Michigan Preview

A Tipping Point

osuHelmetWe are reaching a tipping point over two decades in the making. Much success was enjoyed during the Coach Cooper years but Coop was never able to beat Michigan with any regularity. For all the great recruiting classes he brought in, for all the success he had outside of Michigan week, for some reason Cooper never looked comfortable that last week of the season in November.

Some have said that since he wasn’t a homegrown Buckeye, he never grokked the gravity of Michigan week. I don’t buy that. I think he was acutely aware of the importance of beating Michigan. Just for some reason, he was never able to seal the deal.

In his thirteen seasons, he beat Michigan twice (1994, 1998), tied them once (1992) and lost an unacceptable nine times (including the first FOUR times he coached against them). It was a dark time to be a Buckeye fan.

Since Coach Tressel took over in 2001, Ohio state has enjoyed unprecedented success against that team up north. Since then, in stark contrast to Coopers failures, Ohio State has won nine times and only lost twice.

So tomorrow we reach the tipping point. Throwing out the tie we have an even split record of 9-2 on both sides.

Those twelve years were oft times miserable.

So that’s why I asked in the poll earlier this week — has Michigan suffered at the level we have? Were our nine victories over them as bad, demoralizing and frustrating as the nine losses a decade earlier?

[poll id=”67″]

I don’t think Michigan has suffered enough. Three times in the 90’s, Ohio State went into The Game undefeated, sporting a Top 5 ranking and looking forward to a chance to win their bowl game and be considered National Champions. Those dreams were never realized as Michigan overcame talent deficits to upset Ohio State in all three meetings. The proverbial wooden stake had been driven through the collective hearts of Buckeye Nation.

In contrast, this has only happened to Michigan fans once in the past eleven years when #1 Ohio State beat #2 Michigan in the game of the century in 2006. It also began the precipitous fall the Michigan program has suffered the past seven years, starting with the fall to Appalachian State.

So no, Michigan has not suffered on our level. They have a ways to go.

Spoiler Alert: the suffering is going to continue for at least another year. Michigan’s outlook isn’t super rosy, either.

The Actual Game

This game has never come down to the match-ups (see previously mentioned Cooper’s struggles) but the talent disparity this year seems particularly stark. Michigan, since the Notre Dame game, has struggled to find any kind of consistency on offense. They have weapons (Funchess, Gallon) but the way Devin Gardner has been manning the helm has not quite worked out.

On defense, the numbers actually point to a competent if not particularly flashy defense. But they have given up back-breaking drives (Penn State comes to mind). Either way, Michigan fields a defense that appears at first blush to be much more competent than the offensive side of the ball. Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison doesn’t have all the talent he could use but he has managed to develop a defense that has kept Michigan in more games than not.

Turn overs, inability to develop a ground game and a very unimaginative offense has led to Michigan fans to the truest pit of despair.

So what happens this year? I really feel like this game is more than just a tipping point of records. These are two programs with very different trajectories. Ohio State, with Urban Meyer at the helm, has the Buckeyes heading in the right direction with incoming recruits ready to take the team to the next level. Michigan, with Brady Hoke leading the way, initially seemed to be heading in the right direction. But with the recent struggles his team has had and the recruiting struggles has Michigan fans doubting.

Ohio State has already secured its spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, but this isn’t a chance to rest the starters. They are still in the running for a spot in the BCS Title Game and need to make a statement in The Game. Ohio State should win going away. But in a game where match-ups and records get thrown out the window, the Buckeyes still need to make a final statement. I don’t see Urban taking the foot off the gas.

OSU: 45
UM: 17

Comments

  1. Agreed that UM’s defense is competent enough to keep OSU from making this a laugher. Going with OSU 38-13.

  2. There is no such this as TTUN suffering to much until the Buckeyes have the overall lead in the series that being said I’m thinking its going to be 42-12

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