Stadium: Michigan Stadium (109,901)
2011 Record: 11-2
2012 Record: 8-3
Head Coach: Brady Hoke (2nd year at Michigan, 19-5; 66-55 overall)
Letterman Returning: (50; lost - 24)
Returning Starters: Offense - 6; Defense - 7; Specialists - 2
Base Defense: 4-3
Base Offense: Ace (3 Wide Receivers)
Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States
Charlie Gehringer, Baseball Hall of Famer
Tony Fadell, Inventor of the iPod
Lucy Liu, Actress
Tom Brady, NFL quarterback (two time Super Bowl MVP)
Desmond Howard, Heisman Trophy Winner; sporstcaster
James Earl Jones, Actor
William Mayo, Cofounder of the Mayo Clinic
Cheerleader Scouting Report:
Gardner was a wide receiver for most of the season, and was pretty good (16, 266, 4), but after Robinson was injured and Russell Bellomy was clearly in over his head, Devin came to the rescue and played so well that he should start at quarterback Saturday. He is hitting 65.7% of his passes, with 7 TD's and 3 INT's. Gardener is a threat to run and has rushed for 6 TD's.
"Shoelace" has had trouble staying healthy but is an amazing runner, going over 1000 yards rushing for the third straight season, totaling 1044 yards so far at 7.3 ypc. Passing has never been his strong suit, and this year he has as many interceptions (9) as touchdowns. Look for him to line up in the backfield with Gardener a good deal of the time on Saturday.
The diminutive (5'8") Gallon doesn't get talked about as much as Roy Roundtree but has better numbers this year, with 34 catches, 617 yards and 2 TD's. The fleet footed receiver is also the Wolverine's main punt returner, and has rushed 11 times for 67 yards, so the coaching staff looks for multiple ways to get him the ball.
One wonders if Ryan is trying to look like Clay Matthews, and while his game isn't at that level he is pretty good, leading Michigan with 75 tackles, with 13 for loss including 3.5 sacks. Jake has also broken up 3 passes and forced 3 fumbles, and will be a key to slowing down Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller in the running game.
A fifth-year senior from Curtice, Ohio, Kovacs has played a lot of minutes in his UM career, having started over 40 games. In 2010 he led Michigan with 110 tackles, and though his role has changed he is still active, and has totaled 59 stops so far this year with 5 for loss, 2 sacks and an interception. He is better defensing the run than the pass, something OSU may try to take advantage of.
Yes, he does look like Fred Flintstone and it is enjoyable to make fun of the big guy, but he has done a very good job of digging Michigan out of the hole RichRod dug for them. A former UM assistant coach, Hoke was the head man at Ball State and San Diego before coming to Ann Arbor a year ago, leading them to 11 wins and a Sugar Bowl victory in his initial season.
A year after ending a seven year drought, the Wolverines come to Columbus for their first shot at Urban Meyer. While they have not been overwhelming this is a good team with a pretty explosive offense and a defense coached by Greg Mattison, who is one of the best. A few weeks ago I felt pretty good about this game because Denard Robinson is fairly one dimensional, but Michigan comes to Columbus with Devin Gardener under center (at least part of the time), and not only is he a better passer, but the Wolverines will have both players on the field together much of the time. That could be very tough to defend.
Michigan's offense had been a little unpredictable, averaging 395 ypg and 30.8 ppg, but much of that has come against weaker competition. They only scored 14 against Alabama, 6 versus Notre Dame, 12 in a win against Michigan State and 9 versus Nebraska. While that provides reason for optimism, I do believe they are better with Gardener and Robinson on the field together, and we all know that Ohio State has struggled to tackle in space and defend spread offenses.
As mentioned Gardener is a good passer and pretty decent runner while Robinson is a great runner with top-end speed, while a mediocre passer. Ohio State is having to prepare for both of them, and that is a challenging proposition.
Running back is unsettled because of the season ending injury to tailback Fitzgerald Touissant, who rushed for 1000 yards last year, but was somewhat less successful this go round (514 yards, 5 TD's). His backups are Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith, and both are serviceable with Rawls having rushed for 240 yards this year. However, look for Robinson to line up at running back some of the time.
At receiver the Wolverines feature the aforementioned Jeremy Gallon, Ohio native Roy Roundtree (25, 461, 2), and junior Drew Dilio (16, 303, 1). Tight end Devin Funchess is also a threat in the passing game with 14 catches, 230 yards and 5 touchdowns, and will have to be watched in the red zone.
Michigan's offensive line is big, as Hoke has returned to more of a power running game after RichRod tried to make the Wolverines a sleek spread offense. The best of the bunch is probably right guard Patrick Omameh. Overall they have paved the way for 195 yards rushing per game at 5 yards per carry, and have only surrendered 11 sacks.
Defense was nonexistent under Rodriquez but has been solid under the new regime. Opponents are managing 303.5 ypg and 18.1 points per contest in 2012. The d-line is anchored by senior tackle William Campbell who has 34 tackles and a sack, and end Craig Roh who has 32 tackles and 4 sacks. Also starting are nose tackle Quinton Washington and end Frank Clark, who has 7 tackles for loss.
At linebacker Michigan is very strong with Jake Ryan on one side, and Desmond Morgan (67 tackles) on the other. In the middle is fifth year senior Kenny Demens who has 72 tackles including 6 for loss. Cincinnati native Joe Bolden comes off the bench as a freshmen and is going to be a good one.
The Wolverines' secondary is a bit underrated in my opinion. Strong safety Jordan Kovacs seems like he has been playing for 6 seasons, and is joined by free safety Thomas Gibson who has 67 tackles and 2 picks. The corners are manned by veteran J.T Floyd (43 tackles) and youngster Raymon Taylor (37 tackles and 2 interceptions with one taken to the house).
This is a sound defense that will mount a good challenge to the Buckeyes, but has not produced tons of pressure, and has given up over 150 yards a game on the ground, so OSU should be able to have some success so long as they open up their playbook.
Michigan's special teams are solid. Kicker Brenden Gibbons is 14-16 on field goals with a long of 52 and punter Will Hagerup averages 44.7 per punt. Tiny Denis Norfleet returns kicks and averages 23.3 per return, and Jeremy Gallon averages 6.1 per punt return. Ohio State has been a little inconsistent on special teams, but needs to bring their A game if they are going to win this portion of the contest, which often is the difference in the end.
Nobody is ever sure how things will play out in a rivalry game and this one is no different. Michigan enters with some momentum, having found a quarterback who can pass effectively, and will probably empty their playbook this week. Meanwhile, Ohio State is 11-0, and can send out its seniors with a perfect final season as they enjoy Senior Day. Surely Urban Meyer will also show some creativity, a week after the team featured a vanilla offense versus Wisconsin. Hopefully Braxton Miller will look sharper throwing the ball, because it is going to take some points to win this game.
Look for Michigan to have both quarterbacks on the field together, using Gardener's arm and Robinson's legs. They will try and get the ball outside and force the Buckeyes to tackle in space. There is no doubt that the Silver Bullets have regained some confidence the past three weeks, and will need to build on that momentum. Look for them to continue to blitz more and seek to make some big plays. They may surrender a few long plays to the Wolverines in the process, but hopefully can disrupt their offense with pressure. In the end, though, it probably comes down to how well the back seven is able to tackle some fast Wolverine players.
On offense, Ohio State will continue to feature the zone read, but may seek to give the ball to Carlos Hyde a little more than last week. He seems to have improved as the year has gone on, and could be the difference this week. Miller will need to make better decisions than he did a week ago, and will also need to dial up a couple big pass plays. I think Devin Smith and Philly Brown can get open deep if Miller has time and is patient. The team that gets better quarterback play will probably come out on top. Hopefully Miller has a little more magic left in what has been a season of big plays.
Father vs. Son Prediction Battle:
Dave: Ohio State 31, Michigan 27
Drew: Ohio State 34, Michigan 28