For years, I’ve struggled to sleep the night before "The Game". As far back as I can remember, I look forward to this day as much as a 6 year old runs down the stairs on Christmas morning with unparalleled anticipation. The century plus long tradition of these two football programs is legendary. It epitomizes what college football is all about, and while some of the luster has worn off since 2006, it’s still just about as special as it gets in all of sports.
For the first time in nearly a decade, Michigan is favored in the matchup, and is on quite a roll the past 2 weeks, with double digit wins on the road in Champaign, and a surprising blowout 28 point win against Nebraska in the Big House. The Buckeyes come in losers of two tight games in a row, an overtime loss at Purdue, and a 20-14 loss against Penn State in Columbus last week, and a 6-5 overall record. But nobody in Ann Arbor or Columbus needs a reminder how the last 7 matchups have gone. If there’s one thing that is certain in this rivalry, like most, records mean next to nothing. In fact, more times than not, I’ve seen the underdog prevail (see: John Cooper).
On offense, Ohio makes it no secret it wants to run the football more than just about anything. During a 3 game stretch in October, all victories, Ohio completed a grand total of 8 passes. Not 8 per game. 8 TOTAL. In their 17-7 victory against Illinois, they completed just one pass (albeit a 17 yard TD pass).
Similar to last week against Nebraska, Michigan needs to keep gap responsibility. While Buckeye QB Braxton Miller is a better passer than Taylor Martinez, you won’t confuse him with Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Miller is a gifted runner, at this stage of his career, that’s much more likely to beat you with his legs than his arm. Boom Herron has run for over 500 yards in his 5 games post suspension, and Ohio brings a defense pretty much in the top 20 in the country most major categories. Their front 7 is what you expect from a Buckeye defense, and will punch you in the mouth (not Willie Gholston style mind you). Michigan will need to establish Touissant and use some read option and short passes to the flat and up the middle to Koger to keep an over-pursuing defense at bay.
If Michigan can control the ball and the clock even remotely close to what it did last week against Nebraska, and keeps the turnover margin to -1 or better, I expect the streak to finally be over, and a new one to begin.
Michigan 23, Ohio 17.
Todd can be followed on Twitter @Toddboy71. Go Blue!