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Michigan versus Ohio St

Saturday's game will mark the 101st meeting between the Buckeyes and Wolverines,

in what is arguably the greatest rivalry in college football.

Game Information

Michigan Wolverines

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.

Advantage: Michigan

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

game.

Advantage: Michigan

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

favorable situations.

Advantage: Draw

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.

Advantage: Michigan

Special teams

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

attempts.

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

punt.

Advantage: Ohio State

Bottom line

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

to handle.

Prediction: Michigan 23, Ohio State 21

phantom

posted by phantom

Nov. 19 2004 4:07pm

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