Why Michigan Can Beat Ohio State This Year

Jonathan VanValkenburgContributor IAugust 31, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 22:  Rich Rodriguez the Head Coach of the Michigan Wolverines is pictured during the Big Ten Conference game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 22, 2008 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Trapped behind enemy lines, amidst a sea of Scarlet and Grey, it's hard to imagine a win for the Wolverines this year.  Even so, that's precisely what I'm going to point out is possible.  Listen up, Rich Rodriguez, here's your inside scoop into what fears Buckeye Nation has for this year and how Michigan can exploit them on Nov. 21.

1. The line, while big, is slower than it has been in a while. 

This is one of the most common worries I hear here in good ol' Columbus.  The local radio guys talk about it as a potential weakness and even Kirk Herbstreit mentioned it during the Big Ten Preview in this Saturday's ESPN College Gameday Preview Show. 

This could be a great sign for a supposedly much faster defensive front for Michigan.  Our lack of size and experience on the line could be made up for by speed.  Everyone who followed OSU last year knows Terelle Pryor's only regular season loss as a starter came at the hands of Penn State.  How did they rattle the seemingly flawless youth? 

They got pressure on him by getting by the offensive line, causing him to scramble earlier and often and causing what ending up being a game-winning fumble on a promising OSU possession late in the game.  If Michigan can capitalize on this weakness, it may help stunt a few offensive possessions that might have otherwise been scoring drives.

2. The offensive fire-power, while led by a star, is somewhat thin this year.

OSU is a team that is known for turning seemingly reloading years into BCS game appearances.  This also contributes to their unfortunate string of losses in said BCS games, much to their chagrin. 

That being said, this year the offense is a big question mark for the Bucks.  They lose the Brians—Hartline and Robiskie—at WR, returning sophomore Devier Posey and senior Ray Small.  At running back they lose Beanie Wells, but return Daniel "Boom" Herron and Brandon Saine.

While they've both had their moments, neither looks like the star that Beanie did.  Needless to say, this could change greatly by the last game of the season, but as it stands now, Michigan's defense, as thin as it is in certain areas, isn't dealing with the power-house offense it was last year—and Brandon Graham is still in Maize and Blue.

3. "The Game" is in Ann Arbor. 

This may seem silly, but hear me out.  Last year, the score was 14-7 going into the half.  If not for a missed field goal of less than 30 yards, it would have been 14-10.  If the Wolverines came out of the tunnel after half to a home crowd, it might have changed things, especially playing inexperienced QBs. 

I expect the backlash against OSU to be even greater this year.  Bolstered by the additions to the Big House, Michigan Stadium will rock a little louder this year.  It's amazing how quiet the buzz of 100,000+ fans can be when there is nothing to prevent it from leaving the stadium. 

Here's hoping that the build-up on the sides of the stadium keep some of that noise in.  Michigan needs to take advantage of that to get the same 12th-man effect that Happy Valley and The Horseshoe have.

4. Conditioning in year two of Barwis will lead to better playing. 

This is more of a hope than a confirmed fact.  Since we all know by now that Michigan football players have "voluntary" work-outs past the allowed 20 hours/week, they should be in the best shape of their lives. 

Overheard recently was talk of how many players have progressed dramatically since year one of the Barwis program.  The number grew 10-fold when asked about how many players could do the work-out program effectively this year compared to last.


So, there you have it.  A snippet of hope for this year's version of "the Game."  We'll have to see how the season pans out before a more accurate pre-game can be made, but believe me when I say, it's not all roses in Columbus.


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