Preview: Michigan at Ohio State

Preview: Michigan at Ohio State

November 27, 2010
I hate Ohio State’s uniforms, so here’s a picture of
Terrelle Pryor from high school.

Earlier in the year, I had designs on going to Columbus for this game.  I never really had the thought that this game would have an impact on the Big Ten Championship from Michigan’s side, but I thought it might be competitive for the first time in a few years.  I decided not to get tickets even prior to the Wisconsin game, and after watching Michigan get manhandled by the Badgers, I’m glad I didn’t make the purchase.  There will be better years to foray into the heart of Buckeye country.

Rush Offense vs. Ohio State Rush Defense
This will be a battle Michigan must win to have any chance at a victory.  The Wolverines are the #10 rushing offense in the country (257 yards per game), and the Buckeyes are the #3 rush defense (86 yards per game).  Something has to give, and honestly, it will probably be the Ohio State defense.  The best rushing team Ohio State has faced was Wisconsin, who put up 188 yards at 4.37 yards a pop.  Earlier in the year, I railed against Rich Rodriguez’s heavy use of Denard Robinson in the running game to keep him fresh for late in the season.  Well, if ever there was a time to use Denard 30, 35, 40 times a game, this is it.  This is the game that matters, maybe for Rodriguez’s job, maybe for the perception of the program.  This game right here is why I didn’t want Robinson rushing the ball 29 times in a 20-point victory over UConn, but now it’s pedal to the medal.  Michigan’s running backs have largely been ineffective this season, although Vincent Smith has started to improve in the past couple weeks.  Michigan might also get a boost from the return of Fitzgerald Toussaint, a highly talented running back who has missed most of the season due to various injuries.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Ohio State Pass Defense
The reason the rushing game will be so important is because the passing game scares me.  Michigan has the #30 pass offense and the #16 pass efficiency, but Ohio State is #5 in pass defense and #7 in pass efficiency D.  Denard Robinson still struggles to read defenses and go through his progressions.  And while Ohio State doesn’t make a ton of sacks (only 18 on the year), they have picked off 17 passes; meanwhile, Denard Robinson has thrown 10 picks, with 9 of them coming in Michigan’s last six games.  His accuracy and confidence have waned throughout the year.  Michigan might be missing a deep threat in Darryl Stonum, who injured his ankle returning a kick against Wisconsin.  That would leave the Wolverines down its two starting outside receivers from the beginning of the year, including Martavious Odoms, who has missed most of the year.  There will be open receivers because Ohio State is going to commit to stopping the run, but whether Robinson can hit those receivers downfield is a bit of a crapshoot.
Advantage: Ohio State

Rush Defense vs. Ohio State Rush Offense
Ummm . . . yeah.  So.  Michigan is bad at stopping the run.  This is well known.  While Wisconsin’s offensive line and running backs are more physical than Ohio State’s, Michigan’s defense effectively refused to stop the run against the Badgers, giving up 6.32 yards a carry.  And when you keep the ball on the ground 56 times in one game, it’s not like those yards came on surprise draws or reverses.  Nope, Wisconsin lined it up and simply dominated the line of scrimmage.  Ohio State would be wise to follow Wisconsin’s blueprint.  Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor has thrown 10 interceptions himself; so while Michigan’s pass rush isn’t fearsome and Michigan’s secondary is well below average, why take the chance at putting the ball in the air?
Advantage: Ohio State

Pass Defense vs. Ohio State Pass Defense
The Buckeyes are the #17 rushing offense, so they don’t need to pass the ball a ton; they average 230 passing yards a game, which is a middling 55th in the country.  But as much as Michigan fans like to make fun of the way Pryor throws the football, he ranks 14th in the country in passing efficiency.  It might be ugly, but it’s effective.  Ohio State has two solid receivers in Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey, and Pryor has the arm strength and touch to deliver deep balls consistently.  On the other hand, Michigan’s secondary is a work in progress.  Lacking its top two cornerbacks from the pre-season (Troy Woolfolk, J.T. Floyd) due to injury, it’s been mix-and-match since then.  But a strange thing seems to have happened since then – the secondary seems to be improving.  James Rogers has three interceptions in the last two games; true freshman Courtney Avery might already be a better cover corner than the guy he replaced (Floyd); and freshman free safety Ray Vinopal lacks the unfortunate quality of being a linebacker.  None of this is to say that Michigan will be great against the pass, but they should perform better than what we thought several weeks ago.
Advantage: Ohio State

Final Predictions

  • Based on the lack of success against Wisconsin, Michigan runs a good deal of 4-man fronts
  • Denard Robinson throws a pair of interceptions
  • Fitzgerald Toussaint gets a couple carries and then gets injured
  • Kelvin Grady leads the team in receiving
  • Ohio State 45, Michigan 27

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