Friday, November 25, 2011

Preview: Ohio 2011

Ohio (6-5) vs. #15 Michigan (9-2)
The Big House
Kickoff 12:00 pm EST
Forecast: Low 50s, 50% chance of rain

Last week
#21 Penn State 20 - Ohio State 14. Last week, Ohio State continued their season of futility with a loss to Penn State. Rather than hilariously losing to Purdue in overtime after a late botched extra point, Ohio State lost after falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter and never climbing back into the game. The offense could muster only 289 yards and allowed Penn State's anemic offense to put up 327, though both teams were held scoreless in the second half.

Ohio State star senior receiver DeVier Posey played his first game and caught four passes for 66 yards, but that wasn't enough to bolster another awful passing day from Braxton Miller (7/17, 83 yards, 4.9 YPA, 1 TD). Miller had a decent day on the ground, rushing 18 times for 105 yards and Dan Herron averaged 4.2 YPC on 18 carries.

On the other side of the ball, Matt "Farvian Walk-On" McGloin wasn't much better (just watching this guy play this season makes me break out in hives; how did Michigan's defense make him actually look like Favre last year? Oh, nevermind). McGloin went 10/18 for 88 yards and 1 INT. Stephon Green did most of the damage on the ground, averaging 5.8 YPC on 16 carries while Silas Redd averaged 7.9 YPC on 8 carries. The thing that stuck out during the game was just how bad Ohio State's linebackers were against the run. It appears they attended the Obi Ezeh school of gap filling. PSU's running backs were finding holes at the line of scrimmage and no linebackers in sight. The hope is this continues because, well, dang.

#16 Nebraska 17 - #18 Michigan 45. Game column. Michigan followed up a dominating defensive performance against offensive-line-challenged Illinois with another great game against Nebraska, limiting one of the better running attacks in the country to 4.5 YPC on 31 carries. More impressively, the defense was barely on the field, whether it was from Nebraska special team turnovers or the 3/13 performance on third down. Infamous duck thrower Taylor Martinez was as advertised: ducky. He was 9/23 for 122 yards and 1 TD but looked awful getting there. He can't be totally blamed:

That's a run play, but Michigan's defensive line was getting that sort of penetration all game. Martinez was only sacked a handful of times but constantly had pressure in his face.

On offense, Denard scrambled, which was the unit's biggest revelation. When he wasn't dropping dimes to Martavious Odoms in the back of the endzone, Denard was scampering through a vacated middle of the field as Nebraska's secondary played exclusively man coverage. Unfortunately, he was indecisive on many of those runs, turning what should have been a big day into a mediocre 3.6 YPC day on 23 carries. Fitz Toussaint picked up the slack, though, averaging 4.8 YPC on 29 carries.

Offense vs. Ohio State
Though Ohio State has been universally awful this season, their one bright spot is defensively where they rank about where you'd expect an Ohio State team: 42nd in rushing defense, 35th in pass efficiency defense, 16th in total defense, and 14th in scoring defense. Aside from the rushing defense numbers, that sounds about right. Those numbers are largely because of defensive end John Simon. Short of Whitney Mercilus, Simon will be the best defensive end Michigan faces this year. The matchup between him and Mark Huyge in pass protection looms large, but any time I say something like that, Huyge comes through with a competent effort. To date Simon has 13.5 TFL and 6 sacks.

The other dangerman on Ohio State's defense is defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins whose numbers are similarly harrowing: 10 TFL, 3 sacks. He's not quite as terrifying, however, as the strength of Michigan's offensive line is David Molk on the interior.

The linebackers, as previously mentioned, are suspect. None of them have particularly great numbers (their starting linebackers combine for 6 sacks and 11.5 TFL). Ohio State is a prototypical cover-2 defense that doesn't blitz a ton, so those numbers aren't totally unexpected, but their ability to fill in run support was terrible against Penn State. Given that the team is 42nd in run defense, it's been that way for much of the year.

With the strength of Michigan's offensive line and the lack of discipline from the Buckeye linebackers, Fitz Toussaint and Denard should find plenty of room to run between the tackles in this game. Chances are the Buckeyes will load the box with their strong safety making it difficult to bounce runs to the outside, but Michigan should average solidly in the 4.5-5.5 YPC range.

Through the air, we'll see. It's expected to rain, which probably favors Ohio State (Miller can't throw anyway, so this makes Michigan's offense a bit more one dimensional), but if the weather holds up, the Buckeye secondary isn't all that harrowing. They're currently starting two juniors, a sophomore, and a redshirt freshman. They've accounted for 7 interceptions between them, which isn't spectacular. More interestingly, the safeties (Christian Bryant and CJ Barnett) are the #3 and #4 tacklers on the team, respectively, which lends credence to the linebacker-suck theory.

Per usual, this comes down to Good Denard vs. Evil Denard. Borges has shown a few new passing concepts in the last few weeks that have all had good results. Expect at least one or two new formations and route combination that pick up good yardage. If it's raining and both teams are having trouble throwing the ball, Evil Denard will likely rear his head a few times. Pressure off the edge from Simon or up the middle from Hankins will probably cause a few errant throws, but I don't expect Michigan's passing game to be significantly worse against the Buckeyes than it was against Illinois or Nebraska.

Defense vs. Ohio State: Where the LOLephants roam
Anyone who has watched the Buckeyes this year knows that the offense is barely functional. Watching Braxton Miller throw the ball is basically a redux of Terrelle Pryor during his freshman year: lots of armpunts, terribly inaccurate, and rarely effective. Given the current state of Michigan's secondary, chances are Ohio State will forgo passing the ball as much as possible. Floyd and Countess have been too good in coverage and Miller too bad passing for this to make a dramatic swing during this game.

Third and long will be interesting. In the last few weeks, Mattison has unleashed hell with Michigan's "okie" package, but Miller is a better athlete than Nathan Scheelhaase or Taylor Martinez and is better at escaping pressure than both. Fortunately, Michigan's zone blitzing is the kind of scheme that can confuse a young quarterback--especially one prone to scrambling--and force him into the strength of the defense. Expect at least a few moments when you say to yourself, "awesome blitz call" during this game. Simply put, Miller is not a threat through the air, even with the recent return of Posey, who Floyd will be Snuggie-ing all day.

The run game is where the Buckeyes will do the most damage. Miller's aforementioned athleticism will cause the team problems, but I'm not sure how many more than Scheelhaase and Martinez. Again, were this earlier in the season, I'd be worried about the edge discipline of Jake Ryan and Craig Roh, but in the last few weeks, Michigan has largely ironed those out. Per usual, Michigan will try to play contain on Miller and force a handoff to whatever running back is on the field.

That RB is likely to be senior Dan "Boom" Herron, he of TatGate fame. Herron has played in only five games to date but has accumulated 556 yards (5.2 YPC) and 2 TDs. He's a rumbling back (5'10", 205 lbs) that plays like a poor man's Beanie Wells. He's got some speed, but he makes most of his yards carrying the pile and running over defenders.

The Buckeye running game has really excelled because of their offensive line and fullback Zach Boren (yes, that Boren). The interior of the line is fierce, led by senior center Michael Brewster and the return of Mike Adams at tackle gives Ohio State possibly the best offensive line in the Big Ten. Were Michigan's defensive line not currently Swiss cheesing teams (see above), this would be a bigger worry. The real concern will be Michigan's linebackers filling the proper holes and reacting on time. I can already envision a few 20-yard runs after Desmond Morgan gets flattened by Boren, but if Demens and Co. can hold up against an aggressive, downhill running game, the Buckeye offense will be nonexistent.

It's really hard to see Ohio State moving the ball at all. They haven't been able to all season and with Michigan's defense playing its best two games of the season in the previous two weeks, I can't see that trend changing. Miller is a dynamic athlete and he'll be a terror to defend against in the next few years, but he's not there this season. The Buckeye passing game is barely functional and Michigan's secondary is good enough to shut it down. With Ohio State forced to exclusively run the ball, Ryan, Roh, and Kovacs will be left to clean up the option runs. This will not be too much of a problem.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan's run game is going to be extremely variable. Runs will likely go for either zero yards or 10 yards. Given how poor the Buckeye linebackers are, if Toussaint and Denard can make it past the defensive line, they won't see anyone until they run into the safeties downfield. Depending on the weather, the passing game may be a non-factor. Regardless, expect a run/pass split like we've seen the last few games.

Ohio State 13 - Michigan 23


MichiganMan77 said...

"Beat Ohio for America!" Love that part.

Hail to Michigan. Bring this one home!

Jivas said...

In general, a solid preview and post (as usual). I do disagree pretty strongly on the comparison of Braxton Miller's freshman season to Terrelle Pryor's however.

Miller 48.6% COMP 120.1 RATING
Pryor 60.6% COMP 146.5 RATING

Links here:

IIRC, Pryor's passer rating led the Big Ten that year. Now - he was efficient in large part because Ohio had such a good ground game and he presented a constant running threat. But playing against Miller this year is not *too* similar to playing against Pryor in 2008.

Jivas said...

Oh yeah:


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