Preview: Ohio State 2013 Comment Count

Brian November 29th, 2013 at 1:06 PM


WHAT Michigan vs Ohio State
WHERE Michigan Stadium
Ann Arbor, MI
WHEN Noon Eastern
November 30th, 2013
THE LINE Ohio State -17
WEATHER partly cloudy, mid-30s
0% chance of rain
10 mph winds



Run Offense vs Ohio State


Ryan Shazier got better.

The Northwestern blip was just that: a blip, as Michigan's offense retreated back into its shell against Iowa. Thanks to buckets of Iowa turnovers this staked Michigan to a lead until late, but this was back to the pain factory. It was probably worse than usual, actually, as Gardner only suffered one sack. Take that out and Michigan rushed for 74 yards on 28 carries, a thrilling 2.6 yards an attempt.

This is still forward, I guess, and therefore represents progress. The kind of progress last experienced in the Dark Ages, but progress nonetheless.

This is too depressing to contemplate for very long. Michigan again went with a bunch of inside zone, whereupon Iowa linebackers fired into the gaps over and over again like Notre Dame did. Michigan has no idea how to deal with that other than "execute better"; they have no way to back those guys off; they have a bunch of play action on which the fact that the linebackers run literally to the line of scrimmage before going "oh" and backing into short zones is okay for the defense.

The unit they're going up against is not quite a vintage OSU outfit; it is still plenty good enough to see Michigan to another grunting performance under 100 net yards. Once you remove sacks, Ohio State's run offense is in a tier below Michigan State's face-crushing unit with Wisconsin and Michigan; they're giving up just under 4 yards a carry.

The existence of a healthy, clueful Ryan Shazier is particularly bad for Michigan. Two years ago he was a limping freshman who showed up in the hole against Denard Robinson and ended up left in the dust. This year he's nearing OSU records for TFLs against the worst team in the country at giving them up. His strengths—slashing into the backfield as soon as he reads run foremost amongst them—line up perfectly with Michigan's weaknesses.

The line is a slightly better matchup than it was last year with Jonathan Hankins in the NFL. They have not replaced him with a similar space-eater. Michael Bennett, their best DT, is 285. Unfortunately, he's a Jibreel Black++ type player with 10 TFLs and 5.5 sacks to his name. But that's another depressing section. Against the run he will be more moveable. Not that it's going to matter.

Key Matchup: Denard Robinson versus NCAA Eligibility Rules

[Hit THE JUMP for just don't hit the jump]

Pass Offense vs Ohio State


Hide yo kids, hide yo quarterback. The aforementioned Bennett is a problem against the weak interior of Michigan's line. Weak. I need a new word here that means WEAAAAAAAK; it doesn't appear one is coming.

Ohio State's acquired 36 sacks this year from a variety of organic and blitzing sources. Bennett has his; sophomore Noah Spence has 7.5; freshman Joey Bosa has 5. Various other linemen suck up almost all of the rest, leaving just Shazier's 5.5 and Curtis Grant's 2.5. OSU will send the occasional linebacker but is mostly content to drop back in coverage and see if one of their three effective rushers can get to the passer.

That is a terrible omen for Michigan. OSU will probably fling Shazier at Gardner and drop six plenty, which gives them 3 or 4 plausible avenues to Gardner on any given play. Iowa's single sack comes after Michigan giving up 19 in three weeks and is not likely to last.

When not getting buried under a wall of meat, Gardner will try to hit Gallon and Funchess, and basically only Gallon and Funchess. This will probably not go that well as OSU drops into the routes Michigan can run, which are few, and Gardner makes the kind of decisions you make when you are expecting a 300-pound ferret to burst into your chest at any moment.

Key matchup: Devin Gardner's Sternum versus Shattering Into A Thousand Pieces

Run Defense vs Ohio State


best case scenario

Foremost amongst the thousand depressing things about this game is Ohio State's superlative ability to manball its opponents. 242 pound Carlos Hyde has been tackled for loss this year.


Hyde is averaging 7.7 yards a carry despite not playing in OSU's first three walkovers and getting just five carries in OSU's equivalent of the Delaware State game, a grisly 76-0 beating of Florida A&M. He's done this without many distorting long runs. He had a 55 yarder against Illinois, but it's not like his stats are a Carlos Brown combination of 80 yarders and nothing.

But you knew that already. The #1 thing on Chris Borland's All-America highlight is a goal line stick of Hyde that anyone who saw live had a internal monologue that went "touchdown… OHHHHH NO WAY," because people do not stick Carlos Hyde. It just does not happen. They hit him and at best Hyde slides off to the side with his legs churning and picks up 2 YAC. Combine that with Braxton Miller and an offense that will happily screen you to death if you try to load the box and you get a lot of situations in which the best case non-Borland scenario when you try to tackle Hyde one on one happens five yards downfield.

Right: Miller. He's bounced in and out of the lineup with injury but has still rolled up 738 yards at 6.4 a pop without even bothering to remove sacks. You have seen him play against Michigan twice; you know the game-changing ability his legs bring. He's improved as a passer, as well. Between Miller and Keny Guiton, OSU QBs are over 1,000 yards on the season at 7.3 yards an attempt, without even bothering to remove sacks.

Finally, Ohio State has a three-headed scatback that is over 1,000 yards itself. Jordan Hall is the primary guy; freshmen Ezekiel Elliot and Dontre Wilson chip in. All are RB/slot hybrids to some degree, with Wilson the most slot-like and Elliot the most tailback-like; these guys flit out of the backfield to grab screens, take outside runs, sometimes just take inside runs, and are preferred in OSU's option game to Hyde for obvious reasons. Collectively they're averaging 7.4 yards an attempt.

As a team Ohio State has nearly 3500 rushing yards at nearly 7 yards a carry and 36 touchdowns. But it won't work in the Big Ten.

Michigan's run defense is pretty good and they have an edge weapon or two (read: Jake Ryan) that can allow Michigan to be more aggressive in the box without giving up a ton of easy edge stuff. It's not going to be enough. This is an A+ offense against a B+ defense, and to some extent they're going to get exposed.

Key Matchup: Brian's Head versus Mounting Internal Pressure. This is my worst nightmare as a fan. Michigan is going to watch this death machine rushing offense beat them by using spread concepts with huge animated question marks over their heads, and they'll ignore that as they go forward so they can go back to the glory days where the incredibly loaded 1999 offense rushed for 3.2 yards a carry.

Pass Defense vs Ohio State


The structure of the offense and Miller's continual improvement have made this another area to consider with a jaundiced eye. Miller and Guiton combine to average 68% completion rate and 7.8 yards an attempt; Miller has 19 touchdowns against four interceptions; Guiton has 14 touchdowns against two interceptions.

OSU only passes about 38% of the time because of the previous section, and a large chunk of those throws are wide receiver screens, so maybe 30% of the time an Ohio State quarterback will survey the field, looking for someone downfield. This results in the kinds of problems you'd expect: zero pass rush as a run-focused DL is caught off guard and is trying to contain Miller at all costs (13 sacks allowed on the year); guys running open as linebackers and safeties suck up; cornerbacks left on an island by Miller demanding safety attention.

Miller is still not Dan Marino, but it hardly matters in an offense that rarely finds itself in true passing situations—when you average seven yards a carry, third and seven is a standard down and how often are you even in third and seven?—and uses Miller's assets to open up great cavernous holes for him to explore with buckets of time.

OSU's WRs are not great. Devin Smith is probably their best; he makes spectacular catches and is their best downfield threat. Philly Brown is the guy with the most catches; often those are of a screen nature. They do throw to the tight ends, with Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett combining for 28 receptions; three-headed scatback has 36 receptions itself. Entertainingly mouthy Evan Spencer is a short-yardage third WR.

Michigan's held up pretty well here this year—actually that's an understatement when they have almost as many interceptions as they've ceded passing touchdowns. This is a good secondary, especially when they're not futzing with the safeties for no reason. Michigan will bring Gordon into the box, leave Ryan on the field over the slot, and try to live with Countess and Taylor in tight-ish coverage that may leave them exposed deep. But it might not.

This will be a sidelight to the run game, one on which Miller has plenty of time when Michigan isn't going for all-out blitzes on third downs. It'll be up to the secondary to cover long enough for Miller to engage terrifying scramble mode, and then Michigan will have to contain that.

Key Matchup: Mattison dialing up pressures that might confuse Miller on third and longs, which will occasionally happen?

Special Teams

Drew Basil has attempted all of nine field goals on the year against 66 extra points. I'm cold. I'm so cold. Aussie punter Cameron Johnston is averaging 44 yards a kick, and has only allowed six returns on his 34 attempts, though one of those was returned for a touchdown. Philly Brown is their punt returner; he is meh. Kickoff returns are almost irrelevant but Ohio State is pretty good at both phases.

Key Matchup: AHHHHHH YOU put it through the uprights to make the final score look a tiny bit better



Cheap Thrills

Worry if...

  • The xenomorph Max Bullough implanted in Gardner's chest finally bursts through on a third and thirteen, grabs the ball, and throws it directly into Noah Spence's helmet. Gardner is then tackled by all eleven Ohio State players. Eventually, Spence wanders into the endzone… FOR AN OFFENSIVE SCORE BECAUSE EVERYONE'S CHASING THE XENOMORPH… that makes the final 76-7.
  • You perceive one football program that has successfully modernized itself without internal strife, starting with their seemingly hidebound dinosaur coach, and one program that holds up 3.2 yards a carry with four NFL offensive linemen, Tom Brady, David Terrell, Anthony Thomas, and Marquise Walker as the pinnacle of football.
  • You are going to the game.

Cackle with knowing glee if...

  • Braxton Miller gets hurt… actually, no, that won't work.
  • Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton get hurt, leaving Cardale Jones in to not play school? No, that probably won't work either.
  • It's the only thing you can do to prevent yourself from crying.

Fear/Paranoia Level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for They Are Good, +1 for We Are Not, +1 for Showing Manball Proponents What Manball Really Is, +1 for Michigan OL versus OSU DL Matchup Is Puppy Versus Woodchipper, +1 for WE GON DIE)

Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +5 for Obvious)

Loss will cause me to... thank God it's over.

Win will cause me to... DIV BY ZERO ERROR.

The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:

Michigan wins! At losing.

Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:

  • 35,000 Ohio State fans.
  • A giant John Flansburgh rips off one of the press boxes and starts playing "She Was A Hotel Detective" at maximum volume level. The game is cancelled midway through the third quarter. A John Flansburgh statue is installed, commemorating his valiant effort.
  • Urban goes for two.
  • Ohio State, 39-0


Sextus Empiricus

November 29th, 2013 at 1:55 PM ^

+1 to this.  The trend is clear.  The need for action is clear.  The action is clear.

I will be ecstatic if Michigan wins.   I don't see progression toward anything except need for change.  

The call for this game is miracle needed.  Which somehow makes me interested in this game more than in previous years.  These scenarios sometimes make for good football.  The problem here is that it's four quarters - and the five-week trend is well-nigh insurmountable.

Regardless this is a game that will be referenced in the saga of Hoke's cycle.  The half time of last year's game is perhaps his inflection point with this year's game the latest nadir.

Go Blue! 


November 29th, 2013 at 1:21 PM ^

If you are going to make a joke about how shity the team is, at least be clever.  This post a crap.  One thing to be emo, another to to spew verbal diarrhea like this garbage.


November 29th, 2013 at 2:08 PM ^

Probably the most sarcastic post I've seen from Brian. I understand the frustration and feelings of helplessness, but I think it's possible to present these views without such intense sarcasm.

Predicting that Michigan will get shut out is probably not realistic. I fear the negative emotions have clouded his judgment.


November 25th, 2014 at 4:20 PM ^

I think your math might be a bit off. According to both ESPN and the Big Ten sites, through 11 games we're averaging 20.3 ppg, which is dead last in the conference.

If you look only at our games against Power 5 teams (Utah + conference), we're averaging just a hair over 17.

Our season average of 20.3 ppg is tied for 112th in the country.…

This doesn't necessarily refute your point that Michigan is unlikely to be held to single digits, but our offense is pretty putrid regardless.


November 30th, 2013 at 12:36 AM ^

My main point was not to disagree with the shutout prediction.  You seem to agree that a shutout is unlikely, and as a self-professed "quant" I think Brian would readily admit the statistical unlikelihood (is that a word?) of a shutout.  It's a given that a shutout is a bad prediction.

My main point is that the analysis is lacking.  When everything is sarcastic, including the score prediction, then I think it undermines the blog.  I continually come here for the in-depth analysis, especially the wonderful "Preview" posts, but it seems this one was overwhelmed by negative sentiment.

Shop Smart Sho…

November 30th, 2013 at 12:52 AM ^

Brian told everyone that he was mailing it in this week.  What the hell did you expect from this preview?  No matter the depth of the analysis, it was going to end the same way.   OSU is much better this year, and with the serious offensive regression witnessed by analytical observation, they are going to be much better next year too.


November 29th, 2013 at 1:29 PM ^

For what it's worth the two teams were mismatched even worse in 2008 and the game was in Columbus and we only lost that one by 35, so that (and probably only that) makes me think we will lose by less than 35.  I think the final score is 31 to pi


November 29th, 2013 at 2:33 PM ^

He had at least two drives inside our 35 where he punted up 42-7. Not sure if Meyer will show ANY mercy tomorrow. If he does, it'll be because he wants Hoke around for the full 6 years. Why do anything to embarrass a coaching staff that is the envy of our B1G rivals?

We'll really find out about the true character of Meyer when he has a chance to hang half-a-hundred on us. 


November 29th, 2013 at 3:13 PM ^

meyer did not coach that game (nor did hoke and borges)....meyer will try to embarass UM as much as possible despite his respect for and friendship w mattison.....meyer goes for style points aplenty to show bcs as well as any recruits that may decide to briefly consider UM over OSU in future  (no, meyer is not above negative recruiting, he'll do whatever it takes)....tressel and meyer are not even close nor the 2008 and 2013 matchups.   osu wins 44-13....and even that is not enough for meyer but mattison will make several calls to keep it closer than should be while praying the really smart bald dude in pressbox can mount some drives


November 29th, 2013 at 1:33 PM ^

I understand why people prefer spread attacks, but to say that this will show "manball proponents what manball really is" is absurd and intellectually dishonest. That would be akin to an Auburn fan saying that the Iron Bowl will show which is better, manball or spread, purely based on the results of that game. That is just as big of a spread v. manball matchup. I have no problem with arguing the finer points of either offensive philosophy, but trivializing the viewpoint of proponents of manball with such dismissiveness is just wrong. I expect that type of statement from trolls on a message board, not from someone as knowledgeable and usually cogent as Brian. The fact is, there are arguments and examples in favor of both sides; if there weren't, then no one in the country would be running manball offenses.

Shop Smart Sho…

November 29th, 2013 at 1:45 PM ^

I don't think you're getting the joke.  When Hoke started talking about "Manball" it was in the context of being tough and big with the idea that spread teams were full of smaller players who relied on solely on speed and agility to move the ball.  OSU is just yet another example that a spread team can be huge and extremely physical.  

I think what Brian is commenting on more than anything is that Hoke & Co. don't really understand what a spread team is and can be, which limits both their offensive scheming ability and even the ability of the defense to deal with a spread team.


November 29th, 2013 at 2:10 PM ^

Its not necessarily that Brian is saying Manball/Pro-style whatever can't work, it's that when Rodriguez was here, a big chunk of MGoBloggers were busy screeching nonsense about "THE SPREAD CANT WORK IN THE BIG TEN". Our own ex-coach Lloyd Carr, prior to the 2011 season said our players were probably too small to compete in the conference (another shot at the spread). Again, its not that Manball can't work (see Wisconsin), its that either can work once you get the system in place. 

A lot of Michigan fans were delighted that Michigan was returning to "Michigan Football!!!" and they comforted themselves by associating the spread with total failure due to Rodriguez. Meanwhile, Ohio State, our biggest rival, is yet to lose a game in two seasons running the spread. So its kind of maddening to think about. 


November 29th, 2013 at 2:38 PM ^

Although that all might be true, I just think that it's up to Brian, as the top dog, to rise above the fray and attempt to keep the argument above the level of "no you're dumb" arguments. And full disclosure, I was (apparently one of the few) extremely excited about RR bringing the new age of college football to Michigan, and perhaps due to my initial optimism, much like with this season, I ended up being far more negative about him and his phiosophy than were the people who disapproved of his hiring from the start. I am just now beginning to get over that disappointment and look at his performance more objectively.

Also of note, I recently heard Saban say that the reason Auburn's read option is so difficult to defend is because of the way they run play action off of it as well. So, point to everyone who has been saying that is why the spread concepts that Borges still occasionally uses have not been working.


November 29th, 2013 at 3:12 PM ^

It's more than just that. As much as this coaching staff preaches power running, the OSU running game behind Carlos Hyde is more manball than this team could dream to be. And they are doing it from a spread, with a consistent scheme of constraints that punishes anyone that needs to bring people into the box to stop the manball. Which is everyone, because their power running is better than we could ever dream to be.

steve sharik

November 29th, 2013 at 4:03 PM ^

It is not absurd or intellectually dishonest.  In fact, it is right on the money.

What is manball, really?  Imposing your will, in my opinion. Running the football when you want, knocking people off the ball, and running downhill.  Scheme and formation have zero to do with it, as we will all see firsthand tomorrow at about 12:15 pm.  It is an easy counterexample for "MANBALL" proponents to see.  (I would love to watch the game with Aaron Shea, among others.)

I think the real argument of spread vs. pro-style is simply if you want to run the ball with all 11 or 10, and whether you prefer to control the number of plays vs. the clock.

I think you run pro-style or spread depending on who your coaching staff is; they should do what they know (as the last three offensive seasons have shown, often painfully).  And I think the AD should hire a coach who runs a style that fits with the recruiting base; i.e., are you more likely to get speed and athleticism, or big linemen and pro-style QBs?  Michigan can pick and choose b/c it can recruit nationally.  Wisconsin couldn't get elite athletes when Alvarez was hired, so they went to huge linemen and Ron Dayne, until they could build their brand.  Now they get the Melvin Gordons of the world and have won enough they can sprinkle in athletes to complement.


November 29th, 2013 at 4:41 PM ^

Brian is saying that OSU, running out of the spread, is going to smash Michigan, overpower us and trample us into the ground. That is, they will treat us the way a manball team treats its opponents.

But don't worry: "This is a program in transition, this is a program that's going back to hard-nosed, big-boy football," Brandon said. "Which is what Michigan is used to playing. And we're in the process of putting the pieces in place to afford us to do that consistently and effectively."


November 29th, 2013 at 6:04 PM ^

The issue Brian and others have pointed to was the idiocy fans of OSU and UM stating that the spread-type offenses professed by Meyer and RR wouldn't "work" here and were reserved for also-rans like NW and Purdue.  Of course, when said offenses played these teams they murdereddeathkilled the Rust Belt teams, and you'll be hard-pressed to find an OSU fan who dislikes Meyer's ability to drop 60 on teams with little effort.  Yet around here, people complained that RR's offense wasn't "good enough" because it only scored 24 or 30 points while the defense was being carpet-bombed.  So Brian is simply pointing out that, well, the offense does work and that the famed "manball" being run by UM this year is one of the worst in recent memory.


November 29th, 2013 at 10:43 PM ^

It wasnt good enough.…

Look at the losses and compare them to this year and tell me we were as competitive. 

I'll admit dismissing the spread is probably a bit idiotic. Especially with Gardner as your QB. I think we got so hung up on turnovers, we've completely abandoned, you know, trying to actually score. But I'd rather see us recruit to and run a mostly pro-style offense. I like long drives that use the clock and a punishing run game. Just me. 

Shop Smart Sho…

November 30th, 2013 at 12:50 AM ^

You do realize that pro-style basically just means not running the read-option at this point, right?  What it does not mean is lining up in an I formation and becoming so predicatable that the opposing defense can put 8 & 9 guys in the box to stop the run.  

So yeah, I would love to see a pro-style offense, not the neanderthal crap that Borges is putting out there.  An offense that has no counters or means of punishing an overly aggressive defense will simply not work for any team in college football anymore.  It just won't.  Not even Alabama, with a veteran 2 deep full of future NFL linemen can do it.  So why does Michigan think they can do it with this offensive line?


November 29th, 2013 at 1:43 PM ^

the greatest upset win by Michigan in the history of the rivalry. Of course it would never get the hype that the '69 victory did, but that '69 UM team was on a roll offensively and defensively by the time OSU came into town. By comparison, the 2013 Michigan team can't keep from stepping on its dick, regardless of who we play. The notable upsets in '95 and '93 involved Michigan teams that were much more talented and/or experienced than the 2013 team is. Neither of those teams had near-losses to bad or outright horrible teams like Akron and UConn.