Ohio State-Michigan: Wolverines Look to Prevent Fifth Straight Buckeye Victory

Jason BarczyCorrespondent INovember 21, 2008

Before I get started with this week's preview, congratulations are in order. Give some props to the Michigan basketball team for beating the number four-ranked UCLA Bruins Thursday night by a score of 55-52 at Madison Square Garden.

I could not believe my eyes and was ecstatic afterwards. Hey Sparties, still want to wait for basketball season? I can't wait for Feb. 10 at Crisler Arena when Michigan plays MSU.

On with the preview.


Michigan Wolverines (3-8, 2-5) at Ohio State Buckeyes (9-2, 6-1)

Noon, Saturday at Ohio Stadium

Line: Ohio State -20.5

Weather: High of 36 degrees with partly cloudy skies

Well, here it is, folks—the 105th meeting between the University of Michigan and Ohio State University.

The 20.5-point spread is the largest in the history of "The Game," and there's a good chance the Buckeyes will cover given how bad Michigan has been this season.

It all depends on which Michigan team shows up Saturday. Are we going to get the Wolverines from the Minnesota game that played solid football for four quarters, or the team that has bombed against the rest of the Big Ten?

How about the team that played against Purdue, where just the offense showed up and the defense decided to lay an egg? Or the teams that played good for one quarter of a game against Wisconsin and Illinois?

All I know is if the Wolverines and the 16 seniors on this team want to beat Ohio State for the first time since 2003, they better show up and hit on all cylinders for a full 60 minutes.

Michigan has never lost five straight against the Buckeyes, but this has been a season of dreadful firsts for the Wolverines, so if this is the year it happens, I won't be much surprised.

However, if Michigan should pull out the victory on Saturday, I will be elated and proceed to claim it the biggest upset in the history of the series.

It's going to be a giant uphill battle, though, and I don't see giving Michigan much of a chance.


Michigan Pass Offense vs. Ohio State Pass Defense

All Michigan fans can do is hope that Nick Sheridan brings his stallion and sword prepared to be knighted again instead of his usual white flag signaling surrender.

He's got the 13th-ranked pass defense in the country to deal with, which has 14 interceptions, led by Kurt Coleman's four and Malcolm Jenkins's three.

Jenkins also has eight pass breakups, so I would advise against throwing to his side of the field altogether.

Michigan's offensive line did pretty well against Northwestern last week. The Wildcats had a ton of sacks entering that game but only got one on the Wolverines.

I would normally feel all right about Michigan's ability to pick up the pass rush, but Steve Schilling might not play after spraining his knee in practice this week.

Ohio State has a decent pass rush, accumulating 21 sacks this season.

In order to compensate, Martavious Odoms, Darryl Stonum, and Kevin Koger are all going to have to step up their game and get open quicker.

Stonum has been having a rough time with routes, and Odoms has a propensity to drop the ball, being the freshmen that they are.

Marcus Freeman and James Laurinaitis will most likely get to Sheridan before he can even get to his second read, which takes long enough as it is.

Advantage: Ohio State


Michigan Rush Offense vs. Ohio State Rush Defense

Brandon Minor is back this week, and after Carlos Brown returned from oblivion last week, Michigan should have a solid one-two punch this week.

The offensive line is run blocking better and better each week, and Brown and Minor should have some good lanes to run through—although those lanes might get filled up by the nation's 26th-ranked run defense that only gives up 3.7 yards per carry.

The Buckeyes have an astonishing 54 tackles for loss, led by Freeman's 6.5 and Laurinaitis's 4.5.

Speed kills, though, and Minor and Brown have shown a lot of speed this season. Minor is bound to break a long run or two, while Brown almost did a couple times last week.

Advantage: Michigan (barely)

Ohio State Pass Offense vs. Michigan Pass Defense

Terrelle Pryor is going to be a nightmare to deal with for the Michigan defense. He doesn't throw a lot, but when he has, it's been effective.

Pryor has a 152.16 efficiency rating and has 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

While he's lethal on the ground, he can be just as lethal if not more through the air.

Brian Robiskie is his favorite target (seven touchdowns), and Brian Hartline is averaging over 20 yards per catch.

Michigan's pass defense has been a complete disaster this season, with Stevie Brown, Charles Stewart, and Brandon Harrison leaving the middle of the field wide open.

The Wolverines' secondary ranks 89th in the country and gives up over 230 yards per game through the air.

Advantage: Ohio State


Ohio State Rush Offense vs. Michigan Rush Defense

This is the key matchup in the game if both teams want to be successful.

If Ohio State has a big day on the ground, expect another Buckeye victory, but if Michigan can slow down Beanie Wells and Pryor, the Wolverines will have a chance.

The Buckeyes rank 29th in the country, averaging 187 yards per game, with Wells rushing for 119.6 per game and 5.4 per carry.

He killed Michigan singlehandedly last year with 222 yards and the only two touchdowns at the Big House.

Now he has Pryor to aid him once in a while, who gets 50.9 yards per game and 4.8 per carry.

Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton are going to be crucial in slowing down Wells and keeping Pryor contained.

Ezeh and Mouton need to step up and show that they can be leaders on this team next season, and this is their audition.

Seniors Terrance Taylor, Will Johnson, and Tim Jamison are just itching to get their first victory against OSU.

If the defensive line can slow down Wells, and Ezeh and Mouton keep Pryor contained, Michigan can win this game.

Advantage: Even


Special Teams

Ohio State has two punt returns for touchdowns this season, but don't expect them to get one this weekend with Zoltan "Space Lord Emperor of the Universe" Mesko kicking the ball into the upper atmosphere.

Neither team's field goal kicker is dead-on accurate either.

Advantage: Even


Final Thoughts

The media has been blowing up stories about just how much Rich Rodriguez knows about this rivalry.

We already know Sweater Vest's opinion and passion for this game. It's the only big game he can win (at least since the 2002 championship game).

Rich Rod has been very open with the media, a lot more so than Lloyd Carr ever was, but I think he's been holding something back.

There's something he hasn't told us yet.

Bo Schembechler said after the historic 1969 win that not even his players knew it, but every day they were practicing something for the Ohio State game.

Maybe RichRod has been doing the same and has a trick or two up his sleeves.

I still don't think it'll matter, but maybe it'll help.

Prediction: Ohio State 31, Michigan 13


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