Breaking down Ohio State vs. Michigan
Known simply in Columbus, Ann Arbor, and Welcome to CasinoSidorna! every place in-between as “The Game”, Ohio State and Michigan meet in the regular season finale for both teams again. And, as is usually the case, the stakes are very high.
The Buckeyes can claim no worse than a share of the Big 10 crown, and will be assured of a spot in one of the big BCS game with a win. The Wolverines, who were thought to have been reduced to a pure spoiler role, have risen back up into the conference race. The turning point of the Wolverines season has to be when Chad Henne threw a touchdown pass on the last play of the game against Penn State to knock them from the ranks of the undefeated a month ago.
If that pass falls incomplete, Michigan falls to 3-4 and this weeks game, though still their biggest of the year, would be more about pride for the Wolverines than aspirations.
They not only need to emerge victorious on Saturday, but would also need in-state rival Michigan State to pull an improbable upset versus Penn State later on in the afternoon to snare a share of conference honors.
Both squads enter this game playing their best football of the season, Ohio State’s offense has put up 40 points in the past four games, after quarterback Troy Smith struggled early on directing the offense, only to look nearly flawless after his grip on the starting job was slipping away. Due to this, everyone around him has gotten better.
Michigan on the other hand, has moved the ball better behind sophomore signal-caller Henne, and this maligned defense is even stopping the opposition with regularity. Wins over Iowa, Northwestern and Indiana are nice (only the IU win wasn’t competitive) , but remember, Ohio State DESTROYED those three squads by a combined score of 120-23.
Both teams will want to establish the running game, and they have the backs to do it, Ohio State’s Antonio Pittman and Michigan’s combination of Jason Hart and Kevin Grady. I give the Buckeyes the edge, as Smith is also a threat on the ground, while Henne is your classic drop-back passer. If the Wolverines and forced into second and third- and long, Henne and a sometimes shaky offensive line will have added pressure on them (literally) and these Ohio State linebackers led by A.J. Hawk could feast on him all day.
Last year with basically the same lineups, Smith ran wild for 145 yards and a score and threw for two more in the Buckeyes 37-21 win in Columbus. Michigan’s linebackers and safeties may have to blitz him at times to force quick decisions, which leaves one-on-one coverage against a trio of talented receivers.
The Wolverines secondary has been their defensive strength all year, and they will be tested here. With Smith becoming a better passer, coach Jim Tressel has given him more opportunities to go down field to Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn.
I give Ohio State a small advantage overall on offense, as I feel Henne has improved from his early season woes. He can do some damage with his receivers, Jason Avant and Steve Breaston, but he will need more time to throw than I think he’ll get on Saturday.
But, the bigger advantage to the Buckeyes rest on defense, where they physically beat teams up and wear them down n the second half.
On special teams, both teams boast dangerous return men. Ginn and Breaston can both change the game in a matter of seconds. Both coverage teams will be under the gun, and the punters would be best advised to kick away from these guys, even out of bounds if they can without shan king it.
The home crowd gives the Wolverines probably their lone advantage, but I still do not think that’s not enough. Notre Dame and Minnesota both came out with out Michigan Stadium victorious and the Buckeyes are better overall than either of those teams. History tells us that Michigan has controlled this series at The Big House, but Ohio State wins this one with a brutal display on D.
Ohio State 24 Michigan 13