Ohio State Defensively:
This OSU defense has a lot of depth -- Michigan recruited most of those guys. OSU is #6 in the nation in total defense, and #1 against the run (55 yards per game). They give up 15.1 points and under 300 yards in total offense. That ain't bad! OSU's defensive line is very good, and they have a great set of linebackers. A.J. Hawk has 88 tackles and 4 sacks for the year. Robert Reynolds is a good player too and will be an 'angry man' out there as we have seen -- Navarre and Perry better watch their throats! And Fred Pagec, an OSU coaches son, and Bobby Carpenter are good as well. So OSU is very good against the run.
My guess is what they'll try to do is copy what Oregon did against Michigan -- put eight men in the box, cover Michigan's tight ends with linebackers, and force Michigan to throw the ball udner heavy pressure to John Navarre. They should be able to slow down Chris Perry and the Michigan running game. Oregon stopped Perry and had success with this strategy -- and Oregon's their front seven is not is not near as good as OSU's.
OSU's problem defensively will be the Michigan passing attack -- namely, covering Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant and Steve Breaston.
The OSU defensive line and linebackers will try to attack John Navarre, with their defensive line and with blitzes. If the Michigan offensive line handles Will Smith (10 1/2 sacks on the season), Tim Anderson and Simon Fraser, and handles the OSU blitzes, it'll put lot of pressure on Ohio State's cornerbacks, and OSU will be in trouble.
The Buckeye cornerbacks are Tim Fox and Chris Gamble. Fox is not a bad player but is the weakest link on the defense. It's a fair match with Gamble, but either Edwards or Avant are better than Fox. Michigan will test Fox. Fox leads team with 3 interceptions but it's because most balls thrown his way. And the Buckeye defense should see a lot of balls thrown his way on Saturday.
OSU will attack with their front 7, blitz a lot, and leave their cornerbacks one on one. That leaves their linebackers covering Tim Massaquoi. OSU won't play much zone. They will come after the Michigan offense and attack them.
The Buckeyes Offensively:
The OSU offense is not horrible, but it's not that great. They average 24 points a game, going 130 yards a game on the ground and 196 in the air -- 325 yards a game overall. They will try to run it against Michigan, but this game, they will come 'with everything' -- trick plays, you name it. The saying is, "Locked and loaded." Will they be able to move the ball on Michigan? Michigan will try to stop the run and make them pass it. OSU is only 33% on 3rd down, which is so-so, but on third and 5 or 6, they like to scramble quarterback Craig Krenzel who is their third leading rusher. Krenzel their 3rd leading rusher. Ohio State will use Chris Gamble more at wideout in this game -- they will pull out all stops. And Michael Jenkins is a good receiver, and tight end Ben Hartsock -- they use the tight end more than Michigan.
Generally, Ohio State plays a field position game offensively, and will in this game as well. Most of their 'pulling out the stops' will be to get first downs. They will try to get their defense to get the ball back, and then make a few first downs and kick a field goal, or punt Michigan back into poor field position. Which leads us to Special Teams -- at which OSU excels.
OSU's special teams is their #1 most important weapon in this game. OSU has the clear edge over Michigan here, with first of all maybe the best punter in the USA in B.J. Sander. He has a good average, 43 yards, and an excellent net punting average (#1 in the conference and #4 in the nation). He is also very good at putting it inside 20. And he kicks it fast -- no one blocks it on him. So Michigan will try to set up returns on punts -- but he also has an excellent 4.5 second hang time. So OSU will try to contain Steve Breaston's returns, and will have a good shot at doing so. OSU also has a great FG kicker. Mike Nugent is #3 in the Big Ten in field goals per game, has an 82% conversion rate -- and has 50+ yard range. He kicked a 54 yarder against Purdue.
OSU's punt and kickoff returners are good, although they haven't had great seasons -- Chris Gamble and Michael Jenkins.
So basically, OSU will play for field position, and for them making field goals is fine -- a field goal is as good as a touchdown. They will try to score 20 in this game -- on maybe two touchdowns and two field goals, or even one touchdown and four field goals. And if their defense can get a TD on a turnover-- well that is how they've won for two years, isn't it. And in this game they may try for a score on a a gamble by Gamble.
What OSU is Going To Try To Do
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