Sean at Around The Oval and I had plenty of questions about each other's teams, so instead of a boring ass set of emailed questions we went live. Behold. More information than you can handle on Ohio State Michigan. Make sure you head over to Around The Oval for the Michigan half of the conversation.
Maize n Brew: We need the lowdown on Chris Wells. I checked out his stats and with the exception of Kent and Purdue, he's gone over 100 yards in every game this season. Is it Wells? Is it the line? Is it the competition? What are his strengths and is there any truth to the rumors he's a little dinged up too?
Around The Oval: I'm too excited about the possibility of Mallett coming in for Henne. He's like Jimmah Clausen, but with a rocket launcher attached to his shoulder.
Maize n Brew: Yeah, Mallett = notsogoodrightnow...
Around The Oval: As for Wells, a lot of it is him. To be fair, the line has opened up some pretty nice holes all season, but Wells is making a lot of plays. Earlier in the year, I compared him to a bigger Mike Hart, in that one guy never seems to bring him down, and he's always falling forward and looking for that extra yard. He's big, he's strong, and while he's not SEC fast (snicker), he's not going to get caught from behind very often. He's got a great stiff-arm, but just when guys settle in, thinking he's going to lower his shoulder, he jukes and blows right by them. And yeah, he is a little dinged up. He's played with an ankle problem basically the entire season, and then he hurt his hand in the Illinois game. I expect we'll see him this Saturday, and at around 90%, at a guess
Maize n Brew: Ahh... so ankle and hand... good too know... (call to mafia)... I'm surprised to hear he's as nimble as that
Around The Oval: I don't think it's that he's real shifty, I think it's just that he surprises tacklers by being more agile than he looks. He's like an SUV that handles like a sedan. Not great moves, but when you're expecting a high-speed rollover, you're kind of impressed.
Maize n Brew: So all I can hope for is a ford Explorer type tire problem....What about the back-ups Saine and other Wells. Rumor has it they're banged up too.
Around The Oval: Yeah. Mo Wells left the Illinois game with his foot in a boot. Sounds like he'll still play, but I don't see any way he'll be at 100%. Hopefully Beanie is healthy enough to get the bulk of the carries, because if an injured foot/ankle takes away his shiftiness, Mo doesn't have much else to work with, besides a surprising ability to pass block. And that's not worth much in terms of yards per carry.
Maize n Brew: Sounds like Brandon Minor....
Around The Oval: I could see some similarities there, down to trying and failing to talk yourself into believing that he could be a featured back in your offense. As for Saine, he suffered a mild concussion. I haven't heard much one way or another, but I'd expect him to be back and at more or less full strength, though I would suggest to the coaches that he not be forced to run a lot of dives
Maize n Brew: It sounds like the OSU ground game should be on track barring some ankle dings. What about the quarterback situation? Boeckman's had a decent year up to the Illinois game. was it just a lot of pressure or was he living dangerously all season and it caught up to him?
Around The Oval: Boeckman's performance struck me as a worst possible outcome sort of thing. He's always done a combination of dumb, safe, and awesome things in roughly equal amounts. Usually it results in a long touchdown or two, an interception, and a mostly solid performance. This time every dumb play resulted in an interception, the attempted awesomeness led to either incompletions or more interceptions, and as a result, he kind of sucked. He can't possibly be that bad again. . . right? Right? I'm crossing my fingers as hard as I can right now
Maize n Brew: Heh, that's what I told myself about Henne and Mallett...
Around The Oval: Basically, Boeckman's been playing like a dude that really needs another year to become a steady performer. Which might be Mallett's problem too. And Henne's! Zing! Nahh, seriously folks, he's great.
Maize n Brew: try the veal! It's fantastic! Compare your receivers to last year's. I despise Gonzales with my heart and soul, but he was the best receiver I've seen at OSU in years, and IMO he made that offense work. Hartline, Robiskie, and Nicol - Is there a "burner" in the group? Who's the star and which one is more likely to make me want to break something during Saturday's game?
Around The Oval: Robiskie isn't a burner, but he's deceptively fast. Nine times out of ten, that means a receiver is white. But in this one, it means that despite not possessing outstanding speed, he still manages to get open deep. He runs good routes, he has great hands, and he's very good on jump balls. Hartline is pretty similar, but not quite as good. Good, not great speed, good, not great hands, good, not great athleticism. Ray Small, the #3 receiver, is the fastest of the bunch, but so far he hasn't been used all that much, due in part to injury, and, I hope, in part to Tressel's brilliant plan to save him for the Michigan game.
As for the tight ends, neither is a huge part of the passing game. Rory Nicol's a pretty standard tight end. Jake Ballard has great hands, but neither guy is involved enough in the passing game to be as infuriating as a Travis Beckum
Maize n Brew: thank god. Beckum was a royal pain in the ass. Our linebackers were falling apart trying to cover him.
Around The Oval: Yeah, the Buckeyes had about as much luck covering him as the Wolverines. Fortunately, with a speedy QB like Todd Boeckman, we should be able to take advantage of an overly aggressive linebacker. Oh, wait. . .
Maize n Brew: He had a nice run against Illinois. If you take away all the getting sacked and stuff... The OSU defense got gashed by Illinois was that the result of a problem with OSU or just OSU facing a (gasp) mobile quarterback?
Around The Oval: A bit of both. The problem is, first and foremost, OSU's defensive tackles. They're either inexperienced or, in Doug Worthington's case, giant converted defensive ends. The team has been able to protect them with some aggressive blitzing. But the Illini spread the field and, more importantly, forced them to stay home and not automatically follow who they thought had the ball. As a result, the tackles became more important, and they couldn't quite handle it
Maize n Brew: Had OSU been spread out prior to that game?
Around The Oval: Yeah, a few times. They took care of Purdue's basketball on grass without too much trouble. But against teams like Purdue, they could still be aggressive, even if they were in the nickel. But Illinois required them to stay home and play assignment football and all those clichés, which doesn't really play to the defense's strengths
Maize n Brew: Michigan dismantled Purdue. I think it's fair to say that they're not the best example of a spread offense. With that in mind tell me about your corners.
Around The Oval: Malcolm Jenkins has been good all year. He's ranged from lockdown to, occasionally, merely decent. He'll spend a lot of time on Manningham. At the other corner, Donald Washington has been solid all year. He hasn't been outstanding, but considering how rarely teams throw to Jenkins' side, he's been good. Chimdi Chekwa, the nickel back, has been a bit of a surprise. He's been solid in coverage, and a surprisingly good tackler. I'd say that's the most important thing about these defensive backs: receivers aren't often breaking tackles and taking off for big gains. They also seemed pretty good in coverage, before they turned Juice Williams into Vince Young
Maize n Brew: Yeah, what the hell was up with that? Williams couldn't hit a whack-a-mole earlier in the year. The last touchdown was clearly a blown assignment, but was he actually on target or did your corners just go to sleep.
Around The Oval: It was a bit of both. Juice did, to his surprising credit, a great job of finding the open receiver and throwing an accurate ball. But guys were consistently getting open. I can only hope that was due to the DB's looking into the backfield a bit too much, and not a sign of things to come
Maize n Brew: Alright, last big question. Where do you see OSU's biggest advantage and give me a score.
Around The Oval: I'm betting on the running game. Michigan's defense has given up nice chunks of yards to backs that aren't as good as Beanie Wells. If he's reasonably healthy, he could have a big game, and with any luck, control the game for the Buckeyes. I feel like both offenses will have some success, and both QBs will make a dumb mistake or two. Because I'm clearly biased, I'm taking the Buckeyes, 28-24.
Maize n Brew: I've got Michigan's biggest advantage through the air. OSU hasn't faced a set of receivers nearly as good as Manningham, Arrington and Mathews. If Butler blocks for more than two seconds, he's a fourth player to watch. If Hart plays the whole game, Michigan wins. I'll take 24-21 Michigan.