Tomorrow, Ohio State’s season boils down to one game. Fittingly, the Michigan Wolverines stand between the Buckeyes and a perfect season.
This scenario has played out before. Michigan has ruined the season for many otherwise perfect Ohio State squads, and Ohio State has wrecked Michigan dreams of unbeaten seasons. Going into tomorrow’s game, every Ohio State fan knows that Michigan will do whatever it takes to beat the Buckeyes, smash the Buckeyes’ hope for perfection, and start Urban Meyer’s OSU coaching career off with a losing record against Michigan. Every Michigan fan knows, too, that the Buckeyes want to crush Michigan, get revenge for last year’s loss, and return to the glory days when Jim Tressel led Ohio State to a 9-1 record against the hated Team Up North.
This will be a great matchup between two pretty good teams in the greatest rivalry game in college football. In Ohio State-Michigan games, the great players have a way of stepping up — Denard Robinson, for example, probably played the best game of his collegiate career when the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes last year — and otherwise obscure players can achieve lasting gridiron glory by making the hard hit and recovering the crucial turnover. We can expect a tough, hard-hitting game tomorrow, because that’s just the way The Game is always played.
I think the key to the game is the Ohio State defense. The Buckeye D played its best game of the year last week against Wisconsin, but Wisconsin played a traditional Big Ten offensive game. Michigan, on the other hand, has a bit more of a spread mentality, and Ohio State has struggled to defend against the spread. If Ohio State can contain Robinson, in his new role as multi-purpose offensive sparkplug, and pressure Devin Gardner, that will take them a long way toward winning. Consistent with my view that The Game sees big players rising to the occasion, I’ll be looking for John Simon, Ryan Shazier, and Bradley Roby to make some big plays if the Buckeyes are going to win.
Offensively, the Braxton Miller Show ground to a halt last week. Wisconsin had a great plan, executed it to perfection, and kept Miller bottled up and off balance. Michigan will try to do the same — but it remains to be seen if they can bring the same defensive assets to bear that Wisconsin deployed. I think the answer for the Buckeyes may be Carlos Hyde, who has run with punch in recent weeks. If the forecast for tomorrow is accurate — and they are expecting temperatures in the 30s, with some wind — being able to run the ball effectively may be the key. Beanie Wells killed Michigan during his career; Carlos Hyde would like to do the same.
Columbus is stoked for The Game. Let’s go, Buckeyes!