The Michigan football team has been anything but impressive this year and they will face its toughest test of the season on Saturday against undefeated arch rival Ohio State. Michigan (7-4, 3-4 Big Ten) comes in after another futile offensive performance in a loss to Iowa last week. Ohio State (11-0, 7-0) is riding a 23-game winning streak and is the 3rd-ranked team in the BCS. While the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry has been one of the best in all of sports, this one could get ugly. The Wolverines and Buckeyes will kickoff on Saturday at Michigan Stadium at noon and it will be broadcast on ABC.
What to watch for
Since Al Borges started calling Michigan’s offense, there have been 10 games where Michigan failed to gain 200 yards. Last week against Iowa, they only gained 158 yards. Iowa’s defense was pretty good, but so is Ohio State’s. The Buckeyes will score points, possibly a lot. So the game ultimately comes down to whether or not the inconsistent and unimpressive Michigan offense can match the OSU offense.
Devin Gardner has really, really struggled in the past month or so. Last week was arguably his worst game of the season as he finished 13-for-28 passing for just 98 yards. His fumble late in the fourth quarter sealed up the fourth Michigan loss in six games. If this trend continues, the Wolverines will get blown out.
The rushing attack has also been pretty poor as well. After an actually solid game against Northwestern two weeks ago, they took a step back against Iowa. As a team, they ran for just 60 yards on 29 carries. Derrick Green and Fitzgerald Toussaint split most of the carries. Michigan should look to the Green as he has had the most success in the last couple weeks.
Michigan needs Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess to do a lot more than they did against Iowa if they want any shot at winning. Funchess caught only one pass for two yards a week ago.
Ohio State boasts one of the most dynamic offenses in the country. Led by quarterback Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes rank 7th in the nation in total offense. After early-season injuries, Miller has returned and racked up 1,626 yards passing and 19 touchdowns. He has also run for 738 and five touchdowns. Michigan has struggled with dual-threat quarterbacks in the past, so this will be an extremely tough test for a young Michigan defense.
The other big threat in the OSU offense is running back Carlos Hyde. Hyde has rushed for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Buckeyes. Philly Brown and Devin Smith both have over 500 yards.
Michigan’s defense will look to limit the damage of the Ohio State offense. It is a defense that has been consistently steady all year, but the offense has put them in some tough situations. They come in as the 25th ranked defense in the nation in yards allowed. Last week featured some good performances out of Jake Ryan, Frank Clark and Raymon Taylor.
The young defense has played pretty well, but its main weakness is defending the pass. The secondary features a number of first-year players, but they have improved as the year has progressed. The way the secondary defends Braxton Miller and the Ohio State passing game will be key in this game. It is a very tough task and very few people believe in Michigan in this one.
Other notable stats and news
Jeremy Gallon’s streak of 37 games in a row with a catch is one shy of Braylon Edwards’ record. With a catch on Saturday and one in the bowl game, he will own the Michigan record.
Ohio State enters as a 15 point favorite.
The Buckeyes are third in the nation in scored with 48.7 points per game. They also run for over 300 yards per game, which is 7th in the nation.
Tickets for “The Game” this year have dropped dramatically in price. You can go grab some for around $60 each, which is right around face value for most seats at The Big House.
It’s hard to say that Ohio State won’t win this one. With National Championship and Big Ten Championship aspirations, the Buckeyes come in as a heavy favorite against a mediocre Michigan team. Nearly everyone is already writing this game off as a blowout and Ohio State will extend its winning streak to 24 games. There’s really nothing going for the Wolverines, so it could very well get ugly early in Ann Arbor. Expect to see more red in the crowd than usual, which will be a very sad sight. Ohio State will prove to be too much to handle for a Michigan team that hasn’t been great this season. It could be closer than some are predicting, but it wouldn’t be realistic to predict Michigan to come out on top. Ohio State will come out on top 45-24 to seal its second consecutive perfect regular season.