THE Game: Can Ohio State Make It Five In A Row Over Michigan?
Michigan Players Who Were Recruited By Ohio State: CB Donovan Warren, WR Greg Mathews, WR Junior Hemingway, TE Mike Massey, TE Kevin Koger, and OT Patrick Omameh. RB Sam McGuffie, OL Elliott Mealer, and TE Brandon Moore were on Ohio State's recruiting radar but were not offered scholarships by Ohio State. This is a big point that I will address in the Intangibles section below.
Michigan Rushing Offense vs Ohio State Defense: Rich Rodriguez's teams at West Virginia were always fearsome at running the ball with its spread option attack. Considering how Rodriguez inherited an offensive line that lacks depth, as well as the overall personnel style to run this offense effectively, it should not be a surprise that Michigan ranks eightth in the Big Ten in rushing offense.
Throw in relatively immobile quarterbacks (Steven Threet, Nick Sheridan), which are essential for this offense to work, and you'll see why Michigan is struggling offensively. I would not be surprised if Rodriguez inserts true freshman QB Justin Feagin liberally in this game—considering that Feagin is the most mobile of the quarterbacks on the roster, and that Michigan's season ends on Saturday afternoon, what does he have to lose?
RBs Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown have had their moments this season, and both have battled injuries. Both have been relegated behind true freshmen RBs Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw this season. McGuffie may not play this game, and Shaw has had turnover issues. McGuffie has good speed and is tough, but is also small for an every-down Big Ten back.
Edge: Ohio State
Michigan Passing Offense vs Ohio State Defense: Michigan's pass offense ranks 10th in the Big Ten, while Ohio State's pass defense ranks second. Michigan's best passer is QB Steven Threet, who probably will not play due to injury. Nick Sheridan will probably get the start against Ohio State, and cannot play much worse than he did last week against Northwestern—eight of 29 for 61 yards.
Again, I look for Rodriguez to play Justin Feagin a lot against Ohio State. Feagin is a good running threat, but has not attempted a pass yet—again, what does Rodriguez have to lose by giving him a shot?
WRs Martavious Odoms and Greg Mathews and TE Kevin Koger are good weapons, but if the Michigan quarterback cannot get the ball to them downfield, their effect on the game is tremendously minimized.
Ohio State Rushing Offense vs Michigan Defense: Ohio State's rushing offense ranks third in the Big Ten, while Michigan's run defense ranks sixth. Just like last year, I look for Coach Tressel to emphasize the run game with RB Chris Wells against the Wolverines. While Michigan's defensive line, especially DE Brandon Graham, has played well this season, I also believe that the defensive line gets worn out from being out on the field so frequently.
With QB Terrelle Pryor a threat on option runs, and RB Boom Herron playing well in a backup role to Chris Wells, here is another edge for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State Passing Offense vs Michigan Defense: Ohio State's passing offense ranks last in the Big Ten, while Michigan's pass defense ranks 10th. As stated above, Michigan's defense plays well, but can only sustain the effort for so long before the defensive front runs out of gas and the secondary is torched.
Even with Terrelle Pryor's inexperience, Ohio State should be able to pass on Michigan's defense in this game. Pryor is leading the Big Ten in passing efficiency.
Special Teams: Ohio State leads the Big Ten in punt returns, while Michigan P Zoltan Mesko is leading The Big Ten in punting. Will Ray Small get an opportunity to play against Michigan, in what is possibly his last appearance in Ohio Stadium as a Buckeye?
Ohio State ranks second in field goals; Michigan is ninth. Ohio State ranks second in kickoff coverage; Michigan is ranked eighth. Considering the premium Coach Tressel places on special teams, I will give this edge to Ohio State in this area as well.
Intangibles: A positive for Michigan—the last six coaches have won their first game against Ohio State. A negative for Michigan? No Michigan team with a losing record has defeated Ohio State since 1959.
When is the last time you can remember an Ohio player such as John Kolesar, Ricky Powers, Desmond Howard, or Charles Woodson making a strong contribution for Michigan against Ohio State? Throw in the fact that Rich Rodriguez has even begun losing in-state talent to Michigan State, and you'll see the challenge Rodriguez and his staff have in this rivalry.
Prediction: This is the worst Michigan team in history. Never before has Michigan lost eight games in a season. Before some Michigan fan tries to throw it in my face or any other Ohio State fan's face about Ohio State's worst record?
The last Ohio State to lose seven games was back in 1897, when a man by the name of William McKinley was living in The White House. Talk about Rich Rodriguez driving the car off the cliff - it's more like he drove the car off the cliff, then set it on fire for good measure.
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