Michigan fans are chomping at the bit for tomorrow’s home game against Ohio State. The time seems right for Michigan to finally take the archival Buckeyes down for the first time since 2003.
2003! Facebook didn’t exist yet and George W. Bush was still in his first term as president.
It’s been a bad decade for Michigan against Ohio State. Jim Tressel owned “That Team Up North.”
But Tressel is gone, both schools have first year head coaches, and now the Wolverines are within striking distance of a potential BCS bowl berth and the only thing left standing in their way is quite possibly the worst Ohio State football team in the past 25 years.
Ohio State has been unpredictable all season with a passing game that has put up leather helmet era type numbers and a defense that has been woefully inconsistent and which has had a knack for starting out slowly.
Since Ohio State’s upset of Wisconsin on October 29, the team has digressed.
As an Ohio State fan, certainly I want the Buckeyes to win tomorrow, however I simply don’t see it happening. A common sentiment I’ve heard in Columbus this week has been the sense that the Ohio State coaches know that – regardless of what happens tomorrow – most of them will not be returning next season and the start of the forthcoming tenure of Urban Meyer will begin.
Because of this, the team and the coaches will adopt a no holds barred, nothing to lose, play like there’s no tomorrow attitude and that maybe this mentality will propel Ohio State to victory. That all sounds nice, in theory, but that doesn’t change the fact that this Michigan team is better.
We’ve seen each of these teams play 11 games and based on observation, Michigan is better. Ohio State has a lot of young talent, but it’s still highly unrefined. The fact that Michigan is better obviously doesn’t mean that they’re guaranteed to win. It’s just that they should win.
Ohio State hobbles into game after consecutive losses to Penn State and Purdue which followed a lackadaisical performance against Indiana. In that span, the Buckeyes were outscored 30-7 in the first quarter of the three contests. They’ve struggled in the first quarter all season and have trailed in every game this season, save for the bouts against lowly Akron, Colorado, and an undergraduate performing Illinois team.
Illinois is the only road win of the season for an Ohio State team who is 118th in passing nationally.
Michigan benefited from not having to play Wisconsin or Penn State in conference play this year. They are unbeaten at home. They did have two tough road losses: one at Michigan State and the other against Iowa three weeks ago. They enter tomorrow’s game at their peak however, coming off of impressive back to back wins against Illinois and Nebraksa.
Michigan has beaten the teams they should beat. Their defense, which was heavily maligned during the three year tenure of former head coach Rich Rodriguez is highly improved this year, allowing just 15.6 points per game, which is the sixth best mark in the country (although they haven’t exactly played the most dynamic offenses America has to offer, so I do think that stat is relative.)
While passing has been a struggle for Michigan this year, they still average nearly twice as many yards in the air per game compared to Ohio State.
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has had a history of passing difficulties, but the Ohio State secondary has been inconsistent at times this year. To assume that Ohio State will be able to successfully load the box in order to shut down the Michigan running attack, thereby forcing Robinson to pass may be wishful thinking. Even with Robinson’s struggles, it may be a stretch to take it as a given that he won’t be able to have passing success against the Bucks. In previous years, Ohio State may have been able to count on lock down coverage from the defensive backfield, but that would require their best game of the year. It’s possible, but shouldn’t be assumed for Ohio State fans.
Robinson has thrown 14 interceptions this year. For Ohio State to legitimately have a chance at pulling off this upset, winning the turnover battle might be the key. And it might not be unthinkable, as the Ohio State defense has intercepted 12 passes this season.
There is a cliché in rivalry games that you should throw out the records. While anything is possible, the better team (and the team with the better record) overwhelmingly wins this game. One record that is irrelevant is that 7-0 record Ohio State has amassed over the past seven seasons. Success in recent history has no relevance in this game.
There are a lot of ifs for Ohio State in this game. If Ohio State doesn’t get off to a flow start on defense. If Ohio State gets better performances out of their young receiving corps. If Ohio State avoids turnovers and bad penalties. If Ohio State plays exactly like how they played against Wisconsin…
Then they can win.
For Ohio State to win, I simply feel that there are too many things which would have to go their way. The Buckeye running game will be a key to OSU winning, but even this has been up and down at times, and stopping the run is the strength of the Michigan defense.
Pound for pound, unless there are significant turnovers, or any key injuries, I think Michigan wins this game, and controls throughout the contest. I will say the Wolverines by 13.
I hope I’m wrong. I love the Buckeyes, but I don’t see them winning this game.