Previously: M Rush Offense vs. OSU Rush Defense, M Pass Offense vs. OSU Pass Defense
Michigan is #14 in rushing defense (111.6 yards allowed/game), and the 3.28 yards allowed per rush ranks at #14 also. Despite having the #1 passing defense in the country, teams have still only run for 11 touchdowns this season, which is tied for #20 overall.
Michigan runs mostly a 4-man front, but defensive end Chase Winovich – the team’s third-leading tackler with 58 – is questionable after suffering an injury against Indiana. Devin Bush, Jr. is a sideline-to-sideline middle linebacker, and his 73 tackles lead the team. Safety Tyree Kinnel (62 tackles) has improved his tackling this year and frequently pokes his nose up into the box to help in the run game. Winovich’s 13.5 tackles for loss will be greatly missed if he’s unable to play, and Bush is second with 9.0.
As for the defensive line overall, Michigan is #10 in Line Yards, #3 in Opportunity Rate, and #15 in Stuff Rate; where they struggle is in Power Success Rate (#80), which is the result of a lack of a powerful nose tackle. Michigan has not had great production from the interior line, which makes Michigan’s defensive success so impressive: the top three defensive tackles (Lawrence Marshall, Bryan Mone, Auburey Solomon) have combined for just 26 tackles and 2 tackles for loss. For a comparison, Maurice Hurst, Jr. had 61 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss by himself last year.
Ohio State is #53 in rushing offense (182 yards/game) and #66 in yards per carry (4.4). Their 20 rushing touchdowns come in tied at #61.
Ohio State’s line is as follows:
- LT: Thayer Munford (So., 6’6″, 325)
- LG: Malcolm Pridgeon (RS Sr., 6’7″, 315)
- C: Michael Jordan (Jr., 6’7″, 310)
- RG: Demetrius Knox (RS Sr., 6’4″, 311)
- RT: Isaiah Prince (Sr., 6’6″, 306)
Munford was not heavily recruited, Pridgeon is a JUCO transfer, and Jordan was thought to be a tackle or guard coming out of high school. As a group, they are #34 in Opportunity Rate, #67 in Line Yards, #67 in Stuff Rate, and #101 in Power Success Rate. It’s not a great group, but it is Ohio State: they’re still not bad, because of the talent and the coaching.
The Buckeyes have a good 1-2 punch with sophomore J.K. Dobbins (5’10”, 214) and senior Mike Weber (also 5’10”, 214). They have combined for 1,626 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Weber missed last week with an injury, leading to Dobbins’s 37 carries for 203 yards against the Maryland Terrapins. Dobbins has generally been held in check by solid defenses (28 yards against Michigan State, 57 against Penn State), but Weber went for 102 against MSU two weeks ago. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins (6’3″, 220) is decently mobile, but he’s not really a runner like J.T. Barrett, Braxton Miller, and other past OSU quarterbacks; Haskins has 93 yards and 4 touchdowns on the year and is more in the mode of Cardale Jones.
The fact that Haskins isn’t a great runner should help Michigan out here, because Urban Meyer used J.T. Barrett to great effectiveness over the past several years. Even in their worst rushing game against Michigan over Meyer’s tenure (the 2016 game), Barrett ran the ball 30 times for 125 yards and 1 score. Michigan should do well, but the absence of Chase Winovich would be a big blow. Backup Josh Uche isn’t a run-stopper, and Aidan Hutchinson can be taken advantage of because of his inexperience. Michigan’s best defensive end combo, sans Winovich, would be Rashan Gary on the strong side and Kwity Paye on the weak side, but that leaves the backup situation in flux.
It will also be important for Michigan to control the ball on offense. Michigan can get worn out on defense, like they did against Indiana last week, and that has also hurt them in the past. Several players went down with cramps last week. No Barrett probably means a lesser chance of getting worn down on extended drives, but it will still be something to watch for in the fourth quarter.