Ohio State-Michigan Review

Buckeye CommentarySenior Analyst IDecember 2, 2008

I should have posted this last week when Tim sent it along, but work and the holiday got in the way. I know it is not timely, but it is still worth reading. A big thanks to Tim from Varsity Blue for taking the time each week to do this. I hope everyone enjoyed a different perspective.

What I saw

This game pretty much turned out how I expected, considering some of Michigan’s best players were limited or absent altogether. I guess I thought it was going to be a little closer for a couple of reasons TresselBall and a desire by Rodriguez to shed some of the heat that people are putting on him.

Ohio State was clearly the better team, at nearly every position. Michigan fans were left to wonder how this game (and the season) could have turned out if Pryor had been on the opposite sideline.

As far as the pregame “fight” goes, it really seemed like both teams were trying to put a little bit of importance into The Game.

Sure, it’s Ohio State-Michigan, but coming in, each team likely felt like it was just another step on the march to doom (Michigan) or a big bowl, hopefully in the BCS (Ohio State). The jawing seemed like they were forcing a little bit to amp up the emotion.

What I didn’t see

Ohio State’s offensive line was, for the umpteenth time this year, slightly subpar. However, the Michigan linebackers managed to have a terrible enough game to prevent their team from being able to take advantage of this fact at all.

Ohio State’s starters playing toward the end of the game. That’s the surest sign of an ugly contest, and this one was far from pretty.

Who I watched

Pryor. He wasn’t the huge difference-maker that he will undoubtedly be in the future on this day. Michigan was able to harass him a bit, but that served to do little else than give him the opportunity to make big plays.

The Ohio State defense, as I predicted, stepped up their physical play, particularly in terms of big hits. Michigan’s players got beaten up all game.

For once, I was watching a team with which I was intimately familiar play against the Buckeyes, and of course I’ve seen every OSU game this year, so I pretty much knew what to expect. I wasn’t particularly surprised by any single unit in the game.

What I expect next year

Michigan will be a better team than they are now, and Ohio State will likely be slightly worse, as they lose several key defenders and, in all likelihood, Beanie Wells. If Wells stays, Ohio State should be able to pick up where they left off on the offensive side of the ball.

Without him, it should be a more Pryor-centric offense, with more option and option-passing involved.

The offensive line, which was questionable throughout this year, loses its best offensive lineman (Alex Boone), along with a couple other guys who started at points in the year, so a quick-passing and option type offense would be beneficial.

Defensively, James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins are the departing stars, but Marcus Freeman and Nader Abdallah will be gone, too.

Of course, the Ohio State program has done a great job in the recent past developing young players and getting them game experience early in their careers, so the dropoff probably won’t be quite as precipitous as Michigan fans are hoping.

The gap between the two teams should begin to close, and how could it not with OSU graduating key starters on both sides of the ball, while Michigan graduates zero people who contributed at all on offense this year (tight end Mike Massey is the only player with a single start graduating, and even he didn’t catch a single pass).

The gap will still be sizable, however, and the only factor that is likely to keep this game within striking distance is rivalry.


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