The Game: Players to Watch Week 14

The Game

The biggest rivalry in college sports is finally here. The Buckeyes travel up to Ann Arbor this weekend to face The Team Up North as the Wolverines look to destroy the Buckeyes dreams of an undefeated season, and bring a halt to their school record 23 game win streak. The Buckeyes and Wolverines below will shape and mold the outcome of “The Game”.

The Team Up North

Jeremy Gallon, #21 Wide Receiver- It seems like every week there has been one wide receiver that could pose one big time threat to the Buckeyes secondary. This week, Gallon and tight end Devin Funchess, who I will discuss later in the post, present legitimate threats to the Buckeye secondary. Gallon is a small receiver that plays bigger than what he stands at 5’8, 190 pounds. Gallon serves multiple purposes for the Wolverine offense. He presents a serious deep threat with his speed , as well as running quick and sharp underneath routes.

Defenses have game planned well for Gallon’s deep threat by providing safety help over the top, however he still does an excellent job of getting separation on the underneath routes. That has resulted in Gallon’s ridiculous amount of receiving yardage (1109) and receptions (71), and his underwhelming touchdown total of eight for the year. Ohio State’s Philly Brown has more touchdowns (9) than Gallon does, with Brown recording 500 yards less receiving and 22 less receptions. This is a testimony to the Wolverine’s inability to finish off drives. Gallon will get his receptions against the Buckeyes on Saturday, but if he cannot find the end zone as a result of Wolverine drives stalling out, then Gallon’s impact will only be on his stat line and not the final score.

Devin Gardner, #98 Quarterback- If you have not watched Wolverine football this year then do not worry, that #98 is not a misprint, that is the actual number of Gardner who is the starting quarterback. Gardner possesses the physical ability to be a great quarterback, his decision making and lack of competent play calling, and poor offensive line has held him back significantly, as it would any quarterback. The Wolverines will use Gardner similarly to how Ohio State used Braxton early on in his career, run first pass second. The majority of Gardner’s throws will be safe throws either down the field, on crossing routes, or on quick screens. If the throw is not there expect Gardner to take off running where he can pose a major threat with his elusiveness in the open field.

The Buckeye secondary and linebackers will need to stay disciplined and focused when Gardner drops back. The Wolverines will use designed QB runs and play action off of those QB runs to make Gardner’s job easy and possibly force a mental error by the Buckeyes. Gardner is not a good decision maker so as long as the Buckeyes do not lose contain or have a coverage meltdown then he should be limited on Saturday.

Devin Funchess, #87 Tight End- Funchess is a young, athletic freak of nature at the tight end spot. His athletic nature could cause serious match up problems on Saturday for the Buckeye back seven. He stands at 6’5, weighs around 230 pounds, and can move like a wide receiver. He’s got good leaping ability and good hands so the Buckeyes may have their hands full with this kid on Saturday. The important thing will be for Ohio State to ensure they have a good match up with Funchess more often than not, and that he gets touched off the line of scrimmage.

Funchess has only recorded two games of a hundred yards plus for the Wolverines this season, and only has five touchdown catches. However, if Al Borges has any intelligence as a play caller (debatable) he will recognize the large mismatch Funchess will present to the Buckeyes, and give his young tight end a chance to showcase his skills.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes Defensive Line- Remember when I said Gardner makes bad mistakes? Well as Buckeye fans saw last week, when a quarterback gets hit multiple times he gets rattled and will miss throws he normally makes. Even when Sudfeld completed passes last week he took a shot or two. If Gardner gets the same treatment Sudfeld received last week then expect a couple turnover from him. Gardner is much more a risk taker and possesses a gun-slinger mentality that can get him in to trouble. If the Buckeyes can generate pressure this Saturday like they have been doing, fans will bear witness to Gardner’s questionable decision making.

Since the Penn State game, the line of Bennett, Spence, Washington, and Bosa has been playing possessed. Credit to the defensive coaches for figuring out a way to get these four on the field at the same time as they all can play inside or out, and cause havoc anywhere. Gardner has been a better quarterback this season at home than on the road so his discomfort will be vital for the Buckeyes success on defense.

Braxton Miller- In big time road games your quarterback has to play well. Last week Braxton played decently in bad weather. His interception was a mixture of poor ball placement, and his receiver not coming to the ball, but his fumble was inexcusable. Turnovers, especially fumbles, have hurt Braxton at times this year. They can not happen in a game of this magnitude where momentum swings occur so quickly. Last week we did see how good Braxton can be both running and throwing. On a 3rd and long completion to Heuerman at the end of the first half, Miller kept his composure as he eluded two rushers, stepped up, set his feet and delivered a strike down field. Miller’s touchdown throw to Devin Smith was a dime as well. The corner had decent coverage on Smith’s post route, but Miller dropped it in the only place where the corner could not get the ball and his receiver could.

The weather in Ann Arbor this Saturday is predicted to be cloudy with a 10% chance of rain, 11 mph winds, and around 35 degrees. Those conditions should not hinder Miller’s ability to throw the ball like they did last Saturday. Braxton should feel comfortable with the conditions Saturday, as well as the atmosphere. Braxton in the Big House as a freshman threw for 235 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, along with 16 rushes for 100 yards and 1 touchdown. He tends to play his best games on the biggest stages and I would expect nothing less from Miller this Saturday.

Carlos Hyde- Also in road games it is important for an opposing team to pack their offensive line and run game to take with them. Good news for the Buckeyes, they have the hottest running back in the country right now in Carlos Hyde. Hyde’s physical running style has been a staple for the Buckeye offense, and a key to its success all season. Hyde has been averaging a ridiculous 6.5 yards per carry, and an even more ridiculous 9.5 yards per carry in the month of November. He and the offensive line have been on a tear of late and I do not expect that to stop on Saturday. Hyde’s success also provides other players, such as speedster Dontre Wilson, with more success as they take advantage of the damage and carnage Hyde has done with his physical running.

The Wolverines run defense is decent allowing only 9 touchdowns all year and only 116 yards per game, however they have not faced a high quality offensive line and pro ready running back, both of which the Buckeyes will pack and travel with them on their trip to Ann Arbor. If Hyde gets loose, Wolverine fans may want to look away.

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