Thursday, November 30, 2006

Posting to Resume Monday


I feel like death.

The new Blog Poll is up at Rocky Top Talk. Fun stuff. A first ever Blog Poll Best of The Blogosphere Award thingamabob. If you've got suggestions for awards or nominations, let me know in the comments and I'll post 'em in my Blog Poll Response on Monday.

Um, Michigan lost to North Carolina State. Courtney Sims played 19 minutes, but only had two fouls. Explain this to me: 7 points, 8 rebounds, 3-7 shooting (ugh), but only two turnovers in 19 minutes and he's on the bench? With no inside presence Dion Harris built himself a house behind the three point line going 4-14 from 3. For the record he went 4-6 inside the arc. What's wrong with this picture. For the record, Harris and Petway seem to be the only ones with any heart this year.

Fix this Tommy. Now.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Sick As A Dog Maize n Ballot week 14

Cold and Flu season always seems to mark the end of the football season. Fitting. All the fun of the fall is over, now we settle into the damp miserable part of the autumn/winter months where rain and green snot prepare us for ski season. Joy.

My illness precluded my entering this thing on time, but here are my two cents for what they're worth...

RankTeamDelta
1Ohio State 25
2Southern Cal 24
3Michigan 23
4Florida 22
5Wisconsin 21
6Louisville 20
7LSU 19
8Oklahoma 18
9Rutgers 17
10Arkansas 16
11Auburn 15
12Wake Forest 14
13Boise State 13
14Virginia Tech 12
15Notre Dame 11
16West Virginia 10
17Tennessee 9
18California 8
19Brigham Young 7
20Nebraska 6
21Texas 5
22Texas A&M 4
23Georgia Tech 3
24Penn State 2
25Navy 1

Dropped Out:

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Where I Stand On a Rematch

Astute commenter Ben posed a great question looking over my Ballot for the Blogpoll.

"[Other] than your very obvious desire [not] to condone a rematch, how can you justify the top 3 [OSU, USC, UM]?"

Well, Ben hit part of it on the head. I don't want to condone a rematch, I'll admit that. Michigan had it's shot and missed. Years ago when Florida beat Florida State in the National Championship Game in a rematch, I remember feeling kind of, well, blah about it. There were plenty of good reasons to put Florida in the NC game, but there were a host of other reasons not to. The rematch left kind of a hollow feeling because these teams had already settled this match up on the field once before. (If there are parallels here please remind me and I'll publish them).

There is a scenario where I would put Michigan in the NC game, but more on that in a second.

With regard to the rankings game, I had USC ranked above Michigan for a majority of the year until they lost to Oregon State. The Trojans slept walked through that game and paid the price. Since then they've played pissed. They destroyed Stanford, then #21 Oregon, and then #17 Cal. USC played what I thought to be a decent team in Cal this weekend and put them away only allowing a single offensive score. This is a very good, very balanced team. Can they hang with OSU? I don't know. They haven't played yet. People can point to all the points USC gave up before they finally lost. Fine. Since then they've played lights out with an intensity that was lacking early in the year. In their last 3 games (two against ranked opponents) they've given up 19 points. Is there an Achilles heel? Sure, USC turns the ball over too much. But their defense has been up to the task even with those extra minutes on the field.

I think the resumes are pretty comparable. Besides ND and Wisconsin, Michigan's base resume and USC's base are pretty even. USC molested the #5 team in Arkansas by a far wider point margin than UM over ND (albeit without McFadden in the lineup). They lost by two to Oregon State, Michigan lost by three to OSU. Michigan's loss is better, but I think USC's schedule is better.

Another factor dropping Michigan a spot is the age old caveat of needing to win your conference to play for a championship, which Michigan didn't do. Remember how pissed everyone got when Oklahoma went to the MNC game a few years ago when they lost the Big 12 championship game? On that basis, barring a two loss PAC 10 team winning out, USC should probably go.

With regard to the other contenders, I am not impressed by Florida or Arkansas. The Hogs are one dimensional and Florida has three different teams that take turns showing up each week. SEC fans can argue all they want, but the two teams in the SEC championship aren't as good as USC (proven on the field) or Michigan. Florida's been too much of a wildcard all year for us to have any clue how they'd match up. I think the Auburn game is a fairly good example of how Florida plays against good defenses. OSU's defense is far better than Auburn's, IMO, and I don't think Florida would even come close to matching Michigan's offensive output against OSU. Don't get me wrong, I like both teams. I just don't think they're better than Michigan.

Notre Dame doesn't enter the equation nor does Louisville. After what Rutgers did to Brohm there's no way the Cards hang with Michigan or Ohio State. The Irish pose the only other real choice. Even so, Head to Head Michigan beat ND, badly. Notre Dame can't be ranked or be taken ahead of a team it lost to. Norte Dame isn't in OSU's class in the remotest sense. I've watched a lot of Notre Dame football this year and they do not have the defense to make it agame. OSU's offense is better than Michigan's and their defense ain't bad either. If Michigan smoked ND at home, I cringe at the thought of the score of an OSU blow out of ND. ND just doesn't have the horses on defense.

My basic thought is USC or Michigan plays in the Championship game against OSU. If USC loses, Michigan is clearly the best of the once beatens (based on record, stats, and head to head against it's MNC slot competition and best team in the country) and should go. If USC wins out, which I expect, their schedule is superior, they go.

Here's a final piece of the rationale. If USC wins BIG Michigan's biggest "look how good we are" argument goes out the window. Michigan says look at our record. If Michigan and USC both beat the tar out of ND, then the tie breaker really is "have you played Ohio State yet?" Michigan has, and lost. USC hasn't, so they get a crack. While not critical, Arkansas losing to LSU then beating Florida in the SEC championship would help. But, if USC loses, two loss disqualification and Michigan goes.

Right now USC is the most complete team out there that hasn't lost to Ohio State. That's it in a nutshell.

Let me know your thoughts.

Maize n Ballot Week 13: A Slate of Nothing But Sorrow

The Game is over. My side lost. Not too thrilled about it, but I'm dealing. Ohio State proved itself to be the best team in the land that has Troy Smith. Any other quarterback under center, Michigan wins that game. But for now, I salute you Mr. Smith, please take your throphies and leave for the NFL already.

Beneath The Game there were other contests that had winners and losers. Now is the time I pass harsh judgement on them.

RankTeamDelta
1Ohio State--
2Southern Cal 1
3Michigan 1
4Florida--
5Arkansas--
6Notre Dame 1
7Wisconsin 1
8Louisville 11
9West Virginia--
10Texas 5
11LSU--
12Oklahoma--
13Rutgers 7
14Georgia Tech 3
15Auburn 3
16Boise State 2
17Boston College 4
18Virginia Tech 2
19Wake Forest 9
20Brigham Young 3
21California 5
22Tennessee 2
23Nebraska 1
24Clemson 2
25Penn State 1

Dropped Out: Maryland (#13), Oregon (#25).


1. USC and Michigan - I had USC ranked ahead of Michigan all year until they stumbled against OSU, Oregon State University that is. [Insert Beaver/Pull-out Joke Here]. Now the worm has shown its fangs and USC moves back ahead of Michigan. Had USC gone undefeated and Michigan remained undefeated the two would've met in the National Championship game. USC can still get there. Michigan really can't. Edge, USC.

2. Louisville's jump is actually the result of my screw up last week. I somehow managed to rank them 10 spots lower than WVU, whom they beat. A public flogging on this subject can be found at MGoBlog. Louisville is now where they should be. I will say I have serious doubts they're "better" than WVU right now. Still. A win's a win. When WVU beats Rutgers (it's gonna happen Knights fans, you've gotta admit that after the debacle against Cinci) Louisville wins the Big East Championship by virtue of their win over WVU.

3. Texas - Texas than everyone below them now that McCoy's back. Best two loss team in the country. Which is sort of like being the prettiest girl at a Mole and Unibrow convention.

4. Rutgers - Had you high, you broke-a my heart. I put up a picture of a friggin' crow for you and this is how you repay me? A loss to Cincinnati? CINCINNATI!!! You're dead to me.

5. G-Tech and Auburn - You didn't lose. Yea! move up three spaces.

6. Boise State - Please go away.

7. BC - Impressive win over a good Maryland team. Beat down is more like it. Wow. I guess you are good enough to play in the Maryland public league after all. Even so, impressive wins in the ACC this year unfortunately don't count for much.

8. Virginia Tech and Wake - Yeah. Pretty much the same as above. Tech, you finally got your act together. Wake, you're kinda coming back down to earth. But hey, no one can sneeze at 9 wins. No one. Props.

9. Cal - No, really. It looks good. That mushroom tattoo Pete Carroll branded into your forehead is really cool. The chicks'll dig it.

10. Everything else - a sorry pathetic mess....

Monday, November 20, 2006

What To Do When The Dream Ends

Burgess had him. He'd made this tackle dozens of times over the course of the year, and hundreds if not thousands of times since he started playing football. Then something strange happened. Chris Wells spun. All of a sudden Prescott lay outstretched on the turf watching his would be tacklee sprint through the Michigan secondary for a 53 yard touchdown run. It wasn't supposed to happen. Wells was supposed to go down. But there he was. 50 some yards away celebrating the first run over 25 yards Michigan had given up all year.

That was when I knew the dream had ended.

Sometime a dream becomes too much like reality for our bodies to process. Your senses are simply overwhelmed by the impulses cascading from your brain, and in a moment of protest your body lashes out at your unconscious forcing it back into the receding depths of your cerebellum. All of a sudden you feel that sudden jolt. Your eyes and mouth shoot open as you gasp at the air as though it was your life’s first breath. Bewildered you look around your room. Weren't you just somewhere else? Weren't you doing something important, something special? Wasn’t Michigan still undefeated? Then the sleep falls from your mind and the dream fades from your hazy perception. Wearily, you rub your eyes, flip the pillow, and try to recapture the magic you just lost, if only for a few more hours or a few minutes before the alarm goes off.

Try as you might, the dream is never as sweet or as perfect after you awaken from that momentary impulse. No matter how hard you try, the dream is gone.

Saturday was the sudden spasm that shook us from a dream we never wanted to end. A dream of dominance and perfection washed away by the harsh reality of a superior team. Our defense, a dominant world-beating force all season long, was finally solved by Troy Smith and the Ohio State coaching staff. The one-on-one tackles we'd come to expect as givens were missed. The sacks we almost felt were a right, were replaced by minimal pressure and a costly personal foul. Our run defense disintegrated before our eyes as Wells and Pittman scampered for 50 yard touchdown runs. The sweet dream turned sour, and our bodies convulsed at the contradiction of what we knew to be true.

Were that to be the only part of this story, Saturday would have been more of a nightmare than the end of a pleasant dream. Despite the disappointment of the outcome, there were the performances of Mike Hart, Chad Henne, Alan Branch, Adrian Arrington, and Mario Manningham on which to hang our hopes of a Rose Bowl win and the promise of a new season.

Chad Henne showed us why we were right to expect so much from him. After Michigan's final touchdown, was there any doubt in anyone's mind that Michigan would have scored again had it gotten the ball back? I didn't think so. Henne guided Michigan to 39 points, finding open receivers in the face of the best defense he'd seen all year. He wasn't Troy Smith. No one expected him to be. But he was the next best thing. Playing through a daunting pass rush and with a middle offensive line that served more as ushers than blockers, Henne completed 21 of 35 passes for 267 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. He was hit repeatedly as he released and was sacked four times. Still he did not falter. Sure he missed Manningham on a wide open bomb, but Smith misfired once or twice too. Chad was everything you could have wanted from a quarterback on Saturday. When he and the rest of the offense were on the field, the dream seemed more of a reality than at any other time in the game.

Mike Hart continued to be the best college running back Michigan has seen in a generation. Scoring 3 touchdowns and rolling to 141 yards Hart brought his best game to the marquee game. Say what you will about his lack of speed. I'll happily take his quite 6.6 yards a carry over Wheatley, Thomas or Touchdown Tim. However, unlike the three backs I just mentioned, Hart has never beaten Ohio State. Hart has one last chance to change that next year.

It is so hard to understand how it all happened. It happened so quick. One moment they were up. The next they were down three scores. It was not for lack of effort. It was not for lack of skill. Michigan played feverishly against a superior foe and came within Ginn's fingertips of pulling the upset.

Still. The dream is now over. But it doesn't make it less sweet. For most of us waking up means the drudgery of work or school awaiting us after we shake off the cobwebs. For Michigan, the end of the dream means it awakes to a bed of Roses and the faint possibility of a rematch. Instead of an undefeated season Michigan will end the year with a single blemish on its record. Instead of Glendale, Michigan will be in Pasadena on New Year's Day.

The dream is over, but a new one takes its place. A dream where Michigan wins the Rose Bowl and positions itself as next year's National Championship frontrunner. It’s a dream filled with Roses and a warm morning in the California sun. It's a dream that has months of happy possibilities. It has summer two-a-days and recruiting wars. It has a schedule where Michigan’s toughest games are at home. It’s a dream we don’t have to wake from until November 17, 2007.

By that time a new dream will have taken its place. And that dream will be like this one was.

Hopefully it will last a little longer.

*Photo Courtesy Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Thought On Bo

On the day before Michigan and Ohio State meet for the 103rd time, Bo Schembechler passed away at the age of 77 from an apparent heart attack. Fittingly, Bo’s final hours were spent doing what he has done almost everyday since 1969, sharing his love of College Football and the University of Michigan with anyone who cared to listen.

For almost 30 years Bo was the face of both the University of Michigan and its football program. Bo resurrected the storied program from the ashes of mediocrity and returned it nation prominence. He was Michigan. He symbolized the aspiration of perfection without the conceit of expecting it.

Now, a day prior to Michigan’s biggest game in a decade, Bo has been taken from us and a void has been left in his stead. The anticipation of this game was enough to make even the causal fan act as if he was a child at 4am on Christmas morning. It was that way for Bo, only more so. Limited in his mobility, Bo had said he would not make the trip to Columbus, but would watch the game from home. This was a game he could not wait to see. Now, it is a game he will observe it from a better place.

While we grieve it is important to remember who Bo was. If there was ever a man who could be described as a 77 year-old kid, it was Bo Schembechler. When talking about Michigan he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. There was always a twinkle you couldn’t look away from and an energy in his voice that made him mesmerizing. He was loyal in the manner only a 7 year old child could be. When people would question his beloved University or his players he would rise up in anger to right a perceived wrong, but also to shield the players, coaches and fans he cared so much about.

What more is there to say about someone like Bo other than to say he was a good man? A good man in the sense that he cared for those around him, friend and foe a like. A good man in that he represented himself only as who he was, not taken to the opinions of others, determined to be himself in the face a world that was changing faster than he was. A good man who left the world a better place than he entered it. A good man who earned the respect of friend and foe alike.

Every college football fan will grieve his loss in some form or another. However, in our sorrow we must look to Bo for inspiration one more time. He loved college football and the University of Michigan. There are few things he treasured more than a well played Saturday game. To honor his memory, let’s play football tomorrow. Let’s play it well.

That is the best way to remember a good man who meant so much to all of us.

Rest In Peace, Bo Schembechler

Reports out of Detroit's Channel 7 by way of MGoBlog have confirmed that Michigan's legendary coach, Bo Schembechler, has passed away at the age of 77 from an apparent heart attack.

The University of Michigan and College football have lost one of their patron saints. While our hearts are heavy, our prayers are with Bo and his family.

God's Speed Bo.




May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be ever at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall softly on your fields
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand

Thursday, November 16, 2006

It's Friggin Christmas in November

Couldn't Sleep At All Last Night

The night before friggin Christmas I tell you. Christmas.



NCAA Football Has A Blog

Dex over at Every Game Counts, the NCAA's official football blog, invited me to do a preview on the game. I'll post it up here a little later, but for the time being it can be found here. the rebuttal was provided by Buckeye Commentary. Thoughtful analysis versus OMG LLLLLOYD. Enjoy. Also be sure to check out the Charles Woodson Heisman highlights and Jim Harbaugh's guest piece on NCAA football and performing in the classroom.

ESPN has thoughtful Analysis

Scout and ESPN has a great breakdown of the game up on their mainpage. While I think they underate own DB's a tad, they are for the most part dead-on regarding the matchups. Great read.

FOX Does and Does Not

Don't read this. This is the headline: "Michigan-Ohio State worth all the buzz?"

Someone at Fox does work however, and put together a brief but to the point prediction on the game. They've also got an interesting key matchups page that I don't agree with.

Validation

Please read MGoBlog's Vicious Electronic Quesitoning with the O-Zone's Tom Orr. A lot of it sounds awful familiar....

Has Anyone Else Noticed?

LaMarr Woodley looks like Jay-Z


OMG! LOL! TROY SMITH OWNZORS scUM!

In rebuttal to the "Michigan can't stop our unstopable, can't be stopped, non-stopping... um... Quarterback guy" that's been thrown around the 'ole blogosphere and, surprisingly, in the print media, does anyone remember the Michigan Notre Dame game?

Replace "Quinn" with "Smith" in the "______ for Heisman" banner and you've got the same story. Michigan wasn't supposed to be able to cover Samarjawhatever or McKnight. Michigan wasn't supposed to be able to touch Quinn behind a senior heavy, two pre-season All-American candidates offensive line. Well. They did. A lot.

I realize Brady Quinn and Troy Smith are not the same type of QBs, but the surrounding circumstances are very similar. Let's to a check down on the hype prior to the games:

1) Great Offensive line will give Michigan's D trouble [check];
2) No way they can cover ND/OSU's receivers [double check];
3) _____ is the Heisman trophy favorite [duh...];
4) It's at home and the crowd will make it impossible on Michigan [check, but valid];
5) Unheralded running back does all the little things right and can burn you if your not careful [yup, check];
6) Robot Genius Coach [check]; and
7) LLLLLLLLLLLoyd will wet himself at some point due to _____ at QB's awesomeness [check].

What does it mean? Probably nothing. But Michigan's been told what it can't do before. It's players have shown time and time again this season it's not a good idea to discount them so readily.

Michigan's Defense v. Ohio State's Offense, A Maize n Preview

Already posted on CSTV.com in their Battle of the Blogs! See the counter argument there too.

Michigan's Defense. Ohio State's Offense. Usually when forces of this magnitude hit one another the resulting blast is considered an extinction level event. When Charles Oppenheimer and friends figured out how to smash atoms together, my guess is they were doing it to demonstrate the sheer destructive force that will be on display Saturday in Columbus.

Michigan sits third in total defense in the country. Ohio State ranks eighth in scoring offense. Ohio State is eleventh in sack prevention. Michigan is second in sack infliction.

Matter + Anti-matter = End Of Existence As We Know It.

Put in non-scientific terms, this game will come down to who controls the line of scrimmage. If Michigan can get through Ohio State's line to Troy Smith, Michigan can and probably will win this game. If Troy Smith spends his day upright, then Michigan loses. It's that simple.

Ohio State's Rushing Offense v. Michigan's Rushing Defense

Ohio State's main running threat Junior Antonio Pittman. The best comparison in the Big Ten to Pittman is Tony Hunt of Penn State, but with speed. He's a north-south runner with decent vision, but not a lot of shiftiness. On short yardage he's deadly because he possesses a great boost through the line. He's also valued as Smith's body guard, as the best pass protection back in the Ohio State stable. Pittman doesn't average a lot of carries, getting around 20 rushes a game but has cracked 100 six times this year. But most of that is due to the fact Ohio State is usually up a considerable amount early. Pittman's primary backup is freshman Chris Wells. Ohio State's made a consistent effort to get Wells into the last five games. He's gotten at least 10 carries in four of the last five. However, when the game is on the line you're not going to see him as he has a tendency to put the ball on the ground when brushed with a feather.

Supporting the running attack is Ohio State's massive, quick, and skilled Offensive Line. There are two potential All-Americans and everyone is either a biscuit over or under 300lbs. Senior Tim Schafer mans the left guard tackle position with Sophomore Alex Boone backing him up. Steve Rehring starts at Left Guard and probable All-American Doug Datish holds down the Center spot. TJ Downing plays at Right Guard with another All-American Candidate Kirk Barton at Right Tackle. Also helping out with the blocking will be Sophomore Tight End Rory Nicol.

If there's a weakness, it's the left side of the line. Boone had his knee scoped and hasn't returned to full speed, to wit Schafer was inserted in his stead. Like Michigan's Rueben Riley, Schafer is a convert to the Tackle position who has never truly owned a position. He was slated early for left guard, but lost the position to Rehring five games in. Since then he's started the last two games at Tackle replacing Boone. Combined, they've been "okay" this year.

Matching up opposite Schafer/Boone will be Michigan's soul-crushing Defensive End LaMarr Woodley. Woodley has been a menace all season against platooned tackles. So far he's taken all of Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern's cheese and made sandwiches with it. If you point to him not recording a sack against Notre Dame, I would instead point you towards his somewhat memorable fumble return for a touchdown.

The Woodley v. Platoon fight will one of the keys to the game. If Ohio State slides over to double Woodley, which is more than likely, it means there is one less guy to block Alan Branch and Terrance Taylor on the inside. While Datish is an excellent player, he's going to have to choose between Taylor and Branch to block. That leaves either Downing or Rehring in a one-on-one match up in pass protect or run blocking. Personally, I like Michigan's chances one-on-one in those match ups. Taylor, despite being somewhat diminutive at 6'0, is over 300 lbs and one of the quickest defenders on the frontside of Michigan's defense. While concentration has at times waned, when he's focused he can shred a pass protection block in the blink of an eye and gobble up two run blockers just as quickly. Branch? See my description of Taylor, just change 6'0 to 6'6" and insert the phrase "only twice as good". Branch is so fast Michigan has actually used him (a friggin DT) as a quarterback spy. Conversely, I think Biggs/Jamison will be effectively neutralized by Barton on the right side with some Tight End help, but should still make a play or two. Both are sickeningly quick and fully capable of blowing up a run play on their own. Combined this group is first nationally in stopping the run. If Ohio State is forced to double it's bad news for Pittman. Pittman will run behind Datish and Barton, but expect there to be very large angry men in Maize and Blue helmets waiting for him.

Getting past the Defensive line is one thing. But getting past Michigan's Linebacking trio of Harris, Crable and Burgess is quite another. All three possess the strength of linemen and the speed of safeties. Harris is the rock of the corps. When Michigan showed vulnerability to screens early in the year, Harris single handedly decided to stop it. He's as sure a tackler as Michigan has on its roster and really, really hates running backs. Crable, quite bluntly, is a freak of nature. Over the course of the season he's been used as a LB/DE hybrid designed to terrorize the backfield and inflict pain on anyone he finds back there. Burgess is the best in pass coverage. If Michigan is in its base formation and an offensive tries to spread the team out, he's more than capable of running with a TE/4 th WR. Harris and Burgess control the 15 yards after the line, Crable the 10 yards before it.

Michigan has proven it will exploit any hole it sees in an Offensive Line by bringing a Linebacker or two into the holes created by the double teams. Defensive Coordinator Ron English loves to send his linebackers and the occasional safety into the gaps. And the Linebackers coming aren't the type that miss running backs or quarterbacks. This type of speed and athletic ability is present elsewhere in the Big Ten, most notably at Penn State, but nowhere else is it coupled with a defensive line as ferocious as Michigan 's. While Michigan hasn't faced an offense as potent as Ohio State's, The Buckeye's certainly haven't faced a defense as strong, athletic, and disciplined as Michigan's.

For Ohio State to be successful running the ball they have to be able to get past the defensive line and block the linebackers. This is something only Minnesota has been able to do all year. For comparison, Wisconsin ranks 19th rushing offense, Ohio State 20th. The Badgers gained only 66 yards on 27 carries against the Wolverines, finishing with 54 total rushing yards. Wisconsin has PJ Hill who is 5th in the nation in rushing. Ohio State does not. Michigan leads the nation in rushing defense because it is able to put immediate pressure on the ball carrier with their down linemen. The Defensive Linemen eat up the blocks and close the gaps allowing Harris and Burgess to clean up the rest.

If Ohio State possessed a true burner/jukey RB that could make one or two guys miss, they would be in a better position to run the ball. They don't. There is always the chance the Pat White will enter the game as a blocking Full Back somewhere other than inside the 20 yard line. However, if White is in the game that will take away from Ohio State's ability to fully run their vaunted spread offense. White would definitely be placed in the backfield at the expense of a Split End like Robiskie. Though the Buckeyes will want to spread Michigan out as much as possible, limiting your blockers against Michigan is not a good idea.

Expect a lot of runs to the right and a lot of pressure from Harris and Burgess on the ball carriers.

Run Game: Advantage Michigan.

Ohio State's Pass Offense v. Michigan's Pass Defense

In the passing game Michigan sees a somewhat familiar alignment. Ohio State runs the spread offense, preferring to have Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez on the field pretty much at all times. Supporting them will be Brian Robiskie and Roy Hall, two more than adequate wide receivers in their own rights.

So far this year Michigan has faced the spread against Vanderbilt, Central Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ball State, and Indiana. While none of these teams execute the spread even remotely as proficiently as Ohio State, it has prepared the Wolverines for their match up. One of the reasons Michigan has been successful against these types of offenses is because the front seven gets so much pressure. Based on all the info above, I don't see that changing.

In terms of a passer, Troy Smith has blossomed into one of the nation's best. He's got great footwork which allows him to deliver the ball with velocity and accuracy. His deep ball can be scattershot from time to time, but usually it's accurate. Where he excels is throwing on the roll out and the short pass. The offensive line will roll to its strength on the right side allow Smith to move safely out of the pocket and find open receivers. While he isn't the scramble first QB he was early in his career, Smith is very difficult to bring down in the pocket or outside of it. If given the chance he can complete passes even when being grappled by the opposing team. However, ask mobile QBs like Kellen Lewis of Indiana, Drew Tate of Iowa, Drew Stanton of Michigan State, John Stocco of Wisconsin, and Chris Nickson of Vandy what they think of Michigan's ability to contain them. Even against mobile QBs like these, Michigan leads the nation in sacks. Woodley has recorded 11 sacks, Crable 6, Biggs 5, Harris and Burgess have 3 a piece.

One thing he hasn't seen a lot of this year is pressure. He faced some pressure against Texas but also had the benefit of Ted Ginn matched up on some dude on a Rascal. The deep outlet bomb won't be available to Smith (discussed below) so we'll see how well he checks down in the face of the pass rush. Facing decent coverage for the first time this year, expect Smith to hold onto the ball a little longer than he's used to. Also expect him to get hit repeatedly by Michigan's Defense.

Ohio State will likely spend most of the afternoon running and sliding pass protection to the right side behind Barton, Downing and Datish with Help from Pittman and possibly human bulldozer Stan White. This should afford Smith time to throw the football and Pittman to find a hole or two. However, if Datish has to engage in double teams and isn't free to get to the second level, Smith and Pittman are in for a long day.

In the base set, expect Ginn, Gonzalez and Robiskie out on the field. It's pretty obvious at this point who will be across from them. Gonzalez is by far Ohio State's most consistent receiving threat. He torched Michigan last year, and gotten even better this year. Amazing stat? 39 of his 45 catches were for first downs, 7 of them were for TDs. Mr. Gonzalez, meet Mister Hall.

Leon Hall is Michigan's all-time leader in pass breakups, is ranked second in pass breakups nationally and fifth in passes defended. If there is a better cover corner in the college ranks I haven't seen him. Hall effectively takes away one side of the field. He is always in position and has the speed to run with anyone. People are quick to dismiss him because they really know nothing about him. Instead of flapping his gums and patting himself on the back, Hall disappears after games, preferring to let his work on the field do his talking. Straight up, Hall is better than Gonzalez.

The next crucial head-to-head is Ted Ginn and Morgan Trent. Ginn is a one of a kind talent. Everyone knows he's electric and he's a deep threat. I will acknowledge that point without belaboring it. Opposite him is another burner in Trent. Contrary to popular opinion, Trent is blazingly fast as well. Both players can run stride for stride with one another. Speed won't determine this match up. Ginn will. Much like Steve Breaston, Ginn is known for momentary lapses in concentration that take away short but critical gains. He makes the spectacular catch easily but makes the mundane catch look like rocket science.

What Ginn does incredibly well is run the deep route. Jamming him at the line is very difficult because of how quick he is. He's able to create just enough space between himself and the defender to take advantage of his Saturn V-like first step. Two strides and he's by most corners. This is where Michigan's safety help will have to be diligent. Morgan Trent is fast. Very Fast. But I'm not putting him in Ginn's league in terms of quickness. Even so, on most inside and outside routes, Trent should be able to hang with Ginn. Since taking over the starting corner spot Trent has been aggressive without drawing legitimate PI calls. He's generally in the right position at the right time, and continues to improve every game he plays in. Ohio State definitely has an advantage in this match up, but don't discount Morgan Trent. He's a pretty good corner.

On Ohio State's third and fourth receivers, expect to see Brandon Harrison up on Robiskie and Free Safety Brandent Englemon/Willis Barringer up at the line against Hall or Hartline. Head hunting Strong Safety Jamar Adams will patrol the backline. LB Burgess may drop into coverage too from time to time. The three and four match ups are kind of a wash. Yes both Robiskie and any combination of Roy Hall or Brian Hartline have talent, but so do Michigan's nickel defenders. Robiskie will draw a freakishly fast but undersized Harrison. Yeah he's small, but he's built like a tank and was a 2nd Team Freshman All-American last year. Don't sleep on him. Hall/Hartline at this point is a wash on Englemon/Barringer. All of them have talent, just haven't displayed it yet against good competition.

Passing Game: Edge Ohio State.

Summary

Overall I give the nod to Michigan's Defense. Troy Smith is a great quarterback and will make some big plays during the game, but Michigan's front seven is just too strong.

Expect Smith to find Ginn open for one long TD. Expect a screen or two. Expect Woodley, Branch, Biggs and Jamison to find their way to Mr. Smith or Pittman more often than Ohio State has allowed in any game this year. Expect Crable to be a pass rushing force. Expect 50 total rushing from Ohio State. Expect 250 yards passing from Smith. Expect a lot of rollouts. Expect whoever Leon Hall is covering to do very little.

Expect Michigan to win.

Thursday's Hearsay and Conjecture

Battle of the Blogs Continues

My little contribution to the Battle of the Blogs on CSTV is up. The fine fellows over at Men of Scarlet and Grey have the counter argument to my assertion that Michigan's Defense will win the battle with Ohio State's potent offense. I'll post the full article in a little while so it's easier to read.

By the way, when you head over to MoSaG, check out their Carmac the Magnificent rip off. Good stuff.

UM/OSU All Time Teams

Page Two over at ESPN decided to name the all-time UM and OSU teams. An interesting read. Let say that in order to qualify you shouldn't be basing things on Super Bowl rings, like Brady starting, but should instead base it on WINS against the other team. Brian Griese probably gets the nod in my book for the 1997 win, but Benny Friedman should also be in that discussion. Brady's two years as a starter, in my mind, eliminates him from consideration.

Ivan Maisel Likes Our D

Nice article (mostly) on Michigan's Defensive Line. Leon Hall gets a mention, but this one is all about Woodley & Co. up front.

Cookies and Stats Galore

Vijay looks at the Michigan/Ohio State stats in a way that explains why people see visions of the Virgin Mary in a jar of peanut butter. After reading iBlogforCookies, I see those visions everywhere too.

Newspaper Roundup

The Chicago Tribune

A look at how quiet the teams are when refering to one another. They also take a look at Chad Henne.

The Chicago Sun-Times

A pile of stuff on the Change in culture at Michigan, DeBord and English promotions, Ohio State's winning streak, and Troy Smith's high school "break down." Tickets? No so much? Here's why, they're going for $1,500.

They've also got Big Game Jeopardy! Great trivia for all.

Ann Arbor News

Henne doesn't care what you think. It's up to the fans to get Mike Hart the Heisman next year. Jim Carty weighs in on the Tressel owns Carr nonsense and the effects this game will have on the Heisman.

Go to the Diag. There is Ufer! Read and be merry.

Detroit Free Press

Michael Rosenberg has a terrific article on the UM/OSU mixed marriages, sons and daughters who betrayed their parents and went to OSU, and braving the insanity to watch the game in Columbus clad in Michigan gear.

BTW, if you're a Michigan fan in Columbus on Saturday and something bad happens, look for the University of Michigan Police who will be on hand for help.

Hall. Pass. Denied.

Detroit News

An interesting story on being a Wolverine fan trapped in the mouth of Hell.

LaMarr Woodley can speak about himself in the third person singular. LaMarr Woodley can crush a bowling ball with his forefinger and tumb. You do not cross LaMarr Woodley.

LaMarr Woodley will make sandwiches with your cheese.

It may be big in Ohio, but dotting the "i" is stupid. There. I said it.