Michigan Football: 4 Reasons Wolverines' Defense Will Dominate Braxton Miller

Zach Dirlam@Zach_DirlamSenior Analyst IINovember 20, 2012

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 08:  Jake Ryan #47 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates stopping the Air Force Falcons on fourth down late in the fourth quarter with Jordan Kovacs #32 and Raymon Taylor #6 at Michigan Stadium on September 8, 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 31-25. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes will get together at the Horseshoe in Columbus for the 109th time, and in order for the Maize and Blue to come away with their second consecutive victory over the Scarlet and Grey, their defense will have to contain sophomore dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller.

The Heisman Trophy candidate has over 3,000 total yards and has accounted for 27 touchdowns, which is the main reason the Buckeyes are 11-0 this season.

Miller racked up 335 total yards and three touchdowns in last season's 40-34 loss at Michigan Stadium, but this season the Wolverines will be more than ready to shut down Ohio State's primary source of offense. 

Let's take a look at four reasons why the Wolverines' defense will dominate Miller in The Game on Saturday.  


Jake Ryan will be spying Miller

The Wolverines' defense is led by one of the best outside linebackers in all of college football, redshirt sophomore Jake Ryan, who leads the team in total tackles (48), tackles for loss (13), forced fumbles (3) and has recorded 3.5 sacks this season.

Ryan will likely be the primary spy assigned to Miller for much of the afternoon, which will allow Michigan's other linebackers, fifth-year senior Kenny Demens and sophomore Desmond Morgan, to drop into coverage over the middle and slow down Ohio State's top running back, Carlos Hyde.

Miller has struggled this season against teams with talented linebacking corps, and the Wolverines have one of the best groups in the Big Ten. 


Greg Mattison knows Urban Meyer's tendencies and will make Miller win the game with his arm

Remember the Florida Gators' defense that completely shut down Ohio State's Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game and helped current Buckeyes' head coach Urban Meyer win his first of two titles in Gainesville?

Michigan's defensive coordinator Greg Mattison coached that defense, and was a member of Meyer's staff for three seasons before taking over the Baltimore Ravens' defense in 2008.

Mattison coached against Meyer's schemes everyday in practices and more than likely knows his tendencies inside and out.

Ohio State will look to run the ball early in the game with Hyde and Miller, but the Wolverines have seen plenty of option offenses this season and will be more than prepared for whatever Meyer and the Buckeyes throw at them.

Mattison will look to shut down the Buckeyes' rushing attack, which is ranked No. 9 in the country, early in the game and force Miller to throw the ball in order to beat them.

Miller looked like a much more efficient passer at the start of his sophomore season and completed more than 60 percent of his passes in three of Ohio State's first five games.

In Ohio State's last six games, Miller has completed more than 50 percent of his passes three times and has only thrown for more than 200 yards twice.

Look for Michigan to shut down the running game on first and second down in order to make Miller beat them with efficient passing in longer third down situations.


The Wolverines are making more open-field tackles

Although Michigan's defense showed significant improvement under Mattison during the 2011 season, and had a better defensive line than the Wolverines do this season, the Maize and Blue are making more open-field tackles than they did a year ago.

Miller broke off some big runs against Michigan last season because of poor tackling once the Hubert Heights, Ohio native escaped the pocket and started moving upfield.

Do not expect to see the same kind of defense from the Wolverines in The Game on Saturday.

Jake Ryan, the rest of Michigan's linebackers and defensive backs will not allow Miller and the Buckeyes to break off huge gains by making strong tackles. 


Michigan's defense is better than the ones that Miller struggled against this season

As much as Buckeye fans will try and hide from the fact that Miller is not unstoppable there is no escaping the fact that the Wisconsin Badgers and UAB Blazers made Ohio State's star signal-caller a non-factor.

Wisconsin's defense is ranked one spot ahead of Michigan's, but the Blazers are one of the worst defensive teams in the country and check in at No. 81 in the country.

Even the Purdue Boilermakers, who are ranked No. 61 in the nation in total defense, limited Miller to just 9-of-20 passing for 113 yards, one interception and just 47 rushing yards on 12 carries before knocking him out of the game late in the third quarter.

Michigan's defense will watch plenty of film on how all three of those teams managed to slow down Miller and will be prepared with a similar game plan.

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