Game Twelve: Michigan Wolverines
Location: Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, MI) 12pm EST, ABC
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Michigan Players Who Were Recruited By Ohio State: CB Donovan Warren, WR Greg Mathews, WR Junior Hemingway, TE Kevin Koger, OT Patrick Omameh, CB J.T. Turner, and DB Vladimir Emilien. OL Elliott Mealer and TE Brandon Moore were on Ohio State's recruiting radar but were not offered scholarships by Ohio State.
When Michigan Is On Offense VS Ohio State's Defense ~ Michigan's spread offense has become much better in year 2 of the Rodriguez era, led by true freshman QB Tate Forcier. What Forcier lacks in terms of stature (Forcier is listed at 6'1", 188 lbs., but is probably shorter and lighter than that), Forcier compensates with a tremendous poise and understanding of finding open receivers. Due to Forcier's slight build, he has taken a pounding over the course of The Big Ten season, something that usually happens to quarterbacks in Rodriguez's system.
Michigan's running game is led by senior RBs Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown. Both Minor and Brown have had injury issues this season, and Minor is not expected to play against Ohio State. Other RBs who may be given carries against Ohio State include Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith.
The "X" factor for Michigan is true freshman QB Denard Robinson. Robinson has tremendous speed, but is not the passing threat Forcier is, having struggled throughout the season when throwing the ball. Even knowing that Robinson is not going to pass does not mean it will be easy to stop Robinson from gaining positive yards, due to his speed as a runner.
Ohio State's defensive line is fast and deep enough to give Michigan's struggling offensive line fits. If Brandon Minor is definitely out, it only serves to further handicap Michigan offensively. An interesting match-up to keep an eye on will be how Michigan uses TE Kevin Koger, who could cause problems if Ohio State tries to cover him with a linebacker.
Edge: Even. I believe Michigan will be able to run the ball on Ohio State early, but I look for Ohio State to clamp down by the beginning of the third quarter. I also look for Ohio State's pass rush to cause Michigan problems when Michigan tries to throw the ball.
When Ohio State Is On Offense VS Michigan's Defense ~ Ohio State has seemingly found its rhythm offensively running the ball in the last few games of the season, rushing for over 200 yards against teams such as Penn State and Iowa. While neither RB Brandon Saine or RB Daniel "Boom" Herron are the traditional Ohio State power backs such as Keith Byars or Chris Wells, both have had solid seasons and should get many carries against Michigan.
QB Terrelle Pryor has also become more of the traditional Jim Tressel caretaker QB in the latter part of the season, ever since the Purdue loss on October 17th. Pryor suffered an ankle injury against New Mexico State that has bothered him since, so it will be interesting to see how effective Pryor is as a runner against Michigan.
WRs Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey are both having solid seasons as Pryor's go-to receivers. While Sanzenbacher is more of a possession receiver, Posey can serve as both an intermediate and deep threat catching the ball.
Michigan has arguably the best defensive end in the conference in Brandon Graham, who could cause problems for Ohio State's offensive line. Graham will need to be double-teamed by an Ohio State TE such as Jake Ballard or chipped by a running back in passing situations.
Michigan's secondary has a tremendous CB in Donovan Warren, whom I believe Michigan will try to isolate on DeVier Posey. Warren is the bright spot in Michigan's secondary, which I believe Ohio State will be able to exploit.
Edge: Ohio State. Even though Brandon Graham and Donovan Warren are great players who could and would start at Ohio State, they are pretty much it when it comes to the Michigan defense. Michigan has benched linebackers, alternating players due to inconsistency or ineffectiveness. Michigan is starting walk-ons at linebacker and safety, and it shows as Michigan has struggled in Big Ten play this year.
Intangibles: Michigan has lost five straight in this rivalry, and the game is in Ann Arbor. Michigan needs a win in order to become bowl-eligible, while Ohio State has already clinched a share of The Big Ten championshp and a Rose Bowl berth. Justin Boren makes his return to Michigan Stadium, after accusing Rodriguez of "eroding family values".
Rumors are swirling that Rich Rodriguez could be fired with a loss. With the death of Stefanie Spielman, the wife of former Ohio State stalwart LB Chris Spielman, I wonder what kind of focus Ohio State has coming into this contest.
Prediction: Ohio State is wearing "throwback" uniforms in tribute to its 1954 national championship team. While I believe Ohio State should honor its former team, I also believe it is far-fetched to honor a team 55 years after they won the national title - why not on the 50th anniversary? This is nothing more than a Nike marketing ploy, plain and simple. Ohio State sold itself out for some extra money for its athletic department.
But I digress. Michigan has the intangibles in its favor, but I do not believe they have the depth to stay with Ohio State for four quarters. I look for this game to be close, but for Ohio State to wear down Michigan's defense in the second half to take a closer than expected victory for the sixth straight year, giving Ohio State the undisputed Big Ten championship. I am going to say Ohio State 27, Michigan 17.