Saturday Spotlight: Michigan at Ohio State

It's the best rivalry in college football and this year it will live up to the its name. "The Big Game" features one versus two as Michigan travels to take on Ohio State in the Horseshoe in the game of the year. Seahawks.NET's Scott Eklund previews the matchup of two of college's most storied programs whose lineups will feature a massive amount of NFL talent when they take the field.

No team consistently loses talent to the NFL like Ohio State and Michigan is right behind them in that category as well.

Michigan features a stifling defense, ranked first in the country, while Ohio State has explosive playmakers on offense and some very talented players on defense as well.

Pundits agree that the Buckeyes have the better team, but with the death of legendary coach Bo Schembechler Friday, the Wolverines should be focused and sharp to "win one for Bo".

The winner of this game is assured of a bid in the BCS Championship game the second week of January while the other one will get the bid for the Rose Bowl.

So sit back at 3:30 pm (EST) and enjoy what will be

Ohio State

QB Troy Smith – Has really burst on the scene since the end of the 2004 season when he had a breakout game against Michigan. Smith had a couple off-field incidents that caused him to miss the Alamo Bowl at the end of the 2004 season and the first game of the 2005 season, but since then, it's been nothing but positives for the fifth-year senior. He's the favorite to win the Heisman this year and the only thing keeping Smith out of the top 10 selections in next year's draft is his size (6-1, 215). He's got an above-average arm, has really improved his accuracy and he's in the mold of the new breed of quarterbacks that are threats with their legs as well as their arms. He's also a great leader. Should go in the second-half of the first round.

WR Ted Ginn Jr. – Teams are looking for wideouts with bigger-bodies, but there's no denying that Ginn is a playmaker from anywhere on the field. His 2005 teammate, Santonio Holmes was drafted by Pittsburgh late in the first round (the 25th selection) and Ginn is a much more explosive wideout. He's only 6-0, 180 pounds, but he can fly (legit 4.3 speed), he has excellent hands and his open-field skills are second-to-none. He can return punts as well. His only drawback, like most young wideouts, is that he doesn't run the crispest routes, but that's something that should be easily rectified with good NFL coaching. Ginn is only a junior, but many expect him to leave this year. A top-5 talent.

DT Quinn Pitcock – Pitcock was overshadowed by Ohio State's outstanding linebacker corps in 2005, but this year he's made his presence felt along the Buckeye defensive line. He's an excellent interior pass-rusher, he's posted 10 tackles for loss and eight sacks this year, and he uses his quickness to break down blocking angles. He isn't super-strong, but he holds up well against the run and he's fiery with a nasty attitude. Right now he projects as a late-first rounder, but he could move up after solid combine and individual workouts.

RB Antonio Pittman – Pittman hasn't been as appreciated as he should have been. His problem was that he came after Maurice Clarrett and before freshman-phenom Chris Wells. He's only a junior this year, but he's had a solid 2006 season rushing for 1,032 yards and 12 touchdowns, so there's a chance he could bolt for the NFL with the prospect of reduced carries as a senior. He's a strong inside runner who is able to lower his shoulder when he needs to, but he also has a decent burst to the outside, able to get the edge when the play calls for it. He isn't shifty, but he has good vision and that forward-lean you like to see in a running back.

Other Ohio State players to watch:

QB Justin Zwick (6-4, 225)
C Doug Datish (6-5, 295)
LB Mike D'Andrea (6-3, 245)
WR Anthony Gonzalez (6-0, 195) **underclassman
OT Kirk Barton (6-6, 310) **underclassman
TE Marcel Frost (6-5, 255) **underclassman


CB Leon Hall – Widely considered the best coverman in the nation, Hall gets by on smarts, good technique and excellent quickness. He doesn't have great recovery speed, but he is strong and has good size (5-11, 191) that helps him against the bigger wideouts from the Big 10 that he faces on a weekly basis. It doesn't hurt that he goes up against some outstanding receivers in practice every week including Steve Breaston and Mario Manningham. Hall has 35 tackles, three interceptions and 15 passes defensed this year and fans can expect him to be matched up on Ginn most of the day. Hall is an ideal cover-two corner and could see his stock rise to the top of the first round with a good 40-time at the combine. If he slips past the 20th selection he could be the steal of the draft.

DE Lamar Woodley – He doesn't have the ideal height (6-2, 265) you'd like when projecting him to make the jump to the pros, but neither did Dwight Freeney and we all know how that turned out. Woodley is relentless in his pursuit of the passer and he's also pretty strong against the run, forcing plays inside so the interior of the Wolverines' defense can clean up. Woodley leads the conference with 11 sacks and ranks third in the conference with 15.5 tackles for loss. Woodley is a lot like Seattle's Darryl Tapp in that he isn't a guy who will run by an offensive lineman, but he's smart and has a plethora of moves and an intensity that won't allow him to quit on a play. Expect Woodley to last into the second-round of the draft and for him to make someone very happy next fall during his rookie season in the NFL.

DT Alan Branch – He's only a junior, but he'll be 22 on December 29th, so he's mature for his playing status. Branch is mammoth (6-6, 323) and he's got excellent quickness. He doesn't put up huge stats, but he's one of the big reasons that Michigan leads the country in rushing yards allowed at 29.9 per game. Branch is super-quick, has good balance and is very strong. He doesn't collapse the pocket as well as you'd like to see from a player with his skills and size, but there's no denying he's one of the best interior defensive lineman in the country. Some think he could end up staying, but with his status already being in the top 15 of the 2007 Draft, many think he'll probably declare himself eligible when the time comes.

QB Chad Henne – It's unlikely he'll leave early, but if he does he's got a good deal of experience in his three years with the Wolverines. Henne started basically from day-one of his freshman season (2004) when projected starter Matt Gutierrez got injured during camp. He never gave the job back when Gutierrez got healthy and, after a shaky sophomore year in 2005, he's come back strong this year. He's completed 61.9 percent of his passes for almost 2,000 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He won't wow you with his athleticism, but he's smart and makes good decisions. He's also got an above-average arm and can make all the throws. He still needs a little work on his mechanics, but his leadership is unquestioned and he's got the ability, with the right team, to be a solid signal-caller after sitting for a year or two. Henne would be smart to stay for his senior campaign and then be a top 20 selection in the 2008 Draft.

OT Jake Long – Considered one of the premier tackles in the country, Long could leave early – he's only a junior – and still go in the top 15 of the Draft. Long has excellent feet and a long reach that allows him to stymie pass-rushers. Long also has that nasty streak that you love in an offensive lineman. He's likely headed to the NFL next year, but there is a chance he could be persuaded to stay and possibly make a championship run should the Wolverines falter. In that case, he could easily end up in the top five of the 2008 Draft with a solid senior season.

Other Michigan players to watch:

LB David Harris (6-2, 242)
LB Shawn Crable (6-2, 247) **underclassman
S Jamar Adams (6-2, 215) **underclassman
RB Mike Hart (5-9, 192) **underclassman

Other games to watch: California (17) at USC (4); Washington at Washington State; Auburn (15) at Alabama; Virginia Teach (19) at Wake Forest (14); Maryland (21) at Boston College (20). Top Stories