Monday, November 23, 2009

Ohio State: Where, well...

So it's over: The season that started 4-0 ended with a resounding thump as it fell to the turf lifeless and defeated. But this game against OSU, sad as it is to say, might have been the best game Michigan played as a team since Notre Dame. Sure, they held in it against Iowa and Michigan State, but MSU dominated Michigan throughout and Iowa would've been another miracle victory. No, Michigan finally held serve with someone and, were it not for Forcier's four interceptions and fumbledeath, Michigan walks away with a victory here.

But Tate Forcier is was a true freshmen, and they're bound to have games like this one. Forcier interspersed magnificence with crippling mistakes and the muscle memory learned from his touchdown pass was responsible for the "Well, now it's over" endzone interception in the fourth quarter. Just like after the Iowa game: You live by Forcier, you die by Forcier. And in the future, this will be a wildly more positive experience than it was for the second half of this season.

As I said after the Wisconsin game: Vincent Smith has solidified himself as the 2010 starter. I hinted at it then, but now I'm officially there: Michael Shaw needs to prove himself against competition better than Delaware State if he wants to see significant playing time. He looks too frantic when he runs and has a habit of running into the back of his linemen instead of hitting holes and running patiently. He showed some flashes receiving this year when he came out of the backfield, but otherwise, he looks firmly like a backup right now.

Michigan's defense looked... competent too. There were a few personnel shifts for this game of note: Woolfolk moved back to safety, Kovacs played as a linebacker (more or less), Floyd took over the corner position opposite Warren, and Williams and Brandon Smith rarely, if ever, saw the field. Michigan played a cover-1 for most of the day and dared Pryor to throw the ball which he did poorly. But mostly, Tressell ran Carr ball: We're going to out-execute you. Michigan didn't have the athleticism, schemes, smarts, or strength to stop Ohio State's rushing attack, so they kept running the ball. Much of this falls on the linebackers, and you can, as MGoBlog has been presuming, assume Jay Hopson is out as linebacker coach next year.

The most depressing thing about watching this game was watching Pryor run the zone read. He was born for that and clearly is in the wrong system. Ohio State has resounding success when they ran the play and Pryor has the size and speed to annihilate teams running it. I kept thinking to myself: If only you weren't such a stubborn prick, you'd be running those plays here and we'd be winning. That was depressing, but going forward, I think we're probably better for it.

(How worried should Ohio State be? Barring a drastic uptick in Pryor's passing ability, that team probably won't get any better year-to-year, and needed four interceptions and a fumble for a touchdown to beat the worst Michigan defense, um, ever? I came into work today and was accosted by my boss' boss: "Your team sucks. But you do have a good quarterback." And well, sure we sucked this year, but OSU's running game won't be any more successful than it was against Michigan this year, their defense was as stout as OSU defenses get, the rest of the team played mostly as they did all year, and Forcier projects to get better from Year One to Year Two. And yet they still almost lost that game. But I digress.)

Now we have eight months to hear people talk about how Rodriguez is going to be fired (Wilbon--who, sometime last week on PTI, ripped Michigan fans for not giving Rodriguez enough support and called for people to give him more time; I'm getting more than a little tired of his noted hatred for Michigan) or should have been fired or will fail again because his system doesn't work or he isn't connected to Bo or he's planning to bomb the White House and should be fired. I will avoid these things and think about what it might be like in 2010. Sunnier days are ahead. Those who stay will be champions.


Anonymous said...

I don't think Ohio State is too worried right now. The Vest has beaten Michigan eight times in 9 attempts. He has beaten Michigan teams that were better (2001, 2004), equal (2002, 2006) and worse (2008, 2009) than his squad. Maybe Pryor never improves and maybe OSU loses more games than expected in the next few years, but I'm sure they will remain competitive with Michigan.

Chris Gaerig said...

They'll always be competitive, but in a year when they should've looked dominant given Michigan's defensive trouble and the presumed improvement of Pryor from year one to year two--historically when most players see the biggest spike in on-field improvement--Ohio State looked exceedingly pedestrian against Michigan.

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