Preview: Ohio State Comment Count

Brian November 20th, 2009 at 4:01 PM

wolverine_vs_buckeyeThe Essentials

WHAT Michigan vs #10 Ohio State
WHERE Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
WHEN 12:00 EST
November 21st, 2009
THE LINE Ohio State –12*
TELEVISION Nationwide on ABC
WEATHER About 50, mostly sunny
*Line provided by online sports betting site Wolverine consuming Brutus provided by reader Brian Walline.

Run Offense vs. Ohio State

Michigan's faced four good or better rushing defenses this year and the overall trend is not great:

Opponent Att Yards TD Avg
MSU 24 68 0 2.83
Iowa 44 205 3 4.66
Penn State 34 138 1 4.06
Wisconsin 30 91 0 3.03

Iowa's the worst in that bunch at #43. Michigan's incredibly hot start has fallen off with injuries of varying severity to Molk, Brown, Shaw, Dorrestein, and Minor; the worst two of those will play a major factor Saturday as Molk and Minor will watch from the bench.

Ohio State, meanwhile, has crushed all comers. They are #4 in rushing defense, though it should be noted that there aren't a whole lot of great rushing offenses in the league. Wisconsin had the closest thing to a good day, averaging 4.1 yards per carry on 38 attempts, but from the stats the bread-and-butter wasn't working particularly well: John Clay eked out 59 yards on 20 carries. Wisconsin got up to 4.1 with peripheral contributions from Tolzien scrambles and a number of successful carries from David Gilreath. Also Wisconsin's rushing offense is nothing like Michigan's. The closest analogue on Ohio State's schedule is Illinois, which managed to grind out 3.6 YPC excluding sacks.

Ohio State is probably going to make the same bet Wisconsin did by trusting their defensive line to beat the Michigan offensive line, which will allow them to put six guys in the box, take away the bubble, and still keep two deep safeties. If Michigan's going to move the ball at all they'll have to get the creases they couldn't against Wisconsin or break out some new-fangled stuff that gets Ohio State moving away from the ball. And it might be tiny, zippy Vincent Smith leading the way. Carlos Brown might be more likely to break a long one, but I think I'd rather have the guy who can turn –4 yards into 4 against a defense that's not likely to let a big one break. So… true freshman n00b against #4 rushing defense in the country.


Key Matchup: Fancy Schemes vs Fundamental Stuff. Michigan's line is going to get overrun; it'll take a major tactical victory—one that may not even be possible given the personnel—to get a bunch of yards.

Pass Offense vs. Ohio State

Michigan's taken some steps forward the past two weeks as Tate Forcier has performed well against decent-to-good defenses:

Opponent Att Cmp Yards TD-Int YPA
Purdue 24 15 212 1-0 8.83
Wisconsin 26 20 188 1-0 7.23

His efficiency rating the past two weeks would be top 15 nationally extrapolated over the entire season, which is something you absolutely can't do but hey it's fun to pretend you can. Stat magic or no, those numbers and those performances represent a significant improvement over an eh Illinois game and poor outings versus Iowa and Penn State. Maybe those were injury-induced? More likely they were freshman-induced; Forcier noted in a press conference that the proverbial slow down occurred somewhere in the Illinois game and since then he's shown it.

Michigan still has issues elsewhere: they have no real deep threat, though they did pop a couple guys open against Wisconsin and had some success bombing it late against Illinois, and can't pass protect worth a damn. Against Wisconsin Michigan resorted to a ton of max-protect schemes where the line would slide one way and tailbacks would pick up DEs/blitzers to one side; this worked but limited Forcier's options significantly. A repeat performance is in order against a ravenous Ohio State defense; when Michigan attempts to hit it deep there will be seven guys blocking.

For Ohio State's part, they've also obliterated opposing pass offenses except against Purdue, where Joey Elliot was 31 of 50 for 280 yards. Can Michigan imitate Purdue's quick-strike dinky attack? Actually… yeah, maybe. Forcier's an accurate short passer who can throw on the run and Roy Roundtree has emerged into a serious option in the middle of the field since Martavious Odoms came down with a knee injury. Greg Mathews is reliable, Hemingway is a good leaper, and when Koger isn't dropping easy passes he's making spectacular ones. With Ohio State struggling a tiny bit in short zones and man-to-man with their nickelback, Michigan might be able to move the ball from time to time by having Forcier zip it around the field. Someone or something will blow up consistently enough for this to be a sputtering sort of game plan, but Michigan's probably got to start here, attempting to pass to set up the run.

Key Matchup: Forcier versus Not Getting Nervous. Big game for the kid here; he's made significant strides the past two weeks and if he can put together a good game against this defense as a true freshman there will be something to get excited about going into 2010.

Run Defense vs Ohio State

Let's repurpose a table from last week that purported to show Michigan was decent against traditional running attacks:

Opponent Player Carries Yards TD Average Long
MSU Larry Caper 13 39 2 3 23
MSU Glenn Winston 24 47 1 2 15
Iowa Brandon Wegher 13 21 1 1.6 7
Iowa Adam Robinson 10 70 0 7 19
PSU Brandon Beachum 7 23 0 3.3 11
PSU Evan Royster 20 100 0 5 41
PSU Joe Suhey 3 18 0 6 13
Totals Totals 90 318 4 3.5 41

[Note: QB/WR runs excised for tighter focus on 'rock' style running.]

John Clay went for 156 yards at 5.8 a pop; so much for that. The reason Michigan was pretty decent against the above three teams except when tackles were been missed or overrun was that they are not good at rushing; Wisconsin is. Ohio State's rushing offense is close to Wisconsin's statistically without the benefit of playing Michigan (yet), and it's coming on of late:

Opponent Att Yards TD Avg
Minnesota 48 272 3 5.67
Penn State 49 228 1 4.65
Iowa 49 244 3 4.98

Michigan, meanwhile… well, you know. The defensive line is playing valiantly but one side of it is desperately undersized and the linebacker support is almost nonexistent. It's a really bad rushing defense, and chances are Ohio State may have noticed this. Expect them to pound and pound and pound until they crack through.

The edges will be under threat. Last week Wisconsin lined up in big sets that had Brandon Graham tucked inside tight ends and then attacked the outside time and again, exploiting Roh's youth, Brown's lack of size, and Smith's total uncertainty. With Terrelle Pryor and little in the way of pounding backs, Ohio State's best attacks will be to the outside; given the success of Juice Williams on simple veer plays that Michigan hasn't shown any ability to defend in two years Pryor figures to get his share of opportunities to run past linebackers nowhere near the, you know, ball.

Something similar to the Wisconsin game is in store: a number of good plays turned in by the defensive line followed up by crushing linebacker/safety errors that throw it all away.

Key Matchup: Linebackers showing up in the right hole/maintaining the correct option responsibility. Hey, it could happen.

Pass Defense vs Ohio State

Last week's prediction of doom over the middle may have gotten the main target wrong by picking Garrett Graham instead of Everyone, but it was on-point as far as the doom bit goes. Michigan can't cover anyone over the middle of the field, and when they go to man the safeties can't cover anyone anywhere.

But Michigan is going up against Jim Tressel, a guy who packed up shop after getting a two-score lead and threw the ball twice in the second half of the 2007 game. And his quarterback is erratic Terrelle Pryor, and almost the only way Ohio State can lose the game is by ending up –2 or worse in turnover margin, and really if I was him I'd just avoid anything remotely dangerous until you feel threatened, which probably doesn't ever actually occur. Terrelle Pryor's line from the Illinois game might be illuminating: 8 of 13 for 82 yards. Also, Ohio State never, ever throws to the tight end. So… yeah, Michigan might do okay here if the corners stick to the receivers and Pryor isn't permitted much time. They might also give up two 60-yard touchdowns, but first they'll have to make Ohio State throw.

When they do throw there's a fair chance that Brandon Graham makes Pryor eat turf. Though Ohio State is above average in sacks allowed that's because they've only thrown 261 times. Chances are that Pryor just runs up a gaping hole in the middle of the field, but, hey, you know. Whatever helps.

For his part, Pryor has been frustrating and inconsistent all year. He's 57th in passer efficiency—behind true freshman Forcier—and alternates NFL ropes with arm-punts. If—when—Michigan leaves guys wide open because they're freaking out about play action he can hit guys up, but every time he drops back to throw there's a chance of disaster. Actually… that goes for both teams.

Key Matchup: Making This Exist versus Not Making It Exist.

Special Teams

Ohio State's punt returns are average. The kick returns, though infrequent, have been pretty decent thanks in large part to a kick return touchdown in Ohio State's bizarre win over Wisconsin (note: after UFRing the UW game—offense is coming like Sunday or something—I think Wisconsin is obviously the best team in the league this year but for Tolzien's tendency towards interceptions). Punting is meh, and the starting kicker is out so we don't really know anything about the kicking game.

Michigan, again, should have a solid edge here, but as we've seen that's just not enough to overcome shortcomings elsewhere.




BONUS intangible:

Abuse your kids' future psyches for Michigan == fame.

Cheap Thrills

Worry if...

  • The offensive line is as overrun as it appears they'll be.
  • Michigan starts a freshman walk-on against Ohio State…
  • …and he's not the most overmatched defender on the field.

Cackle with knowing glee if...

  • Pryor is arrested for BEING IN A BAR before he is 21.
  • Fairies drop from the sky and turn the Ohio State defensive line into eggplants.
  • I'm banking on the fairies.

Fear/Paranoia Level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for We Won't Run, +1 for We Won't Pass, +1 for They Won't Pass… +1 for Because They Won't Have To, +1 for ).

Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +5 for Duh.)

Loss will cause me to... well, it will be over.

Win will cause me to... rush the field, probably. For real.

The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:

Thematically, this reminds me of the 2007 game a lot. In that one, Ohio State was not particularly confident in their quarterback but was in their defense, especially with Chad Henne's shoulder not containing his arm and the offensive line's failure to exist. So they just ran and ran and ran and eventually Wells broke a big one and that was it.

Michigan's better on offense than that team was if only because their quarterback is functional but they're way, way worse on defense. There should be more scoring but the final result will be the same: a game that Michigan is vaguely in for a half before a couple things break down, at which point they trail by two scores until time runs out.

Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:

  • Smith is the primary ballcarrier and ekes out 80 yards.
  • Graham is sackless because Pryor throws like 15 times.
  • I have lots of fun listening to the people around me.
  • Ohio State, 30-14


Enjoy Life

November 20th, 2009 at 4:12 PM ^

The 2007 game against osu was the worst experience of my sports watching life. I still have not forgiven Lloyd for basically giving up and playing a one armed QB. I walked out of the game enraged. I would have rather had Mallett play (trying to actually win) and lose by 1,000 points.

This year could not possibly be worse.

Cool, I have a reason to feel good going to the game tomorrow!

Crime Reporter

November 20th, 2009 at 4:14 PM ^

This is it guys. For some reason, I'm not even nervous. But I will say this: no matter what happens, keep that place rocking. For everyone going, scream your fool heads off. Let those recruits know we support this team and we will be back soon. Make it loud. I will do my part from the living room, although I will be alone.

Go Blue.


November 20th, 2009 at 5:00 PM ^

I can't imagine the meltdown that will occur as soon as Michigan goes down by 10 points. I am betting it would be too stressful for the mods to even care for- plus who wants to moderate a liveblog (or liveblog, for that matter) during the game. We all need to spend time Jedi mind-tricking Terrelle Pryor into f*cking up.

Heinous Wagner

November 20th, 2009 at 4:27 PM ^

I can think of many reasons Michigan can win the game. They are all in the category of 1969 karma, i.e. non-football reasons. All I want is for them to fight like hell.

Also: A moment of silence for Stefanie Spielman would be a classy move.

Todd Plate's n…

November 20th, 2009 at 4:29 PM ^

If nothing else, Vincent Smith will make someone 100 lbs. heavier than him look stupid once or twice tomorrow.

I expect Tate to be nothing short of solid and one of the few reasons we hang around.

I hope Kevin Grady gets carries if in fact Minor is a no go.


November 20th, 2009 at 6:12 PM ^

Michigan 34
OSU 31

"We're going streaking! Sorry, sorry, we're goin' streaking through the quad and then to the gymnasium. Come on everybody! Come on! King of Belch! Bring your weird schtick!"


November 20th, 2009 at 4:42 PM ^

This sort of reads like the humans previewing their forthcoming battle with about a billion orcs in The Two Towers.
Now, if I remember correctly, that battle was miraculously won by a toss of a dwarf and an absent comrade showing up right in the nick of time. The latter is easy enough if Minor's shoulder can inexplicably heal by the 4th quarter.
The former, well, unfortunately our cantankerous dwarf on the defense was kicked off the team. So we might be screwed. Who else could Brandon Graham toss into the backfield?


November 20th, 2009 at 5:13 PM ^

I had a dream last night that Michigan's first offensive play was a bomb to a wide open receiver. Of course, in my dream that wide open receiver was Denard, who lined up at WR and left the defense in the dust.

seriously, I think we need to be very aggressive (I.e. GO DEEP) early to put some points on the board and give ourselves a chance.


November 20th, 2009 at 5:15 PM ^

I will be flying out to be there for the team! My wife asked me three weeks ago if we could sell the tix and not go. I said, "no way!" At least it won't be raining like in 2007.

Something good may happen! Come on RichRod! Come on Tate!

But seriously, we get three big breaks and this one could be ours!


November 20th, 2009 at 5:24 PM ^

If we can have an error free start, get a break or two and get on top, then maybe the bucks panic a bit and TP starts throwing it around......... well, then anything could happen.



November 20th, 2009 at 5:30 PM ^

You have made this season fun for all of us. Yeah, the outcome wasn't what we which anticipated, but what the hell.

This site rocks, you rock, the posters and other contributors rock. It is funny, witty, and insightful. Could not ask for any more than that.

Thanks for making our days and nights so much better. What a great diversion to have. Really appreciate this.

Long live MGoblog. GO BLUE.


November 21st, 2009 at 12:27 AM ^

1) We see Denard at Slot
2) No fumbles lost
3) Denard runs and throws the ball successfully out of a shotgun 5-wide set on a touchdown drive in the 2nd half
4) Michigan wins 27-24

If this happens it is Karmic retribution for the following:

Tressel Era of OSU especially '06
App State
Oregon 2X
All the 40-50 year records we hosed
Bowl streak snapped
Rose Bowl Losses to USC
Vince Young
Henri the Otter....

For the love of God let us sing the victors in the endzone once more this year!


November 20th, 2009 at 7:10 PM ^

OSU is not a dominate team. Struggles against Purdue and Iowa give me some hope. We will have to play our best game of the year, Tate will have to be sharp and there will have to be no or very few turnovers. We will have to win the turnover battle for once. If all of the above occurs we will have a chance to win. UPSET ALERT UM 34 OSU 31 with the win on a last second field goal!!!


November 20th, 2009 at 7:20 PM ^

Let's assume that Rich has something up his sleeve, like Tate and Denard on the field together with Denard taking the option from the slot....or basically some vodoo ninja magic to score 40 points and pray that BG and Warren can hold Pryor et al to under 40.

Michigan 40
OSU 34


November 20th, 2009 at 10:08 PM ^

The 2004 version of The Alamo is not great in a lot of ways. It's not bad though, and Dennis Quaid has a great moment as Sam Houston explaining his plan for defeating the Mexican army. I share it with you now, because I am hopeful you will see the parallels between the situation of the Texian Army and the task Michigan faces tomorrow:

"Twenty-odd years ago, Napoleon returns from exile in Elba, puts together an army and moves east. Swiftly--trying to gain power before an alliance of nations can occur. Wellington, with fewer men, fewer armaments, stays one step ahead of the French--teasing them with his presence--knowing that a larger army will splinter in order to keep up.

He moves and he wait, moves and waits...for Napoleon to make a mistake--to fall into a scenario that condemns his to defeat. Wellington chooses the setting for victory before it exists for him, before he lays eyes on it. It has an open battleground, a sloping plane, cover for encampment, and an opportunity to surprise the enemy flank.

The Mexican army is splintered and though they do not know it, Santa Anna's troops subsist on gasps of air and sips of hope. I share Wellington's battleground vision, though I know not the name of the place I imagine. I, sir, do not consider myself Wellington. Santa Anna, however, considers himself the Napoleon of the West. We shall move and wait until he makes a mistake and presents us with his Waterloo."

Go Blue!


November 21st, 2009 at 9:28 AM ^

I'm on my way out to tailgate, so I can't stick around to respond, but I just wanted to say. Don't Panic. Pryor has shit the bed a few times. Remember last year? Our D Line owned tOSU's offensive line. The first few drives they just crushed Pryor for sacks. However our offense kept going three and out and the defense ran out of gas, Beanie started finding holes and that was the end of that.

If this year in the 1st quarter we can get Brandon Graham to introduce himself to Pryor a few times and rattle the kid we have a chance. With our offense hopefully putting together drives that last longer that, just a few minutes and a field goal maybe, our defense can rest up and keep going. Last year Pryor was rattled and making horrible decisions, but it didn't matter because Beanie was getting 10 freaking yards on every touch. If we can rattle Pryor, maybe get an early turnover and at least contain tOSU's run game to a degree we'll have a chance to repeat that skin of the teeth Notre Dame victory.

So if you aren't hoarse by halftime and shoving change into a water bottle to make a noise maker, you aren't helping the team here.


November 21st, 2009 at 9:30 AM ^

I have had good gut about Michigan wins and losses all season, If I was a gambling man I would have done well this year. Today my gut is telling me Michigan wins!! 30-20 UofM Go Blue!!!!!

st barth

November 21st, 2009 at 9:35 AM ^

Guess i'll just repeat my prediction one last time here this week, M 34-10.

unfortunately i don't get M football games on TV here so instead of liveblog i've decided to spend the afternoon having a long lunch at le sereno pretending that i'm Brandan Graham while i devouring small animals:

Go Blue & Hail to the Victors!!!