Know the Opposition: The School Up North

David ThurmanCorrespondent INovember 20, 2009

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 24:  Josh Hull #43 of the Penn State Nittany Lions tackles Brandon Minor #4 of the Michigan Wolverines on October 24, 2009 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by  Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Dave and Drew Thurman (11:45 am)

Mascot: Wolverine (AKA "Skunk Bear")
Stadium: Michigan Stadium (106,201)
Coach: Rich Rodriguez (2nd year at Michigan, 8-15; overall D-1, 68-41)
2008 Record: 3-9
2009 Record: 5-6
Base Offense: Spread
Base Defense: 3-4
Letterman: Returning - 50; Lost - 20
Returning Starters: Offense - 10, Defense - 5, Specialists - 1
Returning Stars: RB Brandon Minor, DE Brandon Graham (pictured)

Notable Alumni:

- Mike Wallace: Host of 60 Minutes
- Barry Larkin: former Cincinnati Red shortstop, 1995 NL MVP
- Branch Rickey: former owner of Dodgers who signed Jackie Robinson
- Larry Paige: co-founder of Google
- Tom Brady: former QB and two-time Superbowl MVP
- Edward Wright: Astronaut; first American to walk in space
- Michael Phelps: Olympic swimmer with 14 career gold medals
- Gerald Ford: 38th President of the United States
- Theodore Kaczynski: The Unabomber

Cheerleading Scouting Report:

For the sake of all parties involved we will skip this section this week, because the sight is too gruesome! 

Michigan Overview:

After a 4-0 start, including an upset of Notre Dame, everyone in Ann Arbor was drinking the Rich Rodriguez Kool-Aid. Things haven't been pretty since the early surge though, as the Wolverines have only one win against Delaware State (and no Big Ten victories since a win against IU 36-33 in week four).

Their troubles haven't been because of a lack of offensive output though. They average 31.3 points per game to go along with 391 yards a game. When was the last you heard of a 5-6 team with those sorts of numbers? 

Part of the reason the Wolverines are improved offensively this year is because of freshman quarterback Tate Forcier (AKA "Tater Tot"). Though he has had his struggles at times, as any freshman does, Forcier as come up with a lot of big plays this year. On the season he has thrown for 1,824 yards to go along with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions, and also has 230 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

What the Buckeyes will have to watch the most is the innovation of Forcier, who often extends plays in unique ways as things are breaking down. Rodriguez will also use freshman Denard Robinson at QB, who is much more likely to use his legs than his arm.

He has only completed 12 passes all year long, and has 185 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. He is the third leading rusher on the team, with 320 yards and five touchdowns.

There are about a thousand different receivers who could catch the ball for the Wolverines come Saturday. The guy that has emerged in recent week is Roy Roundtree. He only had two catches on the year going into the Illinois game three weeks ago, and now has 318 yards and three touchdowns on the season.

The Wolverines are also expecting Martavious Odoms (272 yards, one TD) to return this weekend, who was the most consistent receiver on the roster before battling a knee injury the last three weeks.

Also look for Greg Mathews (285 yards, one TD) and Junior Hemingway (263 yards, two TD) to play a role at wideout. At tight end the Buckeyes will have to watch for former Ohio talent Kevin Koger, who has 220 yards and two touchdowns.

At running back, Rodriguez and company will take a huge blow this weekend as top runner Brandon Minor will be out with a shoulder injury (502 yards, 8 TD). That will leave the carries to Carlos Brown who has 480 yards and four touchdowns on the season. He is also banged up though, so also watch for Vincent Smith (244 yards, 1 TD) to take some snaps at running back. 

The Wolverine defense, coached by new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, has been abysmal at best this season. At this rate Robsinson is probably looking at a job with the Big Ten Network, so he can blast successful coaches. His defense is giving up 28.1 points per game and a amazing 400.2 yards per game. Pretty ugly stuff!

The one guy of major note on the defensive side of the ball is Brandon Graham, who has dominated people from the defensive end spot. He has 57 tackles on the season, to go along with 21 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.

The rest of the front seven has not been been stellar, but the 164 yards a game rushing they are giving up isn't terrible. Linebackers Stevie Brown, Obi Ezeh, and Jonas Mouton have been active, especially Brown who leads the team in tackles with 73.

Now the secondary on the other hand, has been exposed by about every team they have played. Last week they made Scott Tolzien look like a Heisman candidate as he picked them apart for four touchdowns. Outside of Donovan Warren, they are undersized and outmanned, especially at safety with Mike Williams (5'11'' 188) and Jordan Kovacs (5'10'' 194).

Game Outlook:

When Michigan has the ball a lot will rest on the offensive line and Tate Forcier. Opponents are only averaging 2.7 yards a carry against the Buckeye defense, and with Minor out, that puts a lot of pressure on Forcier to air it out. No doubt Rodriguez will have some things up his sleeve, but the Wolverines will most likely not be able to run the ball with consistency.

So David Moosman and the boys better come prepared to back up their talk this week. The big question will be what defensive line fans will see this Saturday. Will it be the dominating unit that took over the Penn State game or the unit that looked like they had cement cleats against Iowa (*cough* and Purdue *cough*)?

Look for the defense to come out and resemble the Penn State game, especially in scheme. Heacock will show little respect to the Michigan wideouts, jamming them at the line, and forcing Forcier to throw the ball into situations that favor the Buckeyes.

On the other side of the ball, when Ohio State is on offense, expect Tressel to try to pound the ball yet again. Michigan is very undersized, and with Boom and Zoom dominating the last two weeks he will want to wear down their defense. Tressel will probably use Pryor in a larger way this week though.

He always pulls out all the stops in this game, and he knows he has lots of time to get Pryor healthy before the Rose Bowl. The weather should be good enough in Ann Arbor for Pryor to air it out, and a undersized (and slow) UM secondary could mean big plays for guys like Posey, Sanzenbacher, and Small.

Overall, its hard to predict exactly what to expect, especially since Michigan has so many reasons to be motivated for this game. Tressel has obviously been incredible against Michigan, but over most of his tenure winning this game was vital for postseason success.

This year the Buckeyes already have the Rose Bowl clinched, and coming off of two highly emotional games, they will have to overcome the temptation to be flat. With that said, Tressel and the players seem focused on the goal, and Rodriguez has not proven he can win a big game. New jerseys and all, the Buckeyes continue the streak...

Father vs. Son Prediction Battle:

Dave: OSU 35-20
Drew: OSU 31-14      

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