Michigan's running game against Ohio State's rush defense
Well, Ohio State is holding teams to under 79 yards rushing for a reason: they're an outstanding defense. Watching these guys on film, they are very active up front, both scheme-wise and with their personnel. I think this defense has the right attitude of stopping the run. They play very, very physical football and their linebackers are playmakers.
Mike Kudla has very good discipline outside and the guys along the line are hungry to get to the ball carrier. Quinn Pitcock and Marcus Green are two space eaters inside who are very active. They can also rotate Joel Penton in there and I think he does a good job sliding down the line and plugging up gaps.
The linebackers speak for themselves. There's not much more you can say about A.J. Hawk that hasn't been said already. I think he's the finest linebacker in college football since Lavar Arrington, and even then you could make an argument that A.J. is better. Hawk is just that, he's a true hawk for the ball. He's always in good position, he has excellent range and he is just flat out making plays this year. Anthony Schlegal doesn't have the range of Hawk, but at middle linebacker he does what he needs to and that's play the interior gaps well. He reads action pretty well and although can take a wrong angle of two sometimes, he's usually in great position and he's a fine tackler. Bobby Carpenter fits in well at the strong side backer' role. He's dropped down to rush end in passing situations but Carpenter is another guy who's always in great position and is a physical player. He doesn't have the range of some of the other elite outside linebackers but he's pretty fast for a guy his size.
The biggest key for this game is this: how the Michigan offensive line plays. Leo Henige, Adam Kraus and Matt Lentz have a big task at hand getting to the second level of the defense and blocking these linebackers. Tim Massaquoi and Tyler Ecker also have to do their part by limiting Carpenter. In my opinion Jake Long may struggle a bit, seeing as he doesn't look 100%. The interior of the Michigan line isn't that mobile so it may be difficult to get a helmet on these linebackers. Ohio State was able to shut down the Michigan running attack last year and it's basically the same faces back for this year's battle. Look for Mike Hart to get in the neighborhood of 20-22 carries unless he catches fire, with Grady getting some carries as well. Also look for Antonio Bass to get a carry or two, hopefully with some effectiveness.
Advantage: Ohio State
Michigan's passing game against Ohio State's pass defense
Michigan needs a poised Chad Henne and a well-executed short passing game to get the upper hand here. Why? Because Ohio State is very active up front in order to get a pass rush, and they've been successful getting sacks and pressure lately. They like to stunt and twist the ends, especially when Carpenter is at rush end. They will delay-blitz A.J. Hawk and also blitz two linebackers in one gap, outnumbering the blocking scheme. Their pass rush with the LB's blitzing is fierce, but their regular four man rushes have been getting pressure as well with Mike Kudla being the headliner. For Michigan to settle down this active front, I think they will need to incorporate their tight ends this game on quick hitters and seam routes to slow down the defense.
Screen plays are a good idea as well, although Ohio State's secondary is quick to diagnose them. Ashton Youboty is the best defensive back in the conference and even if he's overly aggressive he can hold his own anyway. Nate Salley lacks a broad range but he's a big time hitter and is getting better at being in position and not taking chances. Donte Whitner is another guy who is always in great position and is athletic. The Ohio State secondary is very solid and benefits from the very active pass rush.
Michigan could get the upper hand here if they execute a proper short game and back off the aggressiveness of the front. Oh, and don't forget about Mario Manningham … a big play by Michigan may be a necessity.
Advantage: Ohio State, slightly
Matchups: U-M Offense vs. OSU Defense
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