**Updated to include more info
Earlier this week, we listed some reasons as to why the vomitous pustules from up north could beat OSU. It took me a few days, but I finally got el Kaiser to stop laughing long enough to help compose the counterpoint to that post. If reading “Why UM will prevail” seemed like drinking a foul tasting tequila shot, then reading this post will seem like the sweet, refreshing bite of the lime afterwards.
Why OSU Will beat UM
First, The Wolverines’ defense has not been spread out all season long. It has not faced a single spread offense. Everyone knows about UM’s success against a pounding rushing attack, but there’s no way the Michigan defense can stay in the 4-3 and not get eaten alive by the spread. If UM stubbornly sticks with the 4-3, then it’ll have linebackers trying to line up man-to-man against the deepest receiving corps in college football. When Sweatervest spreads out Carr’s defense, Carr will have to make a choice: Go with the nickel to slow down the OSU pass game, which removes his advantage against the run; or stick with the 4-3 and hope that your backfield can cover OSU man-to-man.
UM’s secondary is fair at best.
Regarding the UM front seven: Carr has set it up to work best when it can be aggressive, but OSU’s most explosive plays rely on aggressive play by the opposing defense… screen passes, options, quarterback draws, etc.; not to mention that blitzing always leaves single coverage somewhere — and again, no team in the country has the personnel to man up against Ginn, Gonzo, Robiskie, Hall, Hartline, Small, Nichol, and Ballard. Yes, Smith really does have that many weapons on almost every play. Troy has spread 27 touchdowns across those eight receivers this year; and those numbers don’t include the threat posed by the OSU RBs or FBs, or even Smith’s own feet. In short, UM will have to be very selective when it blitzes, and mask it very well. If they blitz too much, Smith will eat them alive. If they blitz too little, then OSU will just move down the field on four/five yard dink plays all afternoon.
One of UM’s biggest weaknesses is defending against the screen pass… the aggression by the front seven, combined with the lack of speed in the secondary, makes UM very vulnerable there. Conversely, OSU is one of the best in the country at executing the screen pass. Therefore, if OSU is having trouble rushing against UM’s stout front four, Tressel could simply use the screen pass as a substitute for a lot of rushing yards (three yards here, four yards there, with an occasional 83 yard scamper by Ginn for good measure).
UM’s defense may slow down the OSU offense, but it will NOT stop them from scoring a healthy amount of points. If UM wants to come out victorious, it will have to open up its offense and put a lot of points on the board. This is something it has had a hard time doing against poor defenses; how likely is it that they’ll “suddenly” find success against OSU’s superior D?
OSU’s D-line is the best UM will see this year, and will get pressure on Henne, letting the linebackers either fall back into coverage or come forward to help stop Hart for a low YPA. As a result, Henne will probably have to outscore the OSU offense with his arm and feet to win the game. That’s just plain unlikely.
OSU’s O-Line is the best that UM will see all year. How will UM’s players and (more importantly) the coaches respond to what will be a very frustrating afternoon for them?
OSU has essentially played UM already, during the Texas game earlier this year. (For most of this season, Texas and UM were nearly identical in all statistical categories. Yes, Texas has imploded the past two weeks, and UM has not. However, OSU met the ‘Horns earlier in the season, before the ‘Horns’ implosion.) And we all remember what happened when OSU played Texas.
Continuing the Texas comparisons, the ‘Horns are a much, much better offensive team than the Wolverines, and OSU’s defense only gave up seven points to Texas.
Over his decade-plus reign at UM, no matter what kind of coaching staff Carr has had serving under him, he’s repeatedly shown himself to be a pretty bad big-game coach. In contrast, Tressel saves his best for — and coaches his best in — big games. Think about it this way: Tressel went 14-0 and won a national championship with Craig stinkin’ Krenzel, and Carr wasn’t able to even contend for the title with Tom Brady. (If you’re reading this, Craig, no disrespect intended! Just trying to make a point.)
Michigan has been fortunate this year to keep themselves out of the “close” games (decided by a touchdown or less) that were their bane in 2005. Mostly, this is because UM has had an easier schedule in 2006. But don’t forget: this is the same team that loses the majority of its close games. Conversely, Tressel’s reputation is made on winning almost 100% of those types of games. OSU and UM is typically a “close game,” and this favors the Buckeyes.
Noise. Using the silent count for 60 minutes favors OSU, not UM.
OSU will win the turnover battle (the single biggest indicator of success in the OSU/UM matchup).
If the weather is favorable.
Michigan has a terrible track record against number one teams. They’ve gone 3-16-1 against opponents ranked number one (for comparison, OSU has 62 victories against number one teams). The last number one team UM beat was in 1984 (Miami).
In its ~125 years of football history, UM has never won a #1 vs. #2 matchup.
Troy Smith. No QB in college football is better in big games than Troy Smith. UM has no counterpart to him. Henne doesn’t come close in the technical aspects of quarterbacking, and there’s no player on the Michigan team that leads or controls his team like Smith does. Don’t get me wrong – UM has its leaders – but something tells me that the OSU offense would lie down in traffic if Smith asked them to. Everyone on that team, offense and defense, rallies behind him and follows his lead. He sets the tone for the entire team.
The bigger the game, the harder he’s played. The higher ranked the opponent, the better he’s played. This is the biggest game of his entire career. It’s his second #1 vs. #2 game this season, and he’s fighting to qualify for a third. It’s his last regular season game. It’s his last game in the Horseshoe, his last opportunity to scamper on scarlet painted turf that’s been smudged by the footprints of a band that just marched “Script Ohio.” It’s the last time that he’ll be able to throw a TD pass to Teddy Ginn in front of a home crowd. It’s his last chance to play Michigan, his last opportunity to complete his legacy as the Wolverine killer. It’s the last chance he’ll have to win or lose the Heisman trophy.
The more “lasts” you can think of, the more you understand the danger that UM faces this Saturday. Simply put, the more serious Troy Smith gets about this game, the more assured it becomes that UM will lose. We could remove all the long-winded arguments in this post, leaving only two words: “Troy Smith,” and that would be enough to convince most people that OSU would win on Saturday.