U-M/OSU: What the Common Opponents Tell Us

Former Michigan staffer Mark Ouimet runs through the Wolverines' and Buckeyes' five common opponents and gleans some key insights.


Michigan and Ohio State have had five opponents in common: Indiana, Northwestern, Iowa, MSU and Purdue.

First Indiana. Michigan scored 31 points on them at home, and coming off a loss to Oregon as they were, they were 'flat' which contributed to 'only' scoring 31. Michigan won 31-17. Ohio State put up 35 against Indiana on the road, and their defense played a so-so game and gave up two field goals. . Both teams played Indiana the same way, and won with so-so performances against a poor Indiana team. So not that much can be said about Indiana -- and U-M's and OSU's performances were pretty much 'even'.

Michigan State. Michigan went to East Lansing coming off an emotional home game against Purdue. Against the Spartans they started game okay, then wore down a little emotionally, but they came back to win it 27-20. Chris Perry basically carried the offense on his shoulders. And the Michigan defense did a good job against Jeff Smoker and MSU's spread offense. Ohio State also found a way to pressure Smoker, and the Spartan spread offense didn't bother them. The Buckeyes won 33-23 at home Again, I'd call U-M's and OSU's performances 'even'.

Northwestern. Michigan played them at home after their bye week, and won 41-10. Ohio State beat them 20-0 at home. This points to an indication of the difference between U-M and OSU. It's a pretty good comparison. Michigan put up 41 points to OSU's 20 -- and truth be told, Michigan does have a somewhat better offense than OSU. But the Buckeyes shut them out while Michigan gave up 10 points to them. Is OSU's defense a little better maybe? I'll say this -- the team with the better defense will probably win Saturday.

Purdue. Michigan dominated them at home, 31-3. In contrast, OSU won a squeaker at home against the Boilermakers, 16-13 in overtime. But, in my opinion OSU deliberately tried to overlook Purdue a little, meaning they hid things a little, saved some things for Michigan. And they got caught with their guard down a little and barely escaped with a win. So does this game indicate that Michigan has a better offense? Probably. A better defense? We'll see on Saturday.

And finally, the Iowa game. Michigan lost 30-27 on the road to the Hawkeyes, whereas OSU beat them 19-10 at home. Everyone knows that special teams killed Michigan in that game. Michigan scored plenty of points in the game -- scoring hasn't been a problem for the Wolverines. In contrast OSU put up 19 against Iowa, and held them to10 -- and in that game it was Iowa that was hurt by a couple turnovers. Iowa brings up the issue of special teams. Ohio State has a great punter and kicker, which in their Iowa game, as in all their games, got them field position. In fact, OSU's game IS defense and field position.

(Note: here once again are Special Teams stats for U-M and OSU.
- Net punting: OSU #1 in the conference (Nationally #4), Michigan is #11 in the Big Ten (Nationally #114).
- Punting: BJ Sander is #3 in the conference (43 yard average) ... Adam Finley is #11 in the conference (39.5 yard average).
- Field Goals: Mike Nugent is#3 in the Big Ten in field goals per game (with a 82% conversion %), Rivas #8 in the Big Ten (with an 81% conversion %).

Back to Ouimet:

As far as their losses:

OSU's loss is on the road against Wisconsin 17-10; Michigan's two are on the road as well to Oregon and Iowa. As far as Michigan goes, special teams also hurt them against Oregon. As far as OSU's loss, the Wisconsin game was hard-fought, and both special teams were solid. OSU tried to drive late and couldn't do it. Wisconsin in my opinion has a better team than their record indicates -- their blowout of MSU shows it. So OSU lost to a solid Big Ten team, and Michigan lost to a decent Pac 10 team.

Road games.

Both OSU's and Michigan's losses have been on the road. The Buckeyes have only played three road games, and they also have a narow escape at Penn State, 21-20. Does this indicate an advantage to Michigan Saturday? Probably. But remember this, MOST of OSU's games have been close, home or away -- eight of their eleven wins have been by under 10 points.

The bottom line.

We'll go into this in more detail in our next interviews. But basically, Michigan has the better offense, whereas OSU may have the slightly better defense. And, as I said, I believe the best defense will win.

If Michigan plays defensively like they did against Purdue, they could have the better defensive game. Hopefully we'll see the Wolverines play like that -- blitzing a lot.
As far as Ohio State offensively, the Michigan game that might teach them the most is not versus a common opponent, it's the Michigan-Minnesota game. In that game the Wolverine defense had trouble with a running team -- that was Michigan's worst game against the run. OSU will look at that film to see how Minnesota ran wild on Michigan -- they will take that game and break it down, look at the offensive schemes Minnesota used, etc.

As far as the Michigan offense versus the OSU defense. OSU held running-team-Wisconsin to 17 points. Michigan will try to run it -- but Michigan has more first downs passing than running. And the Wolverines will have to win this game with its passing. Actually, OSU will once again use the film of a non-common opponent to work on Michigan's offense. The game? Their own versus North Carolina State (a 3-overtime win, 44-38). The Philip-Rivers-led NC-State offense is similar to Michigan's .... OSU will use that film to study what to do against Michigan offensively.

The thing to remember is this. OSU relies on defense and special teams: stop the opposing team, get the ball back, be happy with field goals. Their best offense is their punter and field goal kicker.

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