November 13, 2007

GUEST POST: Michigan-Ohio State Preview

Having been accused of having too much of an East Coast Bias, apparently there is some sort of football contest taking place in Ann Arbor this weekend. We here at ECB turn to one of our six readers, Ben, who will provide us with guest commentary and a preview of the game. Who better to turn to than somebody who actually braved going into the Horseshoe on numerous occasions wearing the maize and blue... who would quite possibly, if he were ever elected President, declare a national holiday for this game?
As I am the blog’s unofficial Michigan expert (sorry, Mr. Anonymous from the Detroit area), I have been asked to breakdown the Big Ten Championship game. You know, it’s the one that alternates between Ann Arbor and Columbus every year.

I’m not really sure what this Midwest showdown has to do with the ECB blog, but seeing as how J-Red asserted Ohioans aren’t really Midwestern, maybe he is claiming them for the East coast. J-Red, you can have ’em.

The luster and significance has definitely diminished with Ohio State’s loss to Illinois, but it’s still a fight for the Rose Bowl and it’s still one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports (as consistently voted on by ESPN’s SportsNation). I could go on forever…but Jeremy told me not to. I’ll try to keep this somewhat brief.

Passing Game
Chad Henne never lit the world on fire, but he’s made a living off making the right decision. As always, Michigan is loaded with top-flight receivers. All that should add up to a great passing attack. Of course, that’s what we all thought before the year began. Then they actually had to play and the problems started. Henne has played through pain all year, and he will shoot up with whatever he needs to this week to stay on the field (and keep Ryan Mallett off the field).
As of late, Mario Manningham returned to form. You wouldn’t know it based on the stats, but he was rather alarmingly manhandled last week by Wisconsin’s Jack Ikegwuonu (figure that name out). If All-American caliber Malcom Jenkins can also take him out of his routes with one-on-one coverage, that will be step one to Ohio State killing Michigan.

23-year-old junior Todd Boeckman turned out to be a star in waiting behind Troy Smith. I’m not going to give him the Heisman love that Skip Bayless did (Bayless is an idiot) but he’s showing great accuracy, poise and decision making. He should, he’s twenty-freaking-three-years-old. It’s not quite Chris Weinke, but still. The balance on offense gives him the ability to really spread the ball around, primarily with deep threat Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline. Michigan’s secondary improved quickly. True freshman Donovan Warren has been starting much of the year. Learn his name. He’s getting Ty Law and Charles Woodson comparisons for a reason. But the defensive backs have to get some help from the front seven to shut down the passing game. Aye, there’s the rub.
Advantage: Ohio State

Running Game
When healthy, Mike Hart is pretty much unstoppable running behind Jake Long. Problem is he’s not healthy. He isn’t quite able to make all the cuts that have propelled him to become Michigan’s all-time leading rusher, but against Michigan State a couple weeks ago, he looked like he had some power. Still, the odds of seeing Hart limp off the field before halftime are pretty good. Meanwhile, Ohio State has stopped just about everyone from running the ball, and Michigan’s line looked shockingly weak against Wisconsin. James Laurinaitis will be all over the field making tackles.

Chris “Beanie” Wells and Maurice Wells are not related, but they make a fine pair, nonetheless. Beanie is having that monster year we all knew he would, despite his own injury problems. Once again, the Ohio State line has just been pushing everyone off the ball and making holes. At times, Michigan’s run defense has played like gang busters and at other times it has gotten utterly gashed. Other than linebacker Shawn Crable, Michigan has not shown any speed on defense, which means that when Beanie gets into the open field, he’s probably gone…as happened on a big run in last year’s game.
Advantage: Ohio State

Special Teams
There’s not much to analyze. Both teams have them. Michigan’s kicking game improved dramatically once the Wolverines finally switched kickers. Michigan stud punter has not appeared so studly lately, which is a major concern. Also, Ohio State’s Hartline is a much better kick returner than anyone running back kicks for Michigan. Ohio State could be getting lots of good field position.
Advantage: Ohio State

You’d have to be an IDIOT to say Michigan has the advantage here. There’s probably a good reason that Ohio State has been one of the top three programs in college football ever since Jim “Lord and Savior” Tressel arrived, and Michigan has sort of stayed borderline relevant in that time. And let’s of course not forget that 5-1 record Tressel has against Michigan, sometimes getting wins with less talent.
Advantage: Ohio State

Aha! Here’s one where I can finally give it to Michigan, because intangibles are b.s. ABC will once again be drooling all over the delicious storylines: It’s the anniversary of Bo Schembechler’s death! Is Lloyd Carr retiring? (edit by Jeremy to add that according to various blogs... we know how accurate they are... Carr is in fact retiring) Henne, Hart and Long all came back for this game! Can Ohio State still sneak back into the national championship? Meanwhile, the rest of the world outside of Michigan and Ohio will want to throw up and watch some SEC football. Ohio State will rebound emotionally, but they will still be just a little deflated from the Illinois loss. Michigan at home, wanting to win one for Lloyd, Hart, Henne and Long, knowing they’re the underdog, will play the game of their lives. Michigan has played their best against Tressel when they’ve been the underdog, even when it still results in a loss. They’ve never been this much of an underdog to Ohio State before, so that must mean they’ll play that much better…right?
Advantage: Michigan

Michigan’s senior quarterback and running back are banged up. They fell flat on their face early, and stubbed their toe late. They are not as strong or fast as Ohio State, which is exactly what killed them last week at Wisconsin. Tressel achieved god status in Columbus for his repeated wins over Lloyd Carr. Pretty much, no reasonable person would pick Michigan to win. But I cannot bring myself to say I think Ohio State will win. If Michigan were 0-11 and Ohio State were 11-0, I’d look for reasons to pick Michigan. Just for good measure, I’ll throw in that the final play of the game is a Henne touchdown pass to Adrian Arrington. My unabashed, total homer pick:

Michigan 23, Ohio State 21

16 Responses:

J-Red said...

The East Coast regrets to inform Ohio that it cannot be admitted, mostly because we would feel compelled to accept West Virginia as well.

Bucks Insider said...

Your dead on with a lot of what you posted, including it being a close game but the Buckeyes will edge out the Wolverines 24-21

michael said...

On the east coast issue...I maintain (as a west coaster, of course) that since Ohio is located entirely in the eastern time zone, that it is indeed part of the east coast. Apparently St. Louis and Chicago won't allow Cleveland into the midwest.

As someone with no ties to the game, I dont see how you can pick a team to win that has a disadvantage in every single aspect of the game, even as an admitted homer. Michigan doesnt even have a home field advantage, as not only did they lose there to App St, but also got anally raped at home by Oregon. I only think this game will not be a blowout because it never is, regardless of how good they are...but OSU will win, 28-17.

Thank goodness for Illnois pulling it out, and getting the Pac-10 back in the title game hunt. I cant wait for Oregon to beat LSU by 3 touchdowns on a national stage so the Pac-10 will finally get its due as the best conference in America.

"ben" said...

1) Of the last 9 games, 4 final scores have been a difference of 12 to 16 points. Maybe those aren't blowouts, but they're not always nail biters. The perception, I think, comes from the fact that the favorite often fails to win, or at least put the other team away.

2) I'm not sure what you're not understanding about the homer pick. First of all, Michigan has the advantage in intangibles, remember? Secondly, the real answer to your question is pure and passionate hatred of Ohio State, combined with an unconditional love for the Wolverines.

3) OSU is not running the same offense that Appalachian State and Oregon have, nor is OSU running the same offense that it had with Troy Smith the last three years. Their style this year is more Michigan's speed...but it's just so freaking balanced and disciplined.

On that same note, Michigan does not run the Illinois style of offense, which is why no weakness was exposed for Michigan to exploit.

michael said...

I do remember you saying Michigan had the advantage in intangibles...but I also remember the first sentence of your analysis on that subject said that intangibles are total BS.

I think the second half of #2 here is the best indicator...and I get it. Trust me, I would NEVER pick Notre Dame or UCLA to ever beat USC, regardless of records or anything of the sorts.

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