Ohio State is currently in its longest ever win streak and might still get shut out of the BCS title game in one final screw job by the maligned bowl game governing body. If the top three undefeated finish the season as expected, what is your best argument for OSU to be one of the two playing for the national championship?
First of all, people need to realize that it is incredibly difficult to finish a full season in big time college football undefeated. With Alabama's upcoming schedule, it is very conceivable that the Buckeyes may find themselves playing for the crystal ball in Pasadena. However, if the status quo holds true you would have to take a close look at the bodies of work for both Ohio State and Florida State. Many in the national media believe Florida State is the superior and more deserving team but Ohio State's credentials may be just as impressive, if not more.
The Buckeyes hold the nation's fifth-best rushing attack behind senior tailback Carlos Hyde, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark last Saturday with the help of his physical five-man front. Head coach Urban Meyer has said before that he believes he can take experienced unit on the offensive line and line them up against anyone in the country. I would have to agree with the coach. When you add that to a team that will have defeated just as many quality opponents as Florida State by season's end, Ohio State definitely deserves to be considered for the second slot in the BCS National Championship Game.
So far this year it doesn't look like Ohio State's offense can be even slowed down much. Only Wisconsin and Iowa have held the Bucks under 40 points (although Northwestern was close). What were Iowa, Wisconsin, and Northwestern able to do to keep the score close? Do you think Michigan matches up well in this regard?
For all the points the Buckeyes put up week after week, it can be said that the attack is still not a well oiled machine like Urban Meyer would like to see. Often times the Buckeyes get in their own way and mistakes lead multiple series where the offense looks lost. The fourth quarter of the Illinois game is a perfect example of this lackluster play and ultimately Illinois was able to come within 12 points before Carlos Hyde put the nail in the coffin.
Similar spurts kept teams like Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Iowa in close games late. An injured and obviously struggling Braxton Miller was almost benched against Northwestern in October for a pair of inexplicable fumbles that allowed Northwestern to build a rare lead against Ohio State. Against Wisconsin to kick off the Big Ten season, Coach Meyer decided to go into "Win-The-Game-Mode" against a tough Badger team when he could have stayed much more aggressive and probably could have extended a late 7-point lead. Iowa likely had the best game plan against Meyer's high powered squad. The Hawkeyes came in with the strategy of keeping Braxton Miller and company off the field for as long as possible and it paid off for awhile as the Hawkeyes took a 17-10 lead into halftime.
Many of the Buckeyes' troubles this year are of their own doing and not so much what the other defenses were throwing at them. Michigan is sure to throw many different blitz packages to confuse Braxton Miller but Miller is getting progressively better at making extra reads and hitting his check downs. The Wolverines are going to find it very difficult to slow down Carlos Hyde coming out of the backfield, as many have already tried and failed. The Wolverines only chance is to force turnovers and shorten the game with extended drives to make the vaunted Buckeye offense stand on the sideline.
Michigan's defense this year has been very good at limiting big plays from opposing teams and grinding drives to a halt with solid run defense. While Ohio State should be able to break something long, how do you think the Buckeye's experienced line and two-headed monster in the backfield match up with Michigan's run defense?
The ground game will still be heavily relied upon this week as the Buckeyes travel to enemy territory. There is no doubt that the Michigan defense has not been the problem for them this year as noted by Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer in his weekly presser. The Team Up North is only allowing 116.4 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 14th nationally. However, the Buckeyes' bruising front line is not backing down. Senior lineman Jack Mewhort spoke with the media on Mobday and reiterated that the Buckeyes will play hard nosed football in the trenches in order to come away with the victory in Ann Arbor.
"If you want to go on the road and win a big rivalry game in the Big Ten, you've gotta' bring your rushing attack," said Mewhort.
Braxton Miller's continued maturatiom as a passer will certainly help take the load off Carlos Hyde but Hyde's three-game suspension early in the season may prove to be helpful coming down the home stretch of the Big Ten season. It is scary to think the amount of yards Hyde could have racked up if he had started from game one.
It is no secret that Michigan absolutely cannot run the ball this year. Since that isn't likely to change against the second best run defense in the conference, how well will OSU be able to deal with what I can only imagine will be Al Borges's best tricks and gimmicks? Deep passes, reverses, flea flickers, etc? Is this game a shutout?
No doubt the Buckeyes should be able to shut down the run game of the Wolverines. A shut out though? That may be a bit of a stretch, although I'm sure Buckeye fans everywhere would wet their pants for such a result. If you flash back to The Game 2012, the Wolverines were able to put points on the board with big plays. Denard "Shoelace" Robinson broke off a long 67-yard touchdown run that was preceded by a long touchdown catch from Roy Roundtree that was aided by some poor play in the secondary. If the Buckeyes can keep Michigan from hitting on big gainers such as these, they should be able to hold Michigan at or below Ohio State's opponent scoring averge of 18.4 points per game. Al Borges better have all the gadgets out for this one because another lackluster performance could mean the much maligned offensive coordinator could be coaching his final game in the rivalry.
If Michigan somehow pulls off the improbable, what do you think are the biggest factors in an upset?
If the Wolverines pull the upset this Saturday, the sky will be falling in Columbus, OH. History shows that in this great rivalry favorites often go down in smashing defeat. With that being said, the Buckeyes seem to be head and shoulders above the Wolverines this year in every phase of the game. On senior day in Ann Arbor, quarterback Devin Gardner is going to have to light up a Buckeye secondary that has left some fans scratching their heads this season. His partner in crime, Jeremy Gallon may be the guy to exploit the Buckeyes in the back end. Gallon's 1,109 receiving yards lead the team by far and when Gardner and he are on the same page, big plays tend to materialize for the Maize and Blue. This will be no easy feat due to the fact that the Ohio State defensive line will be salivating at the opportunity to get Gardner to the ground after he has already been sacked a grand total of 31 times this season. Ultimately, the Buckeyes will have to show up to the Big House very uninspired for Michigan to win and that is not very realistic.
Final score prediction?
At the end of the day, Saturday in Ann Arbor will be the Carlos Hyde show. Smash mouth Big Ten football will be played and I predict Hyde will end his afternoon with over 200 yards rushing after the Buckeyes offensive line wears down the Michigan defensive front.
Final Score: Ohio State 48, Michigan 17