OHIO STATE PREVIEW

The game we've been anticipating all season is finally here. There has never been a more unique Michigan versus Ohio State football game because both teams are undefeated, ranked #1 and #2 for the first time in the series, and the winner not only wins the Big Ten title outright, but also will be in the national title game. This would be Michigan's first title game, and Ohio State's second opportunity after winning the 2003 game nearly four years ago.

Let's start on offense. It is clear that Ohio State has a more dangerous offense than Michigan with a more dangerous quarterback. Senior Troy Smith has defeated Michigan the last two years, and will probably win the Heisman Trophy as the nation's best collegiate football player this year regardless of the outcome of this game. The best thing about this game for Michigan fans is that it will be the last time we have to face him. Smith has thrown for 26 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions, a +22. He leads the nation in passing efficiency, and as a result, the Ohio State Buckeyes lead the nation in scoring offense. Smith has a fleet of outstanding receivers led by Juniors Anthony Gonzalez and Ted Ginn who have 97 receptions and 15 touchdowns combined; they average 8.5 receptions and over 100 yards per game. They also have Freshman Brian Hartline, Sophomore Brian Robiskie and Senior Roy Hall who have added another 7 touchdowns this season. They don't throw to the tight end that often, but Sophomore Rory Nichol has 3 TDs and Jake Ballard has one TD. While their passing attack is dangerous, their running attack is even more of a threat since Troy Smith is such an outstanding open field threat. They are the top team in the Big Ten in 3rd down conversions averaging over 50% while our defense has allowed the least conversions at 25%; something has to give. Junior Antonio Pittman is a powerful, fast runner who is averaging 94 yards per game, nearly 5 yards per carry and has scored 12 touchdowns. If Michigan is to begin to contain Smith, they must first stop the Buckeye running game led by Pittman and his capable backup Chris Wells who has scored 6 touchdowns as a true freshman. Let us not forget that Ginn and Gonzalez are plenty capable of running a reverse. This will be no easy task even though Michigan boasts the nation's top defense against the run. The mighty Buckeye offensive line is anchored by two 5th years seniors, Right Guard T.J. Downing, Left Tackle Tim Schafer and Center Doug Datish. Downing is the son of former Michigan All-American offensive lineman, Walt Downing. They also have giants, Right Guard Kirk Barton and Left Guard Steve Rehring. They have allowed the fewest sacks in the Big Ten this season. Covering Troy Smith's behind and lead blocker for Pittman is fullback, Stan White Jr. Many older Michigan fans may remember his father, a wicked Buckeye linebacker in the early 1970s.

On defense, the Buckeyes lead the nation in scoring defense surrendering less than 8 points a game, and turnover margin. They are led by Sophomore Middle linebacker Jim Laurinaitis who has 91 tackles, 8.5 for loss with 4 sacks, 5 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and a pass break up. The other linebackers are Sophomore Marcus Freeman and 5th year Senior John Kerr; they have 75 tackles, 4 for loss. Freeman has 2 interceptions and 6 pass break ups so he is an excellent cover linebacker; an interesting side note, he wears the #1 jersey. Freshman Ross Homan and Junior Larry Grant have also seen action at linebacker. When they line up, their defensive line is led by Lombardi Finalist and 5th year Senior Quinn Pitcock, Sophomore Detroiter Vernon Gholston, Senior David Patterson and 5th year Senior Jay Richardson; they have 112 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks intimidating opponent offensive lines and quarterbacks into mistakes. Patterson has 6 tipped passes, and unheralded Gholston beat out heralded national prospect Lawrence Wilson. Senior Joel Penton, Alex Barrow and Freshman Robert Rose have contributed on the defensive line. Their defensive backfield is led by Antonio Smith who, like Leon Hall, is a Thorpe Semi-Finalist. They also have great covers with Corner Malcolm Jenkins, Safeties, Sophomore Jamario O'Neal and Senior Brandon Mitchell plus Redshirt Freshman Nickel Back Donald Washington. Their 5 starting defensive backs have 201 tackles, 16 for loss with 9 interceptions. Jenkins leads in picks with 4. Redshirt freshmen Andre Amos, Anderson Russell and True Freshmen, Kurt Coleman and Aaron Gant have seen action in the backfield and on special teams. The backfield is strong in run support and cover. They will be a typical, tough Buckeye defense swarming to the ball and trying to create takeaways in every play.

Special teams are led by Junior Ted Ginn who may be the fastest player in the nation; he has returned 22 punts for a 12.1 yard per return average with 1 TD. He ran one back for a TD against Michigan in 2004, and he will also be ready to return kickoffs. Sophomore punter, A.J. Trapasso, leads a Buckeye punting unit that is ranked #2 in the Big Ten Conference and #24 nationally compared to a Wolverine unit ranked #77 nationally. Trapasso has a 41.2 yard average with 14 of 40 punts inside the 20. If the game comes down to a kick, Aaron Pettrey has converted 8 fo 11 field goal attempts and 47 of 50 extra points. Pettrey is 2 of 3 in the 50+ yard range, 3 of 4 in the 40-49 yard range with his longest being 51 yards.

This game will be determined by turnovers, points off turnover, red zone efficiency and the ability to come from behind, play over mistakes and/or make the big defensive stop at the end of the game whether it is the 4th quarter or overtime. It is a classic matchup of the nation's top offense against the nation's top defense, and a matchup of two strong defenses challenged to stop two strong rushing attacks. While it is certain that Ohio State has the home field advantage, the favored team by oddsmakers and pollsters, and the nation's finest player, it won't be enough in this game. Michigan's defense will rise to the occasion as Coach English and Coach Stripling "lets the Beasts loose." Woodley, Branch, Taylor, Biggs and Jamison combine with Crable, Burgess and Harris to sack the nation's top offense and Heisman hopeful Smith. Hall and Trent cover Gonzalez and Ginn to prevent big plays. Michigan holds the Buckeye offense to under 300 total yards, and will record at least 5 sacks. The Michigan offense led by Henne won't be flashy or spectacular, but efficient capitalizing on Buckeye mistakes. Michigan will win the time of possession and turnover battle plus points off turnover. Each team creates 3 red zones with Michigan scoring more points in their red zone journies. Hart gets over 100 yards, but it will take him 30 carries to do so. Steve Breaston won't be the game's most valuable player, but he will prove his value in this one! Offensively, one player won't stand out, but it will be a team effort. One team will wear down in the 4th quarter.

Michigan 23 Ohio State 20

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