Losing streak a painful one for Wolverines
The mission Brady Hoke has been on at Michigan makes its biggest stop this week as the Wolverines host bitter rival Ohio State, trying to end a painful seven-game losing streak to the Buckeyes.
When he took the Michigan job nearly a year ago, Hoke knew this game would ultimately define him and his tenure. As a native of Ohio and a former assistant coach at Michigan, Hoke was well-versed in the history of the rivalry.
"This is a special week, because you play in the greatest rivalry there is in sport," Hoke said about his first Ohio State-Michigan game as the head coach of the Wolverines.
"When you get the chance to play or coach in this game, it's always a fun week. So we've got a lot of work to do, because we're not where we need to be in any sense as far as the team that we envision ourselves being and we expect to be."
Hoke has mentioned numerous times throughout this season that he wants the Michigan senior class to go out with pride. This group suffered through the past three years and a lot of losing under former head coach Rich Rodriguez. Hoke knows a win over Ohio State -- something this group has never experienced -- would be a huge prize.
"The seniors always are out in the forefront. This is a group of guys who have been through a lot," Hoke said. "They've hung together well and done a nice job of preparing weekly ... not just preparing themselves, but preparing their teammates."
Hoke has voiced some concern about his seniors possibly placing too much emphasis on the need to finally get a win over the Buckeyes.
"I think some of them probably are putting a little too much on themselves, more than they need to," Hoke said. "All you have to do is go out there and play for the guy next to you and play as hard as you can and with the greatest toughness you have. Let it go. Win or lose, they're going to go out and play hard."
--A victory over Ohio State would make this Michigan team the first since 1917 to win eight home games.
--In Big Ten games this season, Michigan has allowed the second-fewest points in the conference (121). The Wolverines have scored the second-most points in conference play (242).
--The Wolverines allowed 35.2 points per game in 2010, but this year Michigan's defense is allowing just 15.6 points per game, ranking second in the Big Ten and sixth in the nation.
SERIES HISTORY: Michigan leads Ohio State 57-44-6 (last meeting, 2010, 37-7 Ohio State, since vacated)
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Wolverines have their offense clicking coming into the season-finale. QB Denard Robinson had 263 yards of offense in last week's win over Nebraska, accounting for two rushing touchdowns and two more passing. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint had two touchdowns while carrying the ball 29 times for 138 yards. With Toussaint running effectively, Robinson's dual threat abilities do the most damage to the opposition.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Michigan's defense is trending in a very positive direction. The Wolverines knocked down six passes against Nebraska, sacked the quarterback three times and had six tackles for loss. Michigan faces a difficult assignment in slowing Ohio State freshman QB Braxton Miller, who is a threat to break a big play with each snap. "It's a tough job," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "I've gotten to watch five games now. He's impressive. He does a great job for them. I think the way he handles himself, I think how he's played under pressure. I think he's done a tremendous job."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We haven't talked about that at all with our team and probably won't. We've got educated young men that are here. We're a great university. I think me telling them that would probably insult them in their intelligence." -- Michigan coach Brady Hoke on whether he has mentioned Ohio State's seven-game winning streak in the rivalry.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 26 -- The Wolverines are favored in this one for the first time in a long time, but senior TE Kevin Koger said it is business as usual. "It is not too different," Koger said. "In this game the records do not really matter. Each team is going to get the other team's best shot. I feel like records are not a factor in this game."
KEYS TO THE GAME: Michigan is aware that turnovers have played a huge role in the outcome of this game. "I think it's like every game: you've got to take care of the football," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "You can't give the football to the opponent -- ball security, the decisions that you make, reducing the number of big plays, your field position that you gain or lose in the special teams. To me, it's all that kind of stuff."
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
--QB Denard Robinson had one of his best games as a Wolverine in last week's win over Nebraska. Robinson had 263 yards of total offense, with 180 passing and 83 rushing. He scored two rushing touchdowns and passed for two more scores.
--DL Ryan Van Bergen has 3.5 sacks and five tackles for loss in Michigan's past two games.
--RB Fitzgerald Toussaint had 27 carries for 192 yards in a recent win at Illinois, then last week carried the ball a career-high 29 times for 138 yards in a win over Nebraska.
--LB Kenny Demens has started all 11 games this season for the Wolverines, and leads the team with 78 tackles.
--OL Michael Schofield, who injured his ankle in the Nebraska game, is listed as probable for the Ohio State game.
--OL Ricky Barnum, who has played little this season due to persistent ankle problems, is listed as probable for the Ohio State game.
--S Josh Furman blocked a punt in Michigan's win over Nebraska, the Wolverines' first punt block since the 2009 season.
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