Tyler’s Take: The Greatest Rivalry Of All Time

Steve O Speak

A Fanspeak Guest Blog By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Tyler Fenwick

It’s Michigan and Ohio State. It’s the greatest rivalry of them all. Simply known as ‘The Game’, its meaning goes beyond that. Everyone knows of the NFL rivalry between Indianaoplis and New England. Well take that, multiply it by ten, and you are half-way to how big this game is. Every Ohio State fan lives for the ‘Michigan game’, and every Michigan fan lives for the ‘Ohio State’ game.

The first meeting between these two was in 1897, when Michigan won 36-0. Overall, things have not changed. Michigan leads the all-time series 57-43-6, but Ohio State has won the last six. The most famous meeting between these two schools came just recently. In 2006, they met as number one and number two (Ohio State-1, Michigan-2). That, of course, went to the Buckeyes in a game that ultimately sealed their big in the National Chapmionship.

This week, the game may not have quite that much power on the rankings, but Ohio State is still in the top ten. But in this rivalry, you can throw the records out the window.

Looking at the game: We’ll start with Ohio State. For those of you who think Ohio State’s only play-maker is Terrelle Pryor, you have been greatly mistaken.

Dan Herron, running back, has been the X-factor this season for the Buckeyes. He may be one of the most underrated backs in the country and here’s why: Teams are no longer able to sit back and wait on Pryor to throw the ball. Herron’s presence in the game gives them that needed double attack of run and pass. He has almost 900 yards, averaging over five yards per cary, and has 14 touchdowns. He has the ability to give any team trouble.

Maybe one of the most improved areas of Ohio State football is the surrounding talent around Terrelle Pryor. They’ve certainly been a good team lately, but I don’t think they’ve had as much talent as this year. And I’m not just talking about individual talent. I’m talking about a total team effort that makes them so hard to stop.

This defense may be the best in the Big Ten. They are only averaging 14 points per game. It is a very disciplined defense that doesn’t bite often on play-action pass and option reads.

What can we expect from Ohio State offensively? The Buckeyes won’t make any dramatic changes to try to confuse this weak Michigan defense. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. It should be a balanced attack of run and pass. Dan Herron will be the difference if this one. They have to keep it spread out and try to penetrate the holes created on the line.

Terrelle Pryor is a very good quarterback. He’s not the most explosive, but he can still get things done on the ground when needed. The best part of Pryor’s game is probably his ability to deliver a strike on the long ball. He puts it only where his man can get it. I would expect him to have the green light to pick apart the weak secondary of Michigan.

What can we expect defensively? It’s so hard to say what teams should do against a quarterback like Denard Robinson. You can’t commit to his running game becuase he has beaten teams up with the pay action pass. But if you sit back and wait to see what he does, that’s also taking a huge risk.

If I were Ohio State, I would first commit to the running game. I think they will come out in a 4-4-3. It’s an easy formation to confuse the quarterback on who is rushing and who is dropping back. That could take away to deadly read option, and forcing Denard to think and slow down his game could be devestating for Michigan.

Now let’s look at Michigan.

Michigan is headlined by their star quarterback, Denard “Shoelace” Robinson. He is the leader of one of the most productive offenses in the nation. But what I think makes Michigan so special is their ability to score with Denard and Tate. It doesn’t matter who is in the game, Michigan scores.

Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith are the two running backs for the Wolverines, and they have had some explosive games, but not enough. It will be interesting to see how they come out in this one; wheather they give them ball to work, put them in the wideout, or just use them to block.

Defense has been the one thing that kills Michigan. Teams are able to run through, over, and around them seemingly at will. Maybe the most painful thing though, is that Michigan has a couple of shots at beating good teams, but the defense was not able to come through on clutch drives late in the game, putting it out of reach.

While the security of greg Robinson’s job isn’t certain, all he has to focus on right now is that school from Ohio, and stopping Terrelle Pryor.

What can we expect offensively? You can expect Michigan to go out and do what they do best: Give Denard the ball and don’t blink.

I know he’s been out of rhythem in late half of the season, but he is riding on a lot of personal momentum, being that he just broke two quarterback records last week against Wisconsin.

They will probably do a lot of read options as well as play action pass. It’s worked for them all year, so why stop now? The only thing I can see them doing differntly is taking more shots down field. Maybe they get a first down and hurry up to the line. Next thing you know, they’re airing it out. It could be very affective, especially early.

It’s not just Denard who will have to have a big game, though. Hemmingway, Stonum, and Roundtree are three very good recievers. If you’re asking how a wideout can possibly have a big impact, look at the Illinois game. They were able to evade tackles and get yards after the catch. And they needed every bit of it.

What can we expect defensively? I think Michigan’s run defense will be much improved after last week. They went head to head with the best rushing backs in the Big Ten. And, although they didn’t stop either of them, it was a good exposure to get ready for both Herron and Pryor.

Undoubtedly, Michigan will stick to their 3-4 defense. They shouuld be better prepared to face this rushing attack. So hopefully this will give them the opportunity to finally begin to shut down a quarterback through the air.

Also, they should try bringing pressure to the quarterback. It’s a risk that must be taken; leaving a weak secondary to likely go one-on-one with these wideouts of Ohio State. But making Pryor do some quick thinking off-balanace could lead to some mistakes. It may not be a turnover, but even an incomplete pass would mean they did their job.

Keys to the game: For Michigan, they will have to use the play action pass while letting Denard just plain run the ball. It’s worked for them most of the year, and I wouldn’t expect anything different. The defense should take risks on getting to Terrelle Pryor. Make him through the ball with a hand in his face.

Ohio State will need to play smart. They can’t turn the ball over to an offense like Michigan’s. Expect to see some quick screens mixed in with a lot of shots down field. The defense will have to mainly focus on keeping Robinson contained, but that might leave the secondary just open enough for the big play. All three lines of the defense will have to be on their A-game.

Prediction: If Michigan can get out to a quick start, I actually like their chances. (Understand: I am saying this looking at the game as true analyst, not a fan). Once they catch rhythem, nobody has been able to stop them. But, if they play only in the second half again, we will see a very similar game to last week’s. I have a feeling on this one, though. Michigan gets out to the needed fast start and wins on the road: 42-38.

Let me know what you think!

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