Rush Offense vs. Ohio State Rush Defense
Michigan is the #36 rushing offense in the country with 195 yards/game, but the rushing offense is perhaps in a dire situation. Starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (514 yards, 5 touchdowns) will miss the rest of the season with a lower leg injury, which leaves the running back duties to Thomas Rawls (240 yards, 4 touchdowns, Vincent Smith (27 carries, 76 yards, 2 touchdowns), and Justice Hayes (16 carries, 83 yards, 1 touchdown). The numbers don't look too bad, but most of Rawls's yards have come in garbage time and he has struggled against decent teams. The wild card is Denard Robinson, who started at running back last week and - mostly from the quarterback position - has rushed for 1,044 yards and 6 touchdowns, good enough for the 15th-most yards in the nation despite missing 2.5 games due to injury. He's clearly the best running option, but he may not be able to run Michigan's full complement of plays. The Buckeyes have the #17 rush defense and have given up just 117 yards/game. Defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel don't get a ton of penetration, but they are space eaters who have combined for 8 tackles for loss. Defensive end John Simon and linebacker Ryan Shazier have each made 14.5 tackles for loss, and Shazier has improved significantly since last year, when he played as a freshman. The Buckeyes should be able to handle Michigan's interior offensive line, so the Wolverines will have to attack the edges and through the air.
Advantage: Ohio State
Pass Offense vs. Ohio State Pass Defense
Michigan has been improving incrementally in the passing game and now sits at #95 with 201 yards/game; quarterback Devin Gardner has been the impetus for that rise, and he threw for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns against Iowa last week. Wide receivers Jeremy Gallon (34 catches, 617 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Roy Roundtree (25 catches, 461 yards, 2 touchdowns) have stepped up their games recently, and tight end Devin Funchess has been a productive red zone target. The Buckeyes are #84 in pass defense (250 yards/game), but #28 in pass efficiency defense. Simon has made 9 sacks and Shazier has made 4. Meanwhile, cornerback Travis Howard has 4 interceptions on the season, although 3 of them came in the Buckeyes' first two games. Michigan will have to pay extra attention to Simon and roll Gardner out to get him on the edge, but Gardner should be able to find some success with crossing routes and play action.
Rush Defense vs. Ohio State Rush Offense
The Wolverines give up 151 yards/game, good enough for 51st in the country. However, that stat has been dropping since a couple rough outings early in the year. The middle of Michigan's defense has been stout, but starting defensive tackles Quinton Washington and William Campbell have combined for just 3 tackles for loss. They don't get consistent penetration, but they do hold their ground pretty well, which allows the inside linebackers to flow to the ball and make tackles. Teams can gain yards running the ball, but usually in small increments. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes have the #9 rushing offense and gain 245 yards/game, with quarterback Braxton Miller running for 110 yards/game and running back Carlos Hyde pretty close behind with 91 yards/game. They like to run the option with Miller, who is very adept at pulling the ball out of Hyde's belly and making things happen on the edge. Michigan should keep Hyde pretty well in check early, until/unless Miller starts to gash them. Miller is also very adept at tucking the ball and scrambling, which hurt Michigan last year; that will continue to be an issue, because the Wolverines don't really have the athletes at defensive end to keep Miller hemmed in.
Advantage: Ohio State
Pass Defense vs. Ohio State Pass Offense
Michigan is #1 in overall pass defense (152 yards/game), but #30 in pass efficiency defense. Free safety Thomas Gordon and cornerback Raymon Taylor each have 2 interceptions to tie for the team lead, but nobody in the secondary is known as a true ball hawk or a shutdown player in coverage. The linebackers are pretty solid in coverage, but Michigan lacks a strong pass rush. Defensive end Craig Roh has 4 sacks, outside linebacker Jake Ryan has 3.5, and safety Jordan Kovacs is next with 2. The Buckeyes are the #100 passing offense with 180 yards/game and they're #57 in passing efficiency, but they still have dangerous players on the outside. The Buckeyes abused Michigan's back seven in last season's matchup, although that was a different offensive system and they had DeVier Posey. Wideout Corey Brown (52 catches, 574 yards, 2 touchdowns) is more of a possession guy, but Devin Smith (28 catches, 555 yards, 6 touchdowns) has some explosive abilities and might be just as good as Posey was. Poor quarterback play has prevented Michigan from getting beaten too badly on the outside, but I've been dreading the moment when it would hurt Michigan; there's a very good chance that the Wolverines' shortcomings on the outside will be exposed on Saturday. I don't think Taylor and his counter J.T. Floyd will be able to stick with Smith for the entire game, and Michigan's safeties are just so-so in coverage. The Buckeyes will run the ball a lot, so they probably won't sit back there and throw 50 times to win, but they'll get some big plays through the air.
Advantage: Ohio State
- Michigan recruited OG Darryl Baldwin, RB Warren Ball, DT Michael Bennett, S Devan Bogard, CB Corey Brown, WR Corey Brown, S Christian Bryant, OT Taylor Decker, OT Kyle Dodson, RB Bri'onte Dunn, DT Garrett Goebel, LB Curtis Grant, CB Doran Grant, DT Joel Hale, RB Jordan Hall, OT Marcus Hall, DT Johnathan Hankins, TE Jeff Heuerman, QB Cardale Jones, QB Braxton Miller, DE Steve Miller, OG Joey O'Connor, LB David Perkins, DE Se'Von Pittman, CB Armani Reeves, DT Tommy Schutt, LB Ryan Shazier, WR Devin Smith, RB Rod Smith, DE Noah Spence, TE Jake Stoneburner, S Ron Tanner, TE Nick Vannett, and DT Adolphus Washington
- Players from Michigan include Grosse Pointe (MI) Grosse Pointe Farms OT Reid Fragel and Detroit (MI) Southeastern DT Johnathan Hankins
- Denard Robinson starts at running back but gets a couple chances to throw
- Devin Gardner gets flustered by the pass rush and forced into a couple bad throws
- Ohio State makes some big plays over top of the defense
- Michigan holds down Carlos Hyde well, but Miller wins the game with his feet
- Ohio State 24, Michigan 17