Ohio State to an appearance in the National Championship Game.

Everything was turning into a scarlet blur for a team that wasn't used to losing to the Buckeyes.

Denard Robinson dramatically swung the rivalry's momentum with just one performance.

The blazing-fast quarterback was nearly flawless in Michigan's 40-34 victory over Ohio State last year. Denard completed 82 percent of his passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns (against no interceptions) to go along with 170 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground.


When he wasn't shredding Ohio State's secondary with his arm or carving up the front seven with his legs, he was busy pretend-scooping things into his mouth in celebration with his teammates. 

Nothing Ohio State did on defense slowed him down last year. The question going into this year's game is simple: 

Can he do it again?

That will all depend on how healthy he is. Denard aggravated a nerve injury in his right elbow four weeks ago at Nebraska, keeping him off the field until last week's game against Iowa. But even then, his role was limited to nothing more than a wildcat quarterback—and situational running back—because of his inability to throw the ball.

Devin Gardner, who was lining up at receiver when Denard was healthy, has taken over and played very well for the Wolverines.

But during Brady Hoke's press conference Monday afternoon, Michigan's head coach said Denard is nearing 100 percent and that he could start if the game was played today. He also mentioned how hard it is for opposing teams to defend Michigan when both players are on the field together.

That gives Hoke a huge advantage entering this week's game. The two quarterbacks have only played that role one time, giving Urban Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff just six days to prepare for it. Even if Denard doesn't start at quarterback this Saturday, he could still wreak havoc on a susceptible defense.

The Buckeyes have struggled defending the perimeter this year because of a lack of quality linebackers and a more passive coverage scheme in the secondary. If Michigan has Gardner lined up at quarterback, it'll be Denard attacking that vulnerable perimeter. 

Against Iowa, Denard had a lot of success in that role. The senior rushed for 98 yards on just 13 carries and even had two catches for 24 yards.

Will he line up in a similar role with Michigan's offense to try and expose Ohio State's defense this week? Or will he take the reigns from Gardner and line up at quarterback? Either way, he poses a huge threat to Ohio State's defense and the Buckeyes' undefeated season.

Will Denard light the Buckeyes up again this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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