2005 Opponent: Michigan Wolverines

Our series looking at OSU's opponents and the Big Ten for 2005 roars on with a look at the Michigan Wolverines. UM has won back-to-back Big Ten titles and welcomes back sophomore quarterback Chad Henne. Click here for more on the Nov. 19 season finale in Ann Arbor.

We continue our look at Ohio State's 2005 schedule as well as the Big Ten. In today's 11th installment of the series, we look at the Nov. 19 game at Michigan.


* Date, Time: Sat., Nov. 19; time, TV TBA. (ABC has one window at 1 p.m. on Nov. 19. I think you can assume that will be the OSU-Michigan game, likely to a national audience if it matches a pair of unbeatens or top-10 teams.)

* Location: Michigan Stadium; Ann Arbor, Mich.

* Last Year, Bowl: 9-3, lost to Texas in Rose Bowl. Big Ten: 7-1/first (tie).

* Coach: Lloyd Carr (11th year at UM, 95-29).

* Returning Starters: 16. Offense (8): LT Adam Stenavich, LG Rueben Riley, RT Jake Long, RG Matt Lentz, TE Tim Massaquoi, WR Jason Avant, RB Michael Hart, QB Chad Henne. Defense (7): DE Pat Massey, DT Gabe Watson, LB Scott McClintock, LB LaMarr Woodley, LB Pierre Woods, CB Leon Hall, FS Ryan Mundy. Specialists (1): K Garrett Rivas.

* Big Ten Championships: 42, last shared title in 2004.

* Rose Bowls: 19, last appearance in 2004.

* BCS Bids: 3, 1999 (Orange), 2003 (Rose), 2004 (Rose).

* National Championships: 4 (1932, ‘33, ‘48, ‘97).

* Series Vs. Ohio State: Michigan leads the all-time series 57-38-6, including 30-17-4 in Ann Arbor. OSU has won three of the last four, including a 37-21 upset of then-No. 7 ranked Michigan. The series is dead even (26-26-2) since 1951. UM's big edge in the overall series was aided by a 13-0-2 head start between 1897 and 1918. This is OSU's longest continuous series, dating to 1918. It has been the final game of the Big Ten season for each team since 1935.

* Schedule: Sept. 3, Northern Illinois; Sept. 10, Notre Dame; Sept. 17, Eastern Michigan; Sept. 24, at Wisconsin; Oct. 1, at Michigan State; Oct. 8, Minnesota; Oct. 15, Penn State; Oct. 22, at Iowa; Oct. 29, at Northwestern; Nov. 12, Indiana; Nov. 19, Ohio State.

* Outlook: The Michigan machine kept right on rolling last year as the Wolverines repeated as the Big Ten champions and reached postseason play for the 30th straight year. UM was the preseason media pick to win the Big Ten title.

"I hope that you guys, as usual, know what you are talking about," Carr said. "Our goals are high. The biggest question about Michigan across the country is our defense but I think up front we have a lot of experienced guys back."

The hopes are high again in 2005 as Henne (2,743 yards passing, 25 TDs) and Hart (1,455 yards rushing, 9 TDs) return for their sophomore campaigns.

"They are both outstanding human beings and they have their feet on the ground and display great work ethic," Carr said. "They handled all the things that came their way maturely and in a way that enamored them to their teammates. The truth is, you get better or you get worse and the expectations for both of them will be extremely high. There a lot of things they can both improve upon and I think they know that.

"Chad Henne had a Michigan record for the most touchdowns in one season. He had 25 touchdowns. That was an exceptional year for a freshman and hopefully he'll continue to improve."

Hart and linemen Lentz and Stenavich were first-team All-Big Ten picks last year. Top receiver Braylon Edwards is gone, but Henne will work with Avant (38 catches), Steve Breaston (34) and Massaquoi.

Defensively, Watson, a first-team All-Big Ten pick, is the top returnee.

"The guy that we really have to have step up is Gabe Watson," Carr said. "Gabe probably has as much potential as anyone in the country and we are hoping he is going be a great leader for us. UM will be young but talented at linebacker and in the secondary. Woodley (70 tackles) is a star-in-waiting.

This will be Carr's 26th year in some capacity at the school. Carr, who has won five Big Ten titles in 10 years as the UM head coach, will become an associate athletic director at the school when his coaching days are done.

* Jerry Rudzinski Says: Although they sent three players to the NFL within the first 33 picks, Michigan still returns some headliners. Hart and Henne were all over the preseason magazines. They are worthy of the praise. True freshman playing the way they played says a lot about mental toughness. Twenty-five touchdowns for Henne and over 5 yards per carry for Hart made a big statement. With four starters back on the O-line, including two All-Big Ten guys, the supporting cast will not drop off for the two high-profile sophomores.

Avant and Breaston will keep defenses real honest. With an All-Big Ten tight end in Massaquoi, this offense should make defenses play reactive as opposed to proactive.

The depth is there on offense. The quarterback, O-line and tailback position all have a nice backfill. Garrett Rivas kicking the ball should take some worry out of the kicking game. OSU learned what a reliable kicker can do for the win-loss column.

Is Michigan's defense what it once was? If it has faded, it won't fade for too long. This coaching staff will not let the same mistakes happen two years in a row. The national football audience saw OSU and Texas exploit that defense. Coach Hermann will take that personally I would imagine. He has backbone and pride, and he will demand excellence moving forward. Last year, they gave up 279 points, which is 165 more than their 1997 national championship team.

Gabe Watson on the defensive line and Lamar Woodley at OLB will be the playmakers on that defense. You have to figure Pat Massey (DT), Scott McClintock (ILB) and Pierre Woods (OLB), the fifth-year seniors, will over-achieve. Keep an eye on Ryan Mundy. This junior free safety might not be Charles Woodson, but he will be one of the better defensive backs in the Big Ten.

* Steve Helwagen Says: Does Ohio State have Michigan's number? The Buckeyes have won three of the last four in the series. I think it is premature to say that OSU has Michigan's number. But the Buckeyes' win over UM last November in Columbus illustrated a disturbing trend that has plagued the Wolverines fairly consistently since that national title season in 1997.

Michigan consistently has one or two games every year where its defense just betrays it. The Wolverines used to field one of the most feared defenses around. Last year, they held none of their 12 opponents to single digits. Three of their last four opponents in 2004 scored 37 or more points. That is just not Michigan football.

Where do Hart and Henne go for an encore? For Hart's sake, he may benefit if UM is able to find a serviceable backup. Henne will be challenged by Matt Gutierrez, but I find it hard to believe they would pull him out of the lineup barring a complete collapse.

Every year we go into the season with the belief that the OSU-Michigan game will be the one game that decides everything – a berth in the national title game and the Big Ten championship. It was that way, certainly, for OSU in 2002 and 2003. It would be nice for The Game to have that kind of significance again in 2005.

We look at trends a lot. For Jim Tressel, it's great that he is 3-1 against Michigan. Make it 4-1 and the coach could probably walk on water in Columbus. But it should be noted that Ohio State has won in Ann Arbor just once in eight trips dating to 1987. The Big House, for all of its faults, is just not an easy place to go into and steal a win from the home team.

But that is why they play the game, isn't it?

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