Previewin’: That Team Up North

Posted by Vico in Buckeye Football |

Donnie is going to open up his heart and let his Hate out.  Meaning: Donnie is going to open up your heart and let your blood out.
Donnie is going to open up his heart and let his Hate out. Meaning: Donnie is going to open up your heart and let your blood out.
I have a business trip that’s going to keep me in between cities in North Carolina. This trip starts Thursday.  Therefore, I’m putting up my preview post a little early.  I discuss expectations for this year’s rendition of The Game below.

There’s an odd contrast to both teams this game, and it’s a contrast that’s developed over the years.  For the Buckeye fan’s formative years (if you’re my age), or young adulthood (if you’re a bit older), Hate Week (as it should be called) was more a Dead Week.  Michigan owned this series in the 1990s, going 7-2-1 against the Buckeyes.  We own it now.  A Buckeye win on Saturday gives the Wolverines only 2 wins against Ohio State this decade (2000, 2003).  Lloyd Carr flipped this rivalry on its head (with assistance from John Cooper) for the first couple years when he took the reins.  Jim Tressel has, in turn, altered the course of this rivalry during his tenure as Ohio State coach.  Rich Rodriguez is the man now in Ann Arbor, but his first year as Michigan’s Man did not result in a soulcrushing loss for Ohio State that Bo Schembechler (1969), Gary Moeller (1990) and Lloyd Carr (1995)1 were able to deliver in their respective first years.  Fortunately, the second half of Rodriguez’ first game against Ohio State was hilarious.

This contrast extends to this season as well.  2009 started out, and will end, very differently for each side.  Ohio State mostly limped out the gates.  A near miss against Navy was followed by an eye-gouging display of offense against the Trojans in a losing effort.  Anxieties mounted regarding playcalling, assistant coaches, Pryor’s development and so on.  Meanwhile, Michigan started 4-0, were putting up points aplenty, and had their QB considered to be a frontrunner (preliminary, but deserved at the time) for the conference’s offensive player of the year.  Now, Ohio State has rallied after an avoidable loss to Purdue in a bipartisan Ross-Ade Stadium, has won out to this point, and will go to the Rose Bowl in January.  On the other hand, Michigan has lost 4 straight, a number that goes to 6 straight if we omit the game against Delaware State.  While we sit at the top of the conference, another loss for the Wolverines puts them at last place in the conference (pending what happens with the Bucket Game between the Hoosiers and Boilermakers).  Another loss for the Wolverines also makes them bowl ineligible for a second straight year, something I would never, ever have expected to see in my lifetime.

Michigan will pull out all the stops for Ohio State, and it’s something we’ll have to be consider.  This is basically the biggest game they’ll play here.  If they lose, their season is over.  If they win, perish the thought, they’re eligible to play in the “Little Caesars Pizza Bowl” in a game no one will watch.  That’s right win, and you get a bowl commissioner saying “take them to Detroit2Tate Forcier, the aforementioned freshman QB who had a hot start to this season, will lead the charge.  He’s 4th among the conference QBs in QB ratings (behind Kirk Cousins, Daryll Clark and Scott Tolzien) and, generally, has been much better than I would’ve expected entering this season.  I’ve noticed, though, that as the season’s moved forward, Forcier has been doing less and less.  It may be fatigue.  He’s second in conference in sacks taken (behind Minnesota’s Adam Weber), something that reflects on the O-line (going Mark Ortmann, Stephen Schilling, David Moosman, Patrick Omameh, and Perry Dorrestein, left to right).  Where he would cut up field and rush for yards against Notre Dame and the Directional Michigan schools, he now seems to scramble to hope something opens downfield.  He’d sooner run out of bounds for a small loss or minimal gain than he would do his best Tim Tebow impersonation.  Denard Robinson will take some snaps as well.  He’s definitely more a run threat than a pass threat.  He’s been on the field for 86 plays, running 59 times for 320 yards and throwing 27 times (12 completed) for 185 yards.  As you know, both QBs are freshmen.  Unless it gets real ugly, you won’t see David Cone or, our good buddy, Nick Sheridan.

Michigan’s one of the conference’s best running teams (195.8 ypg), second only to Wisconsin (208 ypg) in yards per game.  Under ideal circumstances, I think Rodriguez would run the ball all day.  His style of “spread” is not to be confused with the Leach/Franklin Airraid.  Brandon Minor is the team’s leading rusher with 502 yards (5.2 per carry) and 8 TDs.  260 of those came against Purdue and Notre Dame.  Carlos Brown contributes 48 yards a game to the effort as the team’s second leading rusher.  The third leading rusher? The aforementioned Denard Robinson, who contributes about 29 a game.  The QBs combined account for almost 50 yards to the decimal of the team’s 195 rushing yards a game.  Michael Shaw and Michael Cox and Vincent Smith round out the meaningful rushing yards for the Wolverines offense.

Michigan has a host of WRs that will see the field against the Buckeyes.  Though possessing one of the conference’s most productive QBs in the conference’s highest scoring offense3, Michigan averages only 195 yards through the air.  A little surprising, but I remind myself that we are far and away last in that category. Groan.  The starters are listed as Roy Roundtree, Martavious Odoms4, Junior Hemingway and Greg Mathews.  Roundtree, Mathews and Odoms lead the team with receptions with 23, 23 and 22 respectively.  Roundtree has that element of explosiveness.  He showed as much against Purdue with a 10 catch, 126 yard effort.  I admit I don’t follow Michigan football that well (and why would I?), but Roundtree has impressed me more than Odoms in what I’ve been able to see.  Michigan has not had too much to boast on the field of play, but I think Rodriguez has done a much better job this year incorporating the tight end into the offense.  It was something lacking from his WVU days, but Kevin Koger has come along for the Wolverines.  He has 16 catches, 220 yards and a pair of TDs.

I also hope to see a lot of Zoltan Mesko this game.  He’s the punter Tressel wishes he had.

Michigan’s offense has mostly served them well this season, minus the Nittany buzzsaw they ran into earlier this year.  Their defense? Not so much.  Michigan’s rush defense is the conference’s worst in conference play, allowing 196.6 yards per game.  They’re 84th nationally in scoring defense, 84th nationally in rushing defense, and 82nd nationally in pass defense.  Perhaps conference play is a better measure.  Therein, they fork over 444 yards a game to opposing offenses.  The most embarrassing was probably the Illinois game, where they conceded over 500 yards to an Illini offense that struggled to net over a 100 against any other team with a pulse to that point.  It has not been a good first year for defensive coordinator and former Syracuse man Greg Robinson.

Brandon Graham made some noise early this week.  He’s also been making noise the entire season.  He did more talking than I would for a W/L record, but the senior defensive end is the team’s best defensive player.  He has 57 tackles, leads the team in sacks (8.5) and accounts for an absurd amount of the team’s TFLs.  Graham is the star of the show for Michigan’s defensive line, but NT Mike Martin and tackle Ryan Van Bergen should be highlighted as well for rounding out the unit.  Van Bergen has five sacks.

Craig Roh is one of those hybrid-y type linebacker/end positions in Greg Robinson’s defensive schemes.  In Robinson’s schemes, I think this gets called a “quick end”.  He’s only a freshman, but has contributed already.  He’s third in sacks, third in TFLs, and has 30 tackles.  Obi Ezeh is the middle linebacker, and, if I remember correctly, it’s been rough going for him this season.  He’s second in team tackles and has 5 TFLs, but most discussion of him centers around the term “regress” and not “progress”.  The same holds for Jonas Mouton (WLB).  He was yanked against Purdue for a screwup on Purdue’s first TD.  Is Stevie Brown their best linebacker?  It’d seem that way.  He’s second in TFLs and leads the team in tackles.  He usually close to the ball.

I don’t want to exaggerate, but I can’t think of a secondary in college football (that I’ve seen at least) that’s struggled more than Michigan’s unit.  Boubacar Cissoko’s absence from the secondary sadly makes them better, but does not turn them into Florida’s secondary.  The two cornerbacks are Donovan Warren and Troy Woolfolk, with Warren probably serving as the best member of the secondary.  That’s not saying a lot, and he fluctuates from being respected to the point where someone else in the secondary is preyed upon to other times being toasted.  Woolfolk was originally a safety, but moved to corner.  Speaking of safeties, Dane Sanzenbacher will hopefully be roaming behind SS Jordan Kovacs and FS Mike Williams.  They’ve struggled too… a lot.  Again, it’s been a rough season for everyone in the secondary.  I hope it’s rougher on Saturday.

  1. I thought about individually linking to these games on YouTube, but… nope… not gonna. []
  2. If there’s one thing wrong with my blog (and there are several), it’s that I don’t reference Kentucky Fried Movie enough. []
  3. This “highest scoring offense” distinction for Michigan disappears if you consider league games only.  In Big Ten games, they are 7th in conference. []
  4. Roundtree and Odoms split duty at the Y position in Rodriguez’ offense. []


Written by: Vico | full bio

Vico is the nom de guerre of the founder and current website chair of Our Honor Defend. He is currently living in exile in Alabama.


10 Responses to “Previewin’: That Team Up North”

  1. 1 Ed

    Vico……….my thoughts…….

    * Our Defense I am confident will put out another Nittney showing. ( we play inspired on the road ) Taint ( yes I said T-A-I-N-T ) Forcier will ( I believe ) be knocked out of this game before halftime. 2 saltine crackers , and this guy has to take a shit. Michigan in my eyes is very one diminsional, we eliminate thier run ………and they have nothing.

    * Our Special teams needs to play out of thier minds ………..they’ve been spotty all yr , but has come up huge when needed.

    * Evil Tress needs to exploit the middle of Michigans defense, it is there for the taking. Thier strength on D is thier DE’s………take them out of the play and we get huge runs going…………especially Pryor breaking up the gut to move the chains . Pryor will be the next Michigan killer ( ala Troy Smith ).

    * Dane , Posey , Duron should see alot of action ………………and have a huge day.

    * Evil Tress relinquishes a tyranny of plays that DickRod will be pacing the sidelines wondering where the hell theses plays came from, cause he hadn’t seen them all yr. Ahh note to DickRod…………Evil Tress has plays he only shows during this game . ( I think he needs to use them in BCS bowl games as well , but any hoo ).

    Lastly……………I seriously hope we drop half a hundred on these guys in ” The Shit House ” , the emotional and
    psychological pain Tress gives Michigan coaches is a show to watch unfold on the sideline in itself. Seeing DickRod come unglued for the millionith time on National TV AGAIN will bring joy and happyness to this whole hearted Buckeye………yes in deed.

    Go Bucks!!!………..and FU** Michigan, because were going back to Cali – Cali – Cali……………..

  2. 2 Ed


    We might see Pryor lined up at WR in Red Zone situations or especially if we are inside Michigans 5 and its 3rd down or even 4th down……………could be crazy, but hey………..its Michigan.

  3. 3 formerlyanonymous

    Re: Running backs

    Minor/Brown are made of glass in practice. Minor’s had nagging injuries all year with the ankle, and this week his shoulder is dinged. I don’t expect that to keep him out of the game. Brown has had similar undisclosed leg problems, thought to be either an ankle or hamstring injury. Vincent Smith has jumped Shaw (another made of glass candidate) and Cox in the depth chart and played meh last week. Cox is more of a big back that runs up the middle. You’ll probably see fullback Kevin Grady before you see him.

    Re: Y-position

    Odoms has also been injured of late. He’s the best all around player at the Y with his ability to block players much bigger than him. Roundtree does have the more explosive catching ability and better “in-space” moves, but not by a whole lot. Koger, the tight end (included as they line up in the Y often), drops several easy passes. He’s got good size and can make some insanely hard catches, but some of the easy passes bounce right off his hands.

    Re: Linebackers

    Ezeh has also been benched in a few of the recent games for walk on Kevin Leach. Leach was brought in because Rodriguez wanted to cover “a speedier team”. Leach doesn’t really look that quick. I expect Ezeh because he’s not a piece of paper that the OL can just run over. Ezeh is tremendously slow at reading run/pass, and has been blocked by or OL or even been sealed off by reading the play wrong a lot this year. Brown is the only linebacker that can half way cover a tight end. The rest are horrible, and anytime they give up a big play on a bonehead mistake, they’ll be substituted for.

    Re: Secondary

    Passes over the middle will be open all day. In Robinson’s system, the SS is the deep safety and the FS plays closer to the line, basically opposite of what you would normally think. This means the walk on safety plays the deep part of the field. He is slow. FS Mike Williams is bad. That’s all I can say about that.

  4. 4 Dan Isaacs

    Vico, where will you be on gameday? If you’re in Raleigh, the Skybox Grill in North Raleigh is home to the Alumni Club. Rudino’s Sports Porch in Apex is owned by an MSU grad, and there are 10-20 buckeyes there usually (it’s also where I go). If you’re in Chapel Hill, BW3 is owned by a Columbus native, and will have it on a big screen.

  5. 5 Vico

    I’m at Hams in Chapel Hill right now. Couldn’t find bw3s

  6. 6 buck

    minor is officially out for our game… GO BUCKS

  7. 7 JohnBoy

    Stephanie Spielman – RIP. What a loss. I hope they do something at the game to honor her.

  8. 8 Vico

    Yeah, I was genuinely saddened to hear that, especially knowing how much she was worshiped by her husband. She was a great crusader in Central Ohio for a worthy cause

  9. 9 Ken

    That is tough to hear. It was a tough struggle, and Chris & Steph and the families bore it well. God bless them.

  10. 10 Ed

    Thoughts and prayers go to Chris and his family………………….

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