Game Time: Noon EST | Buckeyes vs Wolverines coverage
Television: ABC National
Series History: 110th Meeting; Michigan leads 58-45-6
Vegas Says: Ohio State -13
Weather Forecast: Mid thirties, sunshine with low wind
That Blog Down South: Land-Grant Holy Land
Let's talk about last Saturday, regrettably. Michigan looked formidable on the road for the first half. They didn't gain a ton of yards on offense but moved down the field to get a passing touchdown to pull away from an Iowa team that was doing even less with the ball. Defensively, the line was pressuring Zach Rudock, and the corners and linebackers were covering their men.
Then Iowa flipped a switch, and Michigan fell asleep. Tackling disappeared, and offensive play calling regressed to head-bashing levels of awful. Al Borges's schemes have been exposed, and no one on the opposing side of the ball has to guess what Michigan will run anymore, because there's only different types of telegraphing to choose from.
However, if there is one game where Michigan's woes the last six weeks mean little to nothing, it's the annual clash with Ohio State.
I will be onsite for this one, and from what I've read on (sane) message boards, this one comes down to a feeling of obligation rather than true excitement, at least for most. It's a tall order, and Ohio State can smell blood. The 2013 version of the game has formed into a dichotomy of program direction. Urban Meyer has yet to lose a game (although the Buckeyes' strength of schedule is not much weaker than Michigan's), and Brady Hoke has yet to win big games on the road or compete for a conference championship. Michigan is young at a lot of its skill positions and interior, and Ohio State is stacked with upperclassmen on offense. Braxton Miller turned into Denard Robinson, Terror Edition, and Carlos Hyde will run straight at Michigan's linebackers, daring them to tackle him one-on-one. It will not work.
Last night, I read that Tshimanga Biakabutuka's 313-yard rushing performance on 37 carries against Ohio State happened 18 years ago. Time passes so quickly in this rivalry, I had thought all along he did that in Columbus, not Ann Arbor. John Cooper was last seen 13 years ago, and Bo Schembechler has been gone for seven. Ohio State last won a national title 11 years ago, and for Michigan, it has been 16 years. Both schools reached national relevance again almost in perfect unison, but for Michigan, Saturday's game is the last chance of the regular season to prove that they are building something indestructible.
Pull out all the secret plays, strategies, and personnel imaginable. Pull a Costanza and do the opposite of whatever it is that has been on display the past six weeks. The way Michigan beats Ohio State is if they don't play scared, with reckless abandon. Anything besides two run plays followed by a dropped or incomplete pass. In this rivalry, the aggressor wins. It worked in 2011, it worked in 2003, 2000, 1999 and 1997. Hard to believe those are the only wins Michigan has had in the series since the national championship season. This one has the feeling of the 2004 game, but reversed. Ohio State was down, and in came Troy Smith to Columbus for his first game in the series, and bludgeoned Michigan. The Buckeyes played loose, risky, and fearless. And they won. Michigan did the same in 1999 and 2000, when Tom Brady and then Drew Henson took control of those games and put Cooper away for good.
When Hoke was hired, he referred to this game as not only the game, but "the most important game on that schedule." It takes place at noon in five days, and if Michigan wants to be where Ohio State currently is, he can't hide behind his assistants and coachspeak anymore. The players who work hard don't deserve to be let down yet again. It's now or never to make an emphatic statement about where Michigan football is headed.
Your 2013 Michigan Football Seniors:
...And the power-sliding wonder, Drew Dileo
*Correction* I incorrectly stated a couple of years. Michigan lost in 2004 in Columbus thanks to Troy Smith, and 2011 was the last time they won, in Ann Arbor. Article has been updated with these changes.