I have a report that Bo Schembechler collapsed again at the taping of Big Ten Ticket; this time it was serious enough that he did not leave under his own power and did not tape the show. He's been rushed to the hospital.
Bo, seriously: you gotta make it one more day.
Update: Word around the hospital is a severe heart attack.
Update II: Channel 7 reports that Bo has passed away.
It returns! This week's guest is Tom Orr, who you may remember from last year's version of this feature. Until this year, when he broke off and decided to start a super-sweet secret Internet project, Tom was the designated Michigan Monday guy at the OZone.
What's Boone's status for the game? He had a scope a couple weeks ago, right? Will he play and will he be 100%? How big of a deal will it be if he's not?
He's supposedly going to play, which I guess is not much of a surprise. The thought of Boone, Kirk Barton, Tim Schafer or anyone else going one-on-one with LaMarr Woodley is not a particularly comforting one, whether they're 100% or not. I'm expecting to see a lot of tight ends staying in to block and/or Stan White and Dionte Johnson staying in the backfield in passing situations. Keeping Troy Smith in one piece is a rather significant piece of the puzzle for this year's team.
Any concerns with Smith's thumb? Deep ball accuracy and such?
Compared to the "blocking Woodley" situation? Not really. I guess it could be an issue, especially if it's really windy. The last forecast I saw was for winds of 10-20 mph, which shouldn't screw things up too badly.
I have a feeling the pass protection will play a bigger role in deciding whether OSU can throw deep than Troy's thumb.
The conventional wisdom holds that Ohio State will eschew conventional sets and go with an exclusively spread look. Do you think this will be the gameplan?
I think a spread formation allows OSU to go after the weak link (such as it is) of Michigan's defense, that being the DBs. The more you can get lineman and linebackers off the field and guys like Brandon Harrison, Charles Stewart and/or Johnny Sears on it, the better off you are.
However (and I hate to beat this into the ground), it's going to depend on the line's ability to block Michigan's front four. If you have to keep an extra guy or two in there to keep Troy Smith from getting turned inside out, you can't go five or perhaps even four-wide.
Michigan's run defense has been outstanding all year. Opponents have basically given up on the run before the game starts, saving runs for a change of pace. Will Ohio State try to establish the run or will they try to pass until we loosen up? What sort of success do you see Ohio State having on the ground?
I don't think you're going to see a 25-carry game out of anyone on the offense. This just has the feel of a 15-carry for Pittman, 5-carry for Chris Wells kind of day. They'll run to keep Michigan honest, but as for lining up in the I-formation and pounding the ball, I just don't see it happening. If Pittman hits 100 yards on the ground, it would probably take something really weird (tons of turnovers, cheap TDs on defense or special teams) for Michigan to win.
I would not be surprised to see some variations on the option-choice plays with Smith in the shotgun, deciding at the snap whether to hand it to Pittman going one way or to keep it and take off going the other. I think you'll see a lot more of that than you will the old-school pounding the ball between the tackles.
Do you think the Michigan secondary is vulnerable? That Harrison vs. Hartline/Robiske thing doesn't seem like the world's best option, but it's also a third-wr versus a nickel back. Gonzalez and Ginn versus Trent and Hall... advantage who?
Honestly, that's the biggest advantage that OSU has. I don't know if that's a good thing for Michigan or Ohio State.
I kind of think Michigan will put Leon Hall on Gonzalez and let Morgan Trent cover Ginn, likely with safety help on most plays. I don't see either one of those guys breaking 50 yards receiving. [!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -ed]
If OSU wins, they've already got the Player of the Game trophy engraved with Troy Smith's name, but I think a guy like Brian Robiskie or Brian Hartline is going to be the one who is the true MVP. Sort of like how it was a total joke for Tom Brady to win the Super Bowl MVP over Mike Vrabel a few years ago when Vrabel made one of the biggest plays of the game on both sides of the ball.
(Ahem.) [Orr is being shot right now for daring to question Tom Brady. -ed]
Scrambly, scrambly, scrambly. Devastating or not?
Not as consistently devastating as it was two years ago, but I think he's got one good one in him on a third down or some other key play.
One would have to assume that stopping Smith from running wild is going to be one of, if not THE primary goal on most defensive snaps for Michigan.
That may open some things up in the passing game on throws off option looks, like the little jump pass he threw off a speed option look against Illinois.
Do you buy the Michigan blogger theory that Hart will be able to run on the OSU defense? It seems that competent rushing attacks have rolled up fairly good YPC, but since they've all fallen way behind they've had to go dormant. How have the linebackers been when not having passes batted directly to them? Is the Kerr/Homan combo at WLB a potential issue?
One of the topics that the rocket surgeons on ESPN were beating into the ground this week was whether this year's defense was better than last year's. I know the numbers say yes, but I have to think that anyone with two eyes and a basic understanding of football would have to consider that question an insult to their intelligence.
I keep looking back at the "points allowed" column on the schedule and wondering how the hell it reads "12, 7, 7, 6, 17, 7, 7, 3, 0, 10, 10."
Teams have been able to run the ball on this defense in a way that they haven't against the great (2002, 2005 and 2003 until late November) defenses of the past. I'm firmly of the belief that the solid rush defense numbers that they've posted overall are more of a function of the big leads they've been playing with that forced opposing teams to start throwing on every down.
I'm not saying it's going to be 1995 all over again, but if Michigan wins, it's going to be Mike Hart's name on that Player of the Game graphic.
The linebackers have been okay. The bar was set pretty high by last year's crew, and I don't think there's a unit in the country that measures up Carpenter, Hawk and Schlegel. This year's unit is good but (outside of Kerr) quite young. This time next year, you'll be cursing their names.
This year, they won't kill the Bucks, but as a unit they're not going to take over the game, either.
OSU last year: six interceptions. This year: 21. Why the huge disparity? Fortune, or something more significant? There's a massive turnaround in OSU's turnover margin -- they were actually negative a year ago -- despite having a monstrously kickass defense. Now: turnover city. Meaningful? Random?
Ummm... yes? I've been a big believer in Jim Feist's idea that it doesn't necessarily carry over from year-to-year regardless of personnel, but it's really hard to dismiss the fact that this team has seemingly come up with a turnover every time they've needed one this year.
This is sort of like the fact that the 2002 team just had every ball bounce their way. Is it luck? Divine intervention? Perfect positioning by the best coaching staff in the country? Outstanding physical and mental ability on the part of the players?
Sure, why not?
How about this: If OSU forces a bunch of turnovers against a usually ball-responsible Michigan team this Saturday, it's a meaningful stat. Otherwise, it's random statistical noise that means nothing.
Right: who wins and why?
Look, we all know I can't pick Michigan. I just escaped that state after a three-year sentence, and I'm not about to risk banishment back to America's version of the Siberian gulags.
That being said, I've seen people picking scores like 38-10 and 42-6. I'm not sure what anyone's basing the on. Barring a fiesta of turnovers and defensive/special teams scores, I don't see anyone breaking 30.
I don't think OSU will be able to run the ball on Michigan with anything approaching a consistent basis. I do, however, think that OSU will be able to hit a couple big playsâ€”maybe a big kick return, maybe a fly route to Robiske with Ginn or Gonzalez cutting underneath to draw the safety. Troy Smith puts up decent but not explosive numbers (175-200 yards passing, 30 yards rushing and maybe a couple scores), Pittman grinds out a quiet 15-carry, 65-yard game, and Robiskie, Hartline or Rory Nicol ends up as the leading receiver.
Defensively, the Michigan run game worries me more than the pass game. I'm not really sure why. It's probably the notion that if Michigan can run the ball they will. I don't see them throwing it 30 times unless OSU shuts down the run game or they get way behind. Mike Hart has the best game against OSU of his career (although that doesn't set the bar very high, does it?). Maybe 100 or 120 yards for him?
One of the receivers makes a big play (how's that for an overly generic statement?), and we see the waggle or a screen pass about a dozen times. Michigan holds a bunch and it doesn't get called.
In my mind, I'm really worried about stopping Hart. Of course, I was really worried about stopping Iowa and Texas as well. At this point, I've learned to shut my brain off and rely on the fact that OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock is very, very good at his job and will probably cook something up.
If this game was in Ann Arbor, Michigan probably wins. Unfortunately for you guys, it's not. I don't think Michigan will put up enough big plays to get the crowd out of it, which will certainly help. Remember- you can't go crying to the refs if it gets too loud any more.
Frankly, I think this may come down to a field goal late. For the first time since 2001, I'm not sure who that benefits.
All week long, I've been saying OSU 17, Michigan 13 so I guess I'll stick with that. Something like 20-17 is well within the realm of possibility. I definitely don't see the sense in laying a touchdown. That line is a product of OSU fans believing that failure to bet on their own team constitutes some sort of medium-level treason.
Many thanks to Tom.
Plays from Iowa-Ohio State, basically all of them in the first half as I just got too many in the first and the second half got out of hand fairly quickly. A couple runs from the second were included, but Iowa got down, allowed a couple long OSU drives and had to virtually abandon the run.
Iowa Drive 1, 0-0
Pitcock and Patterson both drive into the backfield, stoning a second-and-ten stretch. This looks eerily familiar. You may recognize this exact thing from the first half of our Iowa game.
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Third and long, OSU rushes three. Tate finds a receiver for the first down but throws behind him. Douglas can't make the tough catch. This is a microcosm of the Iowa passing game: open receivers, a throw that's off just a little bit, and a dropped pass. Tate would end up 19-41 with three interceptions. Most of those incompletions would be either dropped balls or errant throws.
OSU Drive 2, 0-0
Ginn hitch. Guy from Nebraska playing way off; gotta think we're closer.
Pittman bounces outside; atrocious linebacker play. This looks like us last year. Klinkenborg sits there, totally motionless and gives up contain. I scream GET OUTSIDE, BURGESS! No dice.
QB draw for five or six.
Pittman bounces out for the first down... Boone dangerously close to a hold. How many times have we seen this this season? None. Two options: we have not faced a back with the bounce-out capability Pittman has or this just isn't going to work against Biggs, Woodley, and our capable run-support secondary. If it's the former we're in deep trouble.
Pittman off left tackle again for one yard. Smith throws behind Gonzalez on a cross. Easy, easy slant touchdown.
Iowa Drive 2, 7-0
Play action sack as Laurinaitis comes unblocked on a stunt. Draw picks up ten on second-and-twenty. Two things to note: Pitcock slices into the backfield like whoah, almost getting to the quarterback by the time the handoff gets there, and the linebackers play this badly. By the time they read the play it's far too late.
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Tate freezes, unsure of where to go, then hits Grigsby on an improvised route for a big gainer. Not much you can learn there... DBs get a little lost when you play forever.
Young picks up a nice gain on a stretch. This is exactly our running game. Note: backside DE does not flow down the line. This will happen a couple more times. Also, Pitcock is ridden out of the play fairly easily.
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They pound up the middle for the first. A lot of push from the line.
Young misses a cut outside of his fullback as John Kerr stands up the fullback and closes down the inside. One: I think Hart gets outside of this and I think Oluigbo blows up the linebacker better.
Bubble screen doesn't work. Miscommunication seemingly ends the drive, but Washington's nailed for an awful, awful PI penalty. Ridiculous call.
And now is the time on Sprockets when we Vernon Gholston.
Gholston plows into Tate after going by Richardson like he isn't there, almost causing a fumble. Instead, incomplete. Draw sniffed out by Gholston, lined up on the other side of the line this time. Tate has time and fires a strike in between the picket fence zone at the marker.
Gholston kills a zone right:
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This play isn't exactly swarmed -- if Gholston doesn't shoot the gap here it's at least five -- but a lot of Michigan's failures on zone plays were failures to get one guy blocked. A Buckeye of the more reasonable variety expressed concern about Gholston versus the run, citing a few plays against Iowa as the exception to the rule. Hopefully that's true, because that's a nice exception up there.
Tate throws a swing pass way behind Young, incomplete. Jenkins jams the hell out of Douglas, disrupting his route. Remember the Ginn touchdown versus Aaron Ross? This is the complete opposite of that. A press cover tutorial that ends the drive.
OSU Drive 2, OSU 7-3
Ginn bomb overthrown. Mitch King runs down Pittman after yet another bounceout. Smith chased out of the pocket and is forced to try a late throw to Gonzalez; incomplete.
Iowa Drive 3, OSU 7-3
Open spot in the zone; Tate nails Douglas... think we can do this? This stuff was there most of the night. When Ohio State rushed four they got almost no pressure -- their two sacks both came from the linebackers -- and Tate dissected the zone when he wasn't throwing errantly.
Play action fake finds Grigsby with two steps on Jenkins but is... yup... errant. Jenkins is either in a really bizarre zone or the worst man coverage ever, as he never takes his eyes off the QB.
Tate gets an unblocked blitzer on the next play, and sidesteps him but is forced to throw it away. On third and ten, they throw it to the fullback in the flat. Punty.
OSU Drive 3, OSU 7-3
Wells stuffed going off tackle by Mattison -- Mattison's good. Smith has Henne-vs-Indiana time on second down and hits Hall in a zone hole.
Smith's quarterback draw goes nowhere. A rollout pass is dropped by Gonzalez at the sticks. I pulled it not for the drop but for the play design. We'll see this. Then Iowa gets in Smith's face on third down, creating an errant throw. Smith's natural tendency these days is to be a pocket passer. If Michigan secures him solidly on the first hit he's not going to be any harder to sack than Morelli or whoever, as long as OSU leaves him in the pocket.
Iowa Drive 4, OSU 7-3
First play is the infamous Tate interception that sends Herbstreit into an immediate "don't throw late down the middle" tutorial. Virtually the exact opposite of what Henne's been doing all year where he baits the safety with his eyes and comes off to another receiver. This is a lock-on job the whole way. Dammit, Sophomore Navarre!
OSU Drive 4, OSU 7-3
Starts at the Iowa 30. Speed option for 3. Missed tackle from the safety turns a TFL into a gain of 23. Watch the DE get crushed inside by Rory Nichol, a sophomore(!) tight end(!!!). Watch Klinkenborg get crushed by a pulling guard. It's ugly out there, folks.
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If this happens against us we're dead; I do not think this will. I can recall one run like this all year, on Wisconsin's first drive of the game.
Pittman gets the corner on first and goal, touchdown. Every big run he's picked up has been a bounce outside to a place without contain.
Iowa Drive 5, OSU 14-3
Hopeful deep sideline ball is well out of bounds.
I love this play. Iowa lines up in ace three-wide, runs a zone stretch, and boom: headshot. Everyone gets blown up. Very encouraging. Watch the backside DE ignore the idea of contain.
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The two big zone runs I've shown both feature a DE intent on pass rush. We need to throw enough to get them doubting.
Tate gets pressure off a stunt, avoids it, and scrambles for nice yardage. (Anderson Russell has his names reversed.) Well-timed blitz + 8 in the box = a stop, but look at the frontside of this play. No one's getting off blocks.
Next run another zone play featuring major penetration from Patterson but everyone else is stoned. Sims hops around Patterson and there's a gaping hole.
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I think this is the difference between the run defenses: most of the time when a Michigan defender makes a play like Patterson did here, even if he misses the tackle, the linebackers are good enough make the play at the line.
First and ten slant is wide open; this time Tate looks off and comes to Chandler late. Note: this is a zone blitz similar to the one Michigan runs; this time Gholston drops into coverage.
Next play is a simple off tackle that goes for a 15-yard touchdown.
OSU Drive 5, OSU 14-10
Pittman for five off a zone read. Nobody open on option play action. Smith hangs in the pocket a long time and is eventually sacked. Third and eight draw? Okay.
Iowa Drive 6, OSU 14-10
Sims runs the same offtackle play; OSU blitzes into it and Laurinaitis grabs his ankles. Eight, maybe nine in the box here. Odd thing: no screens from Iowa all night.
Yuck: Tate 6 of 15. Chandler drops a zone out that would have set up third and short. Swing pass batted down by Pitcock.
OSU Drive 6, OSU 14-10
Handoff to Wells also gets outside left on Iowa. This is just a huge structural deficiency in the Iowa offense. The corner and linebacker to that side are getting crushed. Draw stuffed.
Speed option for the first down. We are going to see this if we ever line up like this. Five in the box with a trips set to the top of the screen drawing Klinkenborg out. At the snap the OT ignores the DE and gets a little push on the one remaining linebacker good enough to spring Wells for the first down. Damned if you do, damned (by a screen) if you don't.
Speed option fake ends up with an inaccurate checkdown that Wells flags down with one hand. Pittman goes nowhere inside.
This is bad.
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Smith stuffed on a QB draw. Rollout to Ginn again. Godfrey is clearly petrified. Another Pittman bounceout for five. Drives down to the ten as the LG crushes the DT. 1. This is the exception in Ohio State's night on the ground. It was all bounceouts since the original hole was never there. 2. This doesn't happen to Branch.
Off tackle to the five. Touchdown throw from the five.
Iowa Drive 7, OSU 21-10
Another succesful zone stretch.
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Tate throws well wide and out of bounds. Tate hits Chandler for the first down. Hits Chandler but forces a diving catch when he had lots of YAC. Swing for the first down is dropped. Tate throws a little wide of Brodell, dropped, end of drive, end of half.
Just one more highlight from the one Young zone in the second half. Three yards from a three-wide set; late-approaching safety overloads the box.
What We Learned
- Do not let Pittman outside the tackles. Seriously.
- Troy Smith will run against Michigan. Iowa was the one big game on the Buckeye schedule (or at least the one game that seemed big) that was dangerous, and Smith ran a series of draws (which were all fairly well defended) and options. We'll get a dose of the same. All the options saw pitches... Smith is a decoy.
- Against a pretty decent offensive line Ohio State did not get much pressure from the front four. Tate had time to survey.
- Jenkins is good when he gets his hands on you.
- The zone stretch was fairly effective, especially when the defensive ends decided they didn't need to bother with that run garbage.
- OSU will run the same zone blitz we do.
- The interior of the Buckeye line is probably not going to crease our defensive tackles much.
- Smith remains hideously accurate on the run.
Sort of like "Your Next." Apparently there's a geeky trash-talking tradition in the Michigan and Ohio State library systems: during the week of the game when they send books to each other smack is included. Michigan's contribution: a neatly typewritten letter pointing out various things about Ohio State -- like fire and electricity and indoor plumbing, though the latter seems to be suffering a slow adoption rate -- that they would not have without Michigan.
Ohio State's response?
There you have it folks: these people work for the library system. They're the ones who can read. Presumably. They might have hired a homeless man and dictated.
WIN FOR THE LITTLE GIRL! BYE!
SMQB caught in the crossfire. One article detailing the relative strengths and weaknesses of Ohio State == instant reply from a Buckeye fan LOLing at any suggestion Ohio State has anything resembling a weakness. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?
Radio killed the blogger star. the MZone guys are doing a radio show tonight about the game. Will Leitch! Some guy from the OZone and those Geico commercials with cavemen! Details!
Etc.: USA Today on past games; Big Ten announcers are surveyed about stuff; they're still pissed about 1973; Wojo (DetNews) on Carr; The House Rock Built advises you to stay out of the killzone; will NBCSports get banned from NDNation for posting this article about a father-son Michigan-Ohio State rivalry?
Things that are, in my opinion, that will inform the preview:
Both run defenses are kinda sorta overrated. Overrated by the stats, at least. Rushing defense is one of the strongest statistical correlations between numbers a team can put up and national championships, but -- like time of possession -- that can be understood as something of an effect stat, not a cause. What do teams that win national championships do? Win a lot, usually by big margins, because they're good. What do teams that win by a lot face a lot of? Pass attempts. What do they face not so much of? Rush attempts.
Anyone who thinks that Michigan and Ohio State are going to combine for 120 rushing yards is probably not so correct, and anyone expecting 1.4 YPC or 3.2 YPC out of Ohio State and Michigan's rushing games, respectively, is also probably not so correct. There will be movement on the ground by both teams, though I expect a good bit of OSU's to come from Troy Smith.
Michigan's offensive philosophy artificially holds down scoring against most teams. When you run 2/3rds of the time and lack a big play threat in your run game, you are going to have a lot of non-scoring drives. What scoring drives you do have are going to be long clock-mashers. Another way of saying that "Michigan leads the nation in time of possession" is "Michigan games don't have many drives in them." This artificially props the defense and deflates the offense.
... but not OSU. Balls, as they say, will be to the wall.
Michigan's gameplans to date do not have relevance. Michigan is not going to run on 80% of its first downs, nor is it going to close up shop with a two-touchdown lead. I've tried to note the divergent philosophies Michigan employs against teams they respect and teams they think they can roll over. The comparative scores of, say, the Minnesota games (28-14 Michigan versus 44-0 Ohio State) are more a function of philosophy than ability.
Turnovers -- especially fumbles -- are more luck than anything else. One thing causes turnovers consistently: quarterback pressure. Both teams have gotten a lot of it and thus a lot of turnovers. I don't think there's anything relevant in OSU's million interceptions versus Michigan's balance of fumbles and turnovers. If pressed, I'll admit that Henne is a tad more likely to make an inadvisable throw into coverage and that Chris Wells' tendency to fumble like whoah is unlikely to be relevant, but the turnover battle does not appreciably favor either team -- they're both amongst the nation's leaders -- and attempts to argue based on it are likely to result in ridicule and embarassment.
If you subscribe to the idea of "ownership," you are dumb. And I bet you wander by the roulette table, see four of five red, and go bet on black because it's a sure thing. Tressel's won four of five because his teams have been better over the last few years. Was it ownership when Michigan's worst team in the past 20 years was defeated with a last-second touchdown? Or when a sophomore John Navarre threw four interceptions? Ugh. The staggeringly fanciful idea that Carr, who neither goes on the field nor calls any of the plays, somehow becomes a much worse coach because he sees Tressel on the other side of the field is the sure sign of a diseased mind.
Even if OSU wins this year it will be more because of that whole senior-Heisman-winning-QB thing than some sort of mystical Sith crap Tressel uses to tighten Carr's sphincter.
(You'll note that not once in this blog's preview of the Penn State game did the concept of "ownership" come up.)