at Ohio Stadium (Sold Out)
12:15 pm EST ABC (National Coverage - Brent Musburger, Gary Danielson, Jack Arute)
As it has seemingly so many times before, the Ohio State season comes down to this game. It has been a wild and unpredictable season for the Buckeyes, and talk of a Fiesta Bowl berth is everywhere. All the Buckeyes have to do is beat the one team that has stood in their way of similar goals so many times before.
Everyone knows the recent history of this rivalry. Anyone associated with Ohio State had to hear every year about how the Buckeyes can't beat Michigan. Everyone knows the difficulties that John Cooper faced with this rivalry during his time as OSU head coach. Last year, however, the Buckeyes did a little something to stop that talk. They went up to Ann Arbor, Michigan as a solid underdog without their starting quarterback and pulled off one of the more improbable victories over the Wolverines in the series. The Jim Tressel era had arrived in a big way with a win in his first game ever against the Wolverines.
The circumstances are a bit different this year for Coach Tressel's Buckeyes. Everything -- literally -- rides on this game. If the Buckeyes win, they finish undefeated and are playing for the national championship. If they lose, well... let's not think about that.
Michigan has not been a dominant team this season, but they have very quietly gone 9-2 and are back up in the top ten in the Coaches Poll. Let's take a look at some statistics as well as the starting lineups:
|Tale of the Tape|
|Points Per Game||28.5||30.4|
|Rush Yards Allowed||116.2||75.2|
|Pass Yards Allowed||224.7||237.8|
|Total Offense Allowed||340.9||312.9|
|Average Per Punt||42.0||44.1|
|Penalties||55 for 422 yds||61 for 464 yds|
|Kick Ret. Avg.||20.8||20.6|
|Punt Ret. Avg.||9.0||8.8|
Michigan Offensive First-Team
|WR||19 Ronald Bellamy (6-0, 202, Sr) (36 catches, 418 yds, 4 TD)|
|LT||62 Courtney Morgan (6-3, 298, Jr) (Has started at LT and RT)|
|LG||75 David Baas (6-5, 320, So) (Started LG in all 11 games)|
|C||57 Dave Pearson (6-3, 291, Jr) (Converted from DL, started 11 games)|
|RG||76 Dave Petruziello (6-4, 297, Sr) (Ohio native, started 11 games)|
|RT||77 Tony Pape (6-6, 305, Jr) (Has started at LT and RT, likely top lineman)|
|TE||83 Bennie Joppru (6-5, 249, Sr) (45 catches, 470 yards, 5 TD, team captain)|
|WR||80 Braylon Edwards (6-3, 206, So) (53 catches, 818 yards, 10 TDs)|
|QB||16 John Navarre (6-6, 228, Jr) (204-366, 2339 yds, 20 TDs, 6 INT)|
|FB||35 B.J. Askew (6-3, 223, Sr) (98 carries, 514 yards, 5.2 avg, 6 TD, 31 catches, 264 yards, 1 TD)|
|TB||23 Chris Perry (6-1, 220, Jr) (211 carries, 949 yards, 4.5 avg, 10 TDs)|
|Key Reserves: WR Tyrece Butler (6-3, 213), WR Jermaine Gonzales (6-2, 210), RT Demetrius Solomon (6-6, 297), LT Adam Stenavich (6-5, 302), WR Calvin Bell (6-1, 197), QB Spencer Brinton (6-5, 224), TB David Underwood (6-0, 220), FB Sean Sanderson (6-3, 289)|
Comments: Michigan runs multiple formations and likes to throw the ball to several different targets, as evidenced by the amount of catches by tight end Bennie Joppru and fullback B.J. Askew, who is possibly one of the better players at his position in the nation. John Navarre lacks mobility but has a strong arm and improved passing numbers. WR Braylon Edwards is one of the team's most talented offensive players; he has emerged as the next big thing at WR for the Wolverines. Chris Perry has been steady and posted a career-high 175 yards on 27 carries against Wisconsin last week. Michigan's offense is not a high-powered offense, but it is capable of moving the ball and putting points on the board... and rest assured they are going to try at least one of their silly reverses.
|Michigan Defensive First-Team|
|DE||92 Dan Rumishek (6-4, 273, Sr) (2001 All-Big Ten first teamer, 5 TFL, 4 Sacks)|
|DT||60 Grant Bowman (6-1, 290, Jr) (20 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 sacks)|
|DT||97 Shawn Lazarus (6-4, 288, Sr) (24 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack)|
|DE||13 Larry Stevens (6-3, 261, Jr) (34 tackles, 8 TFL, 3 sacks)|
|OLB||6 Victor Hobson (6-1, 243, Sr) (Team captain, 80 tackles, 12 TFL, 4 sacks)|
|ILB||59 Joey Sarantos (6-3, 217, Fr) (First career start last week; 14 tackles on the year)|
|ILB||43 Carl Diggs (6-1, 247, Jr) (61 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack)|
|CB||3 Marlin Jackson (6-1, 189, So) (School-record 17 PBU's, 47 tackles, 3 INT)|
|SS||24 Charles Drake (6-2, 201, Sr) (61 tackles, 1 INT, 4 PBUs, 3 sacks)|
|FS||2 Cato June (6-1, 217, Sr) (38 tackles, 3 TFL)|
|CB||21 Jeremy LeSueur (6-1, 199, Jr) (41 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT)|
|Key Reserves: DE Shantee Orr (6-1, 255), DT Norman Heuer (6-5, 288), OLB John Spytek (6-4, 240), ILB Scott McClintock (6-2, 243), CB Markus Curry (5-11, 181)|
Comments: Coming into the season, the Michigan defense was being compared to
the great UM defense of 1997. Such comparisons have proven to be
inaccurate, but this is still a defense with some talented players and cannot be
taken lightly. The line is strong and quick and will be able to put
pressure on the QB. Victor Hobson is one of the Big Ten's best linebackers
and leads the team in tackles and TFL. The secondary is solid and is led
by one of the more highly-touted young defensive players in the Big Ten in CB
|PK||39 Adam Finley (6-4, 206, So) (3-6 FG)|
|KO||34 Phillip Brabbs (6-2, 200, Jr) (Back-up PK, 3-9 FG)|
|P||Adam Finley (42.4 Avg, 58 punts)|
|KR||21 Jeremy LeSueur (6-1, 199, Jr) (23-524-22.8-49 long)|
|PR||Markus Curry (5-11, 181, So.) (6.4 avg)|
Michigan's field goal kicking has been erratic this year as they have totaled just 8-20 in that category, and in a game like this, that could be a big factor. Adam Finley has been solid as a punter though, averaging 42.4.
- Michigan leads with a record of 56-36-6, with a 37-31-4 record from 1930 on.
- Records by decade: 2000-01: 1-1, 1990-1999: 7-2-1 UM, 1980-1989: 6-4 UM, 1970-1979: 5-4-1 OSU, 1960-1969: 7-3 OSU, 1950-1959: 5-5
- At Ohio Stadium, Michigan is 21-18-1
- In games decided by 3 points or less, the series record is a tie: 5-5-6
- In games decided by 7 points or less, Michigan leads 16-14-6
- In games where Ohio State is ranked #2, the Buckeyes have a 3-2 record.
And so here we are... game #98 in this historic, "throw-the-records-out-the-window" type rivalry, and the stakes for Ohio State are as high as ever. Here are some things to keep an eye on in this game:
- Rushing Yards: In the "Tale of the Tape" above, you can see that each team is good at keeping their opponents' rushing yards low. If OSU can get the running game going, it could be tough for UM to win. Michigan's running game faces a big challenge against the OSU defense.
- Kicking: You can see the big advantage in this area for Ohio State. Kicking is crucial in a game like this, and right now, the Buckeyes have to feel more comfortable with their placekicking than Michigan.
- OSU offensive line play: The OSU offensive line has had some criticism in recent weeks, and it will be important for them to play well this week. Michigan brings some defensive talent that will be able to bring the pressure.
- Michigan Passing Game: The way OSU has controlled opposing teams' rushing games, Michigan may have to try to win through the air. Do they have enough to do it?
- #13: OSU may not need a healthy #13 to win #13; after all, they've proven they can win tough games without him. But if Maurice Clarett is healthy and running hard, it will give OSU a big boost offensively.
The stage is set, and what a show it should be. You can't get much bigger than this! The nation is doubting OSU after some lackluster offensive performances, but the guess here is that the Buckeyes will come out with a great effort and play their best all-around game in weeks. The Buckeyes seem to be a different team at home, and if they play up to par on defense and limit mistakes on offense, they should win. However, you can expect Michigan will come determined to put their best game together and knock off the Buckeyes. This could be another close one, but whatever the score is, it will go down in history as a big chapter in this rivalry. Go Bucks!