Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ohio State Player Watch

For those fans who are interested in reading more about the Maryland-Rutgers additions to the Big Ten, this column won't touch on that. Neither will it address bowl projections for each eligible team--that will come soon. No, this one is about "The Game." Michigan fans are well aware of what happened last season--snapping the Buckeye's seven game winning streak with a 40-34 victory at home. Denard Robinson threw for 67 yards and three touchdowns and running for 170 yards and two more scores. Obviously, things won't go the same way this season. Urban Meyer is in his first season as head coach, and the Nuts are coming to the game undefeated. Maybe some would say it's contentious--they aren't spectacular on defense, especially with narrow victories over Cal and Indiana. However, they seem to have gotten the job done every week. No matter what the state is of football in the Big Ten, fans of either side can depend on a brutal, hard hitting game. Watch out for these guys:

Braxton Miller

Is Braxton Miller a phenom? It's a difficult question to answer. The last few years of Buckeye football they've had the likes of Terrelle Pryor and Troy Smith--both decent quarterbacks who can throw the ball if needed, and run if the play calls for it. The difference between those guys and Miller is that not only can he run better, but he is more accurate with his passes. He's throwing for a 56.5 completion rate, 1850 yards with 14 TDs and 6 INTs. Yet that is not where his major ability lies--that's in his legs. He's the top rusher for the team with 207 carries for 1214 yards and 15 TDs. Miller may have not been all-worldy at the beginning of the season, but he has picked it up in recent games and has garnered some mentions for the Heisman trophy...all this and it's just his second starting season. As I said, he's not the greatest passer in football but he has raised his completion percentage, which considering his stable of receivers is quite small. Michigan is still bringing their first ranked pass defense, but will still need to limit the big plays Miller makes with his arm and his legs.

Carlos Hyde

If Miller doesn't make the running plays, Carlos Hyde does. Hyde has 159 carries for 824 yards and 15 TDs and this is without being able to play against Cal and UAB. So think about that--in nine games he has those stats, and could be the best back OSU has had since Beanie Wells.  He is one of the main guys Ohio State uses in goal line situations, and was nearly off the radar last season with only 47 yards. He's also not much of a threat in the passing game considering he's only caught one touchdown  and neither is the other running back, Jordan Hall.  Jordan Hall was rumored to start the season but did not, and has only seen some spot time in 3 games thus far.

As far as receiver goes, beyond Devin Smith and Philly Brown, the cupboard is mostly bare. Sure, Jake Stoneburner has 4 TDs on the season, suspension notwithstanding, but that's only on 15 catches. Smith doesn't lead the team in receptions (Brown does with 48) but he is the deep threat Braxton Miller needs. He has 28 receptions for 555 yards and 6 TDs...that's a 19.8 ypc average. What it shows is that Meyer doesn't use a tight end in passing situations much (or Miller doesn't check down to his TE) but they're used more for blocking purposes. Other than Stoneburner, there's only one other tight end who has caught a touchdown. It's going to be a tall task for Michigan's secondary, specifically Taylor and Floyd, to prevent Smith from getting too much of a lead off the line of scrimmage.

I don't want to end this post without mentioning the Buckeye defense. Run defense wise they're ranked 18th in the nation, and while the offense does score more than their Michigan counterparts, they also give up more points per game than Michigan does. Ryan Shazier is one of their star linebackers and he's only a sophomore (think their version of Jake Ryan) who has 98 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 10 passes defensed, and one interception. He could disrupt the flow of the Michigan offense, and could be chasing after Devin or Denard all game long. Mix in Etienne Sabino and John Simon and the defense has some major playmakers. One thing to keep in mind is that the defense hasn't shutout any opponent yet this season, and held only one team to less than 14 points, and that was the season opener against Miami (OH). Bottom line, Michigan will score on the Buckeyes--the question is, will it be enough?

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