Saturday's game will mark the 101st meeting between the Buckeyes and Wolverines,
in what is arguably the greatest rivalry in college football.
Who: Michigan (7) at Ohio State
When: Sat., 1:00 ET (ABC)
Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH
Ohio State enters the game with a 6-4 record, and a 3-4 mark in Big Ten play.
The Buckeyes, have already secured their 16th consecutive winning season, but
are trying to avoid their first losing record in conference play since 1999.
Michigan stands at 9-1 overall, and 7-0 in conference play. It has locked up at
least a share of the Big Ten title. A victory over the Buckeyes would send the
Wolverines to the Rose Bowl. A loss, coupled with a win by Wisconsin at Iowa,
would eliminate Michigan from that scenario.
When Michigan has the ball
Michigan run offense vs. Ohio State run defense
The emergence of freshman RB Michael Hart has provided the Wolverines with a
big-play threat in its backfield. Hart, who currently leads the Big Ten in
rushing, has ripped off 33 runs of ten yards or more, including nine that have
gone for better than 20 yards. He has a tremendous combination of vision,
balance, speed and athleticism. That's not good news for a Buckeyes' run defense
ranked 48th in the country.
The Wolverines run a multiple pro-style offense under offensive coordinator
Terry Malone. They will try to keep Ohio State off balance with a number of
different looks, but it's clear this offense is most effective when Hart can set
up the play-action package. Expect Michigan to show a strong commitment to the
running game, in the hopes that Hart can draw the Buckeyes' safeties closer to
the line of scrimmage. This would open up some opportunities for Michigan's
talented trio of receivers.
Freshman QB Chad Henney will be making his first start against Ohio State. With
105,000 fans making it difficult for him to communicate, a solid running game
will take some pressure off him. Although WLB A.J. Hawk and the Ohio State
defense will be keying on Hart, they may have some trouble keeping him under
wraps. Michigan boasts one of the best offensive lines in the nation.
Michigan pass offense vs. Ohio State pass defense
The Wolverines will come out running the ball, but that doesn't mean they won't
take some shots downfield early. WR Braylon Edwards is one of the most explosive
players in the country, and the Buckeyes will have a hard time accounting for
him. The Wolverines have tremendous depth at receiver, with Jason Avant and
Steve Breaston rounding out one of the best units in the country.
With three viable targets in the vertical passing game, Henne should be able to
identify some single-coverage opportunities. Taking some chances in the vertical
passing game will loosen up Ohio State's defense and create more room for Hart
between the tackles. In addition, striking first could take the crowd out of the
When Ohio State has the ball
Ohio State run offense vs. Michigan run defense
The Buckeyes lack a featured back in the traditional sense. However, the
athleticism of QB Troy Smith, coupled with the explosive ability of Ted Ginn
Jr., could give the Wolverines' run defense headaches on Saturday. Smith has the
speed to burn Michigan when it loses contain, while Ginn's versatility can
provide Ohio State with the big plays it needs to win.
The Buckeyes also need to feed RB Antonio Pittman more carries, and capitalize
on their size advantage upfront. This will help exploit a Michigan front seven
that has struggled with its new 3-4 scheme. A strong running game will also give
Ohio State an opportunity to control the clock, limit turnovers and win the
field position battle. The Buckeyes don't have the firepower to keep pace with
Michigan. As a result, they need to put their defense and special teams in
Ohio State pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense
The matchup between Ohio State's top offensive weapon, WR Santonio Holmes, and
Michigan's top defensive back, DC Marlin Jackson, will go a long way in
determining the outcome on Saturday. The Buckeyes may only throw the ball 25
times per game, but Holmes is a playmaker He is averaging 14.3 yards per catch,
and has six touchdowns on 47 receptions. When the two are locked up in
man-coverage, expect Smith to take some shots downfield.
However, few corners have Jackson's rare combination of physical tools, which is
why Michigan feels confident leaving him on an island against Holmes. If Jackson
can hold up in single coverage, it will allow SS Ernest Shazor to get more
involved in run support. Jackson, who rarely makes a mistake in coverage, also
benefits from the fact that Smith has completed just 54 percent of his passes.
Breaston handles all return duties for Michigan. He is averaging 22.2 yards per
kick return, and 13.0 yards per punt return. PK Garrett Rivas has connected on
16 of his 21 field goal attempts, including an impressive 10-for-12 mark from
30-39 yards. P Adam Finley has also been solid, averaging 42.5 yards on 52
Buckeyes' PK Mike Nugent is one of the best in the country. Nugent has connected
on 17 of his 20 field goal attempts, and leads the nation with five field goal
attempts from beyond 50 yards. He either holds or shares 18 school records. Ginn
Jr. is one of the best in the conference. The freshman sensation has run three
punts back for scores, which is an Ohio State single-season record. Maurice Hall
is averaging 26.4 yards per kickoff return. Fifth-year senior Kyle Turano has
moved up to third place in the conference, with an average of 42.9 yards per a
Advantage: Ohio State
Henne and Smith are both new to this rivalry, so expect the outcome to be
decided by the defense, running games and special teams. Although both schools
have reputations for being tough, the Wolverines have nation's 21st-ranked
defense, and Hart.
Michigan will have to be at its best, as they travel to Columbus. The Buckeyes
will be aided by 105,000 screaming fans. Hart will carry the bulk of the load.
Once the Buckeyes' safeties start creeping up to the line of scrimmage, the trio
of Edwards, Breaston and Avant will prove too much for the Ohio State secondary
Prediction: Michigan 23, Ohio State 21