Grading The Performance: Ohio

Quarterback

Players at Michigan are ultimately judged by how they perform against Ohio. While all position groups have to deal with an added level of expectation against the Buckeyes, no position group endures more pressure than the QBs. QBs are judged above all else by their record and performance against Ohio. For much of the last decade Michigan fans have seen their QB’s outperformed by their Buckeye counterparts. Names like Krenzel, Smith, and Pryor have made more plays in the clutch and fewer critical mistakes than Wolverine QBs. Over the last decade Ohio QBs have outperformed Michigan’s QBs, until Saturday.

Denard Robinson rose to the occasion on Saturday and simply willed the Wolverines to victory. Every time the Buckeyes made a play to take the lead or tie the game, Denard came right back to make a play of his own. Denard performed at the highest of levels on the biggest of stages; became a legend in the process. During one stretch of the game, Robinson completed 11 straight passes and was the most accurate that he’s been this season. The most impressive part of Robinson’s performance, from a passing standpoint, was that he was the most accurate while making the most difficult throws. Denard threw a perfect 15 yd corner route to Drew Dileo that would have gone for a TD had Dileo stayed on his feet. Denard also hit Junior Hemingway on a perfect strike between a safety and a corner. Denard made the difficult throws look easy, something that seems truly amazing when you think back of the season. In addition, Denard showed a tremendous amount of patience before hitting Odoms for a TD. There were no back foot, chuck the ball up for grabs plays, the kind that have gotten Denard into trouble all season. Denard was dialed in from the first snap and amazing enough continued to elevate his level of play throughout the game.

On the ground, Denard ran harder and with more decisiveness than he has since arriving at Michigan. There was only one play where Denard hesitated instead of making up his mind and taking off. Denard burned Nebraska last week with his scrambling ability and he did the same to the Buckeyes this week. Anytime Ohio vacated its LBs from the middle of the field, Denard took off which was great to see. Denard also did a great job on the zone read, an area that he has struggled with his whole career. Denard was determined not to let Michigan lose and he ran like it.

The only imperfections on the day for Denard Robinson were the two balls he put on the ground. On the first play Robinson was ruled down. On the second, Ohio got the ball in Michigan territory and scored a few plays later.

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Ohio Game Prediction

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).

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Michigan-Ohio State: Rivalry Changing Moments

Since 1935, when the two teams first began their annual end of the season meetings, Michigan and Ohio State have regarded the final game of the regular season as most important. This fact is something that Michigan and Ohio State fans have known, understood, and relished for years. While the rivalry has seen its share of ebb and flow, the importance of The Game has never wavered. Big Ten and National Championships have often been on the line when the Wolverines and Buckeyes have clashed in late November. Yet, even during those few meetings when pride alone was on the line, the passion and intensity of the rivalry has never diminished. The Game became a national spectacle during the 10 Year War, thrusting the importance of the rivalry beyond just the Midwest. As the 2007 HBO special on the rivalry eloquently summed it up, the regular season became mere window dressing before the annual end of the year battle. Each of the rivalry’s 107 meetings has held a certain level of importance for the players, coaches, and fans. Even so, there have been brief moments in history when fate has stretched out its hand and fundamentally changed the course of the rivalry. There are moments when the importance of The Game transcends the regular level of passion and intensity that the rivalry is built upon.

The 1919 contest between Michigan and Ohio State marked the first such moment in the history of the rivalry. In 1916, future first-team All-American Chic Harley arrived at the Ohio State campus and dramatically changed the course of “The Game.” Harley helped Ohio State snap a 15 game non-winning streak against Michigan in 1919. Ohio State’s 13-3 victory showed that yes, Michigan could be beaten. Ohio State’s win was the first of 3 straight victories over Michigan, a stretch that cemented the rivalry as a two sided affair.

In 1951 another rivalry changing moment occurred, created by the arrival of Wayne Woodrow Hayes, a.k.a “Woody.” Ohio State won all of 2 games in 12 years prior to Woody Hayes taking over the Buckeye program. While Hayes lost his first contest to Michigan, he went on to win 12 of the next 16 games against the Wolverines. Beginning in 1952, Hayes presided over the first “Red Scare” in the rivalry’s history, a period when Ohio State took over and dominated the series. Hayes not only made beating Michigan a priority, he instilled a level of hatred into the rivalry that fueled his team’s performance and created a deep sense of animosity between the two programs.

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