1. Obviously Devin Gardner has not had the year he has hoped for (and in some ways hasn't had much help with the young offensive line), but how would you rate his play? What has he done well and what needs work?
I'm not going to grade Gardner, because I think there are so many other factors in this Michigan offense that have affected his play this year. I do think this -- I think he's a tough guy, a quarterback who has taken hit after hit, as we've seen this last month with seven sacks against MSU and seven against Nebraska then five against Northwestern, and he keeps getting up. He looked like a broken guy after the Iowa game, taking the blame for the loss after fumbling late in the game on the Iowa 31-yard line. I think Gardner has loads of potential, and we've seen it at times this season, but because the offensive line has been so spotty and the running game poor, his decision-making has been affected. I think he knows when the ball is snapped, he doesn't have time to breathe, and that has forced him into bad decisions. All that said, he's extremely athletic, he can be dangerous with his legs, and he has nice touch on the deep ball. He still needs to work on not locking in on receivers, and he has to set his feet better.
2. Michigan has had a big problem with sacks and tackles for loss in the past few games thanks in part to the young offensive line. On the other hand, what has worked for the Wolverines when they've been able to move the ball this season?
When Michigan's offensive line has given Gardner time to allow plays to develop, whether he's running the ball or finding favorite targets Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess, the Wolverines can look awfully good. The problem is, as you pointed to in your question, they are dead last nationally in tackles for loss allowed, and the running game has mostly been absent this final month of the season. After consecutive negative-rushing games against Michigan State and Nebraska, Michigan got a lift against Northwestern with freshman backs Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith.
3. Urban Meyer was effusive in his praise of Michigan's defense this week. What have the Wolverines excelled at on that side of the ball that maybe Meyer has noticed?
Because the recent woes of the Michigan offense have been a weekly issue, the defense's fairly consistent, solid performances have been somewhat slighted. The front four have been playing well -- Frank Clark, Jibreel Black, Quinton Washington and Brennen Beyer, who had an interception for a touchdown return last week at Iowa. The linebackers are solid, led by Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan and James Ross. With Morgan and Ross out for much of the Iowa game with undisclosed injuries, Iowa definitely moved the ball better. Michigan is not as strong in the secondary, but cornerback Blake Countess has five interceptions this season and should not be overlooked.
4. Ryan returned from his ACL injury as expected in midseason. How has he looked and how has his return affected the Michigan defense?
Ryan said this week he doesn't think twice about his knee. He had a remarkable six-month recovery from the ACL injury and in these last couple games has looked like he feels more and more comfortable. His biggest impact is his leadership. He is a junior and was voted a captain, and he clearly has the respect of his teammates and is very active on the sideline and field as a leader.
5. What can Michigan do that should make Ohio State fans worried about the potential upset?
Before the Big Ten season, Michigan was minus-five in turnover margin and now the Wolverines are plus-four. If Michigan has a hope to beat Ohio State, it's going to be because of its defense and if it can end some Ohio State possessions with turnovers. Because Michigan's offense hasn't been the most effective in recent weeks, the Wolverines might have to hope its defense can score on turnovers, as Beyer did against Iowa. Also, if Gardner is given time to throw and if he stays patient and careful with the ball, he could have an opportunity to exploit the OSU secondary.