When the season kicked off three games appeared on the Big Ten Schedule in Bold print: Wisconsin @ Ohio State; Michigan @ Wisconsin; and Ohio State @ Michigan. Everything else was filler really. Michigan and Wisconsin started off as known entities, highly ranked known entities, while Ohio State hid in the weeds, ranked in the teens and was just scary enough defensively (good) and offensively (bad) to keep them out of the twenties or top ten.
These three games were supposed to determine who won the Big Ten, who got the extra BCS slot, and who went to the Citrus Bowl (no, I will not call it the "Capitol One Bowl"). Ten weeks into a season that make absolutely no sense, this postulate may yet ring true.
Despite dropping two games in embarrassing fashion, Michigan lurks at 12 in the BCS. The Buckeyes are, while not the consensus No. 1 in the land, the best "team" in the country and the most consistent. Wisconsin, despite starting the season as a supposed legitimate MNC contender, can still finish the season 9-3 and go to a respectable bowl game with wins over Michigan and The School Formerly Known As Minnesota, which now may be referred to by its adopted symbol " :( " .
While in Washington, D.C. this weekend to see family and friends, I had the opportunity to watch some of the Ohio State Wisconsin game at the Pour House on Pennsylvania (Poli Tiki for the old fogies like me). I expected to see a much better Ohio State team than I did. However, when the game was on the line the Ohio State defense was spectacular. If you don't fear a defense that totaled 10 sacks against a decent/comparable to Michigan sans Jake Long offensive line, then you're probably one of those people who engages in "Fight Club" at a neighbors house on Thursdays and believe cameras steal your spirit (i.e., foolhardy and stupid, in case you missed it). Vernon Gholston raking up four sacks and generally eating Tyler Donovan's organs one sack at a time scares me.
On the other side of the ball, I saw a Wisconsin team that had control of the game into the third and let the game not just get away, but steal their car, wallet and girlfriend at the same time. The inability to stop anyone in a red jersey from entering their defensive backfield was surprising. Donovan's ball security issues were also surprising. While turnovers and the Ohio State defense were primarily to blame for their loss, Wisconsin did do some things that concern me for Saturday.
Uber tight end Travis Beckum was open most of the day, and when Donovan had time, he found him. The crossing routes underneath our linebackers have been an issue all season and Wisconsin is the perfect team to exploit that. Wisconsin also came out strong, something Michigan has only done once this year (Purdue), and played a tough game despite not being able to run the ball effectively without PJ Hill. Despite having Vernon Gholston and the rest of the OSU defense draped all over him, Donovan threw for 239 and 2 TDs without an INT. While I appreciate that our defense has improved, it hasn't improved to the level of Ohio State. If Donovan has time and Hill is in the backfield, this could be a very tough game for Michigan's defense.
Michigan did come away with a hard fought win on Saturday, on to the Yeas and Nays
1. Chad Henne - Man you had a rough middle of the game, but when it counted you were a deadly, cold blooded killer. Despite the throws to invisible receivers ten yards down field of the nearest wideout, I'm going to miss your laser accurate bombs to Manningham in the corner of the end zone.
2. Mario Manningham - Please don't leave this year. Please don't leave this year. Please don¡¦t leave this year. Please don't leave this year. Please don't leave this year. Please don't leave this year. Please don't leave this year.
3. Mike Hart - I'm speechless. Bad ankle and all you still play. On a fumble that could have, should have, killed our chances to come back, you pick it up and run for a first down on a play where you were supposed to block. To paraphrase RBUAS, what are we going to do when you're gone and there's a season left to save?
4. The Defense - Stood tall in the fourth after getting abused by Ringer and Caulcrick for a quarter and a half.
5. Alex Mitchell - Welcome back big guy.
6. The Secondary - When Englemon went out, I got really, really scared. He's been the rock that settled this defense down. Anton Campbell and Stevie Brown were on the field trying to save Michigan's bacon against one of the better quarterback and running back tandems in the Big Ten. No horror movie was scarier than that. Freddie Kruger's got nothing on Brown's safety play against ASU. However, in crunch time, they played well, if not excellent defense. Maybe Brown will be alright after all. We won¡¦t know for a year or two, but kudos for Saturday young man.
1. Carson Butler - TD or not, stop getting called for stupid penalties at times we can't afford them.
2. The Defense - They're going to run. Stop them please.
3. The Linebackers - When Brandent Englemon went out (please, God, let him heal quickly) Michigan's run defense was wholly dependent upon their linebackers. This shouldn't be akin to asking a Care Bear to perform open heart surgery with a wooden spoon. Great last stand, now please translate this into the rest of the game.
4. Middle of the Game Play Calling - I can't tell if this was a function of the prevent offense or Henne missing wide open receivers, but from the second quarter until the seven minute mark of the fourth, the offense was abysmal. Eight straight drives of five plays or less? There¡¦s no excuse for that. You've got to give you defense a chance to rest.
5. Pass Protection - Michigan's State's porn star defensive end abused Steve Schilling and the rest of the Michigan line. Cannonized Phallus only got to Henne one time, but he spent most of second half dry humping the Wolverine backfield on pass plays and disrupting the running game by plowing through the line. Henne and Hart were both pounded by Michigan State in the second half. The line has to give Henne, especially when he's nursing a shoulder held together by duct tape, more time.
6. No Carlos Brown - WTF!? Two friggin carries? This kid ran for 113 against a very good Illini defense, let him see the field. Minor coughed the ball up this game, so you¡¦ve got fumble concerns about both, so there¡¦s no excuse to favor one over the other on rushing plays. Get Brown some carries. We could use a homerun threat on rushing plays if Hart's not in there.
7. Speaking of Fumbling - Ryan. Seriously. Hold onto the damn ball.