On the Lighter Side

One of the longest weeks ever will soon be over. What will happen tomorrow? The suspense is killing Buckeye fans. Gary Housteau takes a look today at what we could see happen tomorrow. <I>Note: today's 1 pm chat with Gary has been cancelled as Gary will be leaving for Ann Arbor and will miss the chat.</I>

Here we are again, Buckeye fans, on the eve of greatness for the second-consecutive season.

I couldn't sleep last night. I watched the Ohio State-Michigan game from last year on ESPN Classic before I went to bed. I wonder what trying to sleep tonight will be like?

I wonder how our guys in the Scarlet and Gray must feel? They live and breathe this stuff! Well, so do we come to think of it!

I wonder if the Michigan players will be feeling any pressure when they wake up tomorrow morning. It's been a long time since their school has lost to Ohio State in three consecutive years. The Buckeyes beat the Wolverines four straight times from 1960 to ‘63.

I'll bet Lloyd Carr really wishes he was coaching against John Cooper (2-10-1 against Michigan) in the 100th anniversary of this illustrious rivalry, and not Jim Tressel (2-0).

I'm certain that Michigan and their fans think they are going to really put it to the Buckeyes in the Big House.

The Defending National Champions are 10-1 and winners of 24 of their last 25 games and yet are still big underdogs at Michigan.

Well I don't see it!

Michigan has one chance to win this game and that is to get ahead big, early.

If the game remains close into the second half, the advantage swings big to Ohio State. Tressel loves to coach in these kind of games and the Buckeyes will watch Carr and the Wolverines self-destruct.

Michigan and their faithful must put all of their eggs in John Navarre's basket; that's the only way that they can come out of this game with the win. And I'll gladly take my chances with Ohio State's defense in that match-up any day of the week.

One thing you can count on in this game is that big plays will be made by Will Smith, Tim Anderson and Darrion Scott. That's just a given! Having those three up front, alone, along with Simon Fraser, should give the Buckeye faithful a feeling of calm and serenity going into the game. Throw in Chris Gamble to lock down Braylon Edwards and I'm still feeling pretty good. If I'm Michigan, I'm looking to Edwards to make the big plays and If I'm Ohio State I'm happy to counter their biggest weapon with Gamble.

Sure, Dustin Fox will get picked on, but he'll hold his own whether he'll be checking Jason Avant or Steve Breaston with help from young guys like Tyler Everett and Donte Whitner. Mark Dantonio was certainly happy with the job that Fox did against Purdue.

"Dustin went out there and played press coverage on (John Standeford) and I thought he did pretty well," said the Buckeye defensive architect after the victory over the Boilermakers. "I thought he played very well, he competed and I think he took a big step in this game in terms of press coverage. Dustin just continues to be a great player for us and probably is our best tackler in the secondary."

Another veteran in the secondary, Will Allen, is due for another big game-saving play. It's been a while. Allen's number is different from a year ago when his interception sealed the victory against the Wolverines, but here's to hoping that he still has Navarre's number again this time around.

Already that's a pretty formidable group to defend the Wolverines with and I didn't even mention the names A.J. Hawk, Robert Reynolds and Bobby Carpenter yet. Some combination of those three have to continuously be concerned with checking their tight ends in pass coverage and the screen plays to the running backs.

Ohio State will shut down Chris Perry on the ground; I'm not even concerned with that. I'll even go as far as give the edge to Ohio State on the ground with Craig Krenzel's rushing totals added into the mix against Michigan's undersized and overrated defense. The fact that Michigan's starting three linebackers and other key defenders are from Ohio sickens me as a fan of Ohio high school football.

Lydell Ross and the offensive line really need to play their best game of the year. Any big offensive plays turned in by Mike Jenkins and Ben Hartsock in their final go-around against Michigan will be strictly a bonus. In the very least, Ohio State's offense will have to do what it is they do, namely don't turn the ball over, and then tilt the field position battle to our favor with the reliable punting of B.J. Sander.

But keeping the ball away from Breaston on punt returns will be a requirement. I can remember commenting two years ago in Hershey, Pa. while watching Breaston in action at the Big-33 game that Ohio State fans were going to see this kid in their worst nightmares over the next few seasons! Let's hope it's not tomorrow.

And in the end, if comes down to a kicking game as it did against Purdue, could there be any better guy to have in all of college football on our side than Mike Nugent?

Sure, playing in Ann Arbor will make it rough, but earning a victory there will make it all that much more special.

A trip to Sugar Bowl to defend their National Title could obviously be on the line for the Buckeyes. A victory over the Wolverines will give the Buckeyes another quality win for BCS purposes, but that's almost a secondary motivation in this epic contest.

"It's the 100th game between us and Michigan, and for our seniors it's their last regular season game. So that's the main thing about it, just trying to have those guys end on a great note and then hopefully we'll win and get the Big Ten championship," said Nate Salley. "But we just have to focus on trying to play for these seniors. They did a great job all year; they've been leading us and they haven't let us get down and haven't let us get down. So we just have to play for those guys and then I think everything will go well."

My only hope is that the better team wins in this contest, be it Ohio State or Michigan. And I really like our chances folks!

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