Friday, November 23, 2012

Preview And Prediction: Ohio State

"The Game" is here. We've waited so long so one of the greatest rivalries in sports to kick off once again, and the wait is finally over.

This chapter of Michigan - Ohio State takes place in Columbus, and that is bad news for a Michigan team that hasn't traveled particularly well this season. But, as Brady Hoke put it, "it's almost personal," talking about what this game means to him. In other words, it's not your average hop-on-a-bus-to-play-football kind of game. It's hop-on-a-bus-to-play-Ohio.

Here are the keys to the game.

Michigan

The Wolverines have looked like a completely different team these past few weeks, compared to what we were seeing earlier in the season, and it all has to do with the play of Devin Gardner. He has revived the Michigan offense into something to be feared. Couple with that with the play-making ability of Denard Robinson, and you have one of the most electric offenses in the Big Ten.

1. Contain Braxton Miller

Last season, everyone was talking about how Braxton Miller could not put the ball through the air, and if Michigan could stop him on the ground, the game was well in hand. But that wasn't the case. In fact, at times, Miller was torching the Wolverine secondary. He's a gamer, rises to the occasion. It really is something to be admired.

But the Michigan defense learned its lesson a year ago, and besides, Braxton Miller is a much improved passer from last season.

Still, his legs are the number one priority for teams. I'm sure you've seen some of his electric runs on SportsCenter in the morning. Greg Mattison has to keep that the number one priority, stopping Miller on the ground. I have enough faith in the secondary to be able to stop the pass.

2. Mix it up

Against Iowa last week, Michigan gave a steady dose of Gardner through the air and Robinson on the ground, and it was the most productive and dangerous I've seen the offense all season. Some fans have been wanting that combination for a while now, and they finally got their wish. Bottom line, it was beautiful.

The Buckeyes aren't making their money of defense this season, so there's no doubt in my mind that Michigan will be able to put points. That won't be the struggle. I think the hardship will be in simply outscoring Ohio State. Perhaps we're looking at a shoot out. And Michigan's best shot at scoring is with the combination of Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes would be in contention for the national championship game without a postseason ban, but the sanctions are really downplaying what this team has done this year. I've been telling people, talking about Ohio State, that 11-0 doesn't just happen. This is a good team.

1. Balance

Ohio State hasn't been a particularly balanced team this season and for good reason. When the ground game is working, why switch it up? I don't see the Buckeyes having all the success they're used to rushing the ball on Saturday. Michigan has one of the best defensive lines in the Big Ten. Teams have a very hard time on the ground.

But if we learned anything about Michigan's defense last week against Iowa, it's that a balanced attack is the best chance to move the ball. The Wolverines had a hard time stopping the Hawkeyes when they had a good balance of run and pass.

Braxton Miller isn't 100% reliable through the air, but it might be in Ohio State's best interest to let him loose a couple times and balance things out.

2. Pick Your Poison

If there is a defense in the nation that can consistently shut down Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson, please introduce them to me. I think it's a simple case of picking your poison. But while it's simple, it's not easy. Brush up on your vocabulary.

In order to "pick your poison," it takes a great deal of discipline, especially from the linebackers. As soon as they commit to the wrong play, it's all over. But, once again, going against the conventional wisdom might be Ohio State's best chance at stopping the Michigan attack of Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson.

Prediction

I think Michigan's defense becomes too much for Braxton Miller and Ohio State, even if they are able to minimize the Devin/Denard effect. I'll take Michigan, 38-28.

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