Michigan Football: Coach’s Corner — Michigan at Ohio State — “THE GAME” — The Basic Match-ups
The spread for this game is about five points Ohio State’s way. I see this game as more of a ten to fourteen point Ohio State edge. Many in the Columbus community give Michigan no chance, holding the assumption that Ohio State is the only good football team in a horrible 2012 conference. That predicted edge goes down significantly if Devin Gardner has a big day that yields big plays.
The game can turn on a penalty, a last second play, or a crucial turnover, just like any other hard-hitting rivalry game. But, the Ohio State offense versus the Michigan defense takes the front stage. Next, is how much the Michigan offense can operate against the Ohio State offense. Michigan will need to move the chain and occasionally come up with a big scoring play. It will be difficult for Michigan to run the ball in from inside the ten-yard line. The third factor is the coaching decisions and preparation. In many games, coaches just prepare for the obvious and hope the players execute and the result comes out the best. This game does not yield such a luxury. Both sides have extra preparation to undertake and problems to solve. Finally, the return teams have a great imbalance as Ohio State can score on both punt and kick-off opportunities and Michigan has yet to come close to making a big play on the kick teams.
CoachBT was kind enough to provide some technical information, so give him a shout out. Doc-
First up is a discussion of the Ohio State offense against the Michigan defense. This is problematic. Michigan’s defense again has continued to make some progress, but is not a dominating unit. There are players with very average speed on this unit that still have trouble in space due to a limited amount of athletic ability. But these guys play hard, are taught smart, and play as a unit. Michigan cannot let Ohio State get Braxton Miller one-on-one where he can easily defeat a less skilled athlete. Ohio State basically runs a West Coast Offense out of a spread, not greatly unlike what Coach Borges has done with his Denard hybrid package.
It will be both interesting and critical to see how (and if) Coach Mattison prepares to hold down the damage Braxton Miller can pile up. Wisconsin did a nice job of cupping, putting up an umbrella shield, whatever term one wishes to use. Braxton constantly started and stopped, giving the Badger defense time to assimilate to the ball carrier.
Ohio State can run the outside zone well, sliding the blocking to the outside where Miller can either hit the edge quickly, attempting to immediately get to the second level, or just run with the stretch and take the first opportunity. This option can be run out of several formations, giving Miller the help of tight ends, one or two backs, and sometimes an H-back. Mewhort is probably Ohio State’s best offensive lineman, and so Ohio State frequently runs to the left side and breaks big plays on this simple play.
Michigan will also need to be ready for a pitch from the option. If Hyde is not in the game, this option may become more of likelihood for Ohio State when the speed backs are in the game
Miller will run the quarterback iso and planned draw frequently. This is different than when he takes off on a scramble when a passing play breaks down. On the iso, a guard frequently pulls to lead Miller up the middle, if the tackle and middle linebacker get sealed, then Miller can easily create ten to fifteen yards on this play. It is a good sign if Miller hesitates or goes side to side, this is when he usually gets tackled in the backfield. Coach Hoke has stated that Michigan misses way too many tackles in the offensive backfield, on blitzes, or just ordinary rushes. Miller is strong as well as fast.
Opportunities will arise for Michigan defenders to make big tackles, these must be cashed in; the alternative is Miller running around in the Michigan secondary.
The running game for Ohio State uses zone blocking or iso-blasts. When the guards pull this is done to support the power running blast game. A guard basically takes the place of the fullback in a one-back set. The other option to gain an extra blocker is a tight end or H-back put in motion. Ohio State counts on dinking and dinking and then hitting the big play, either through the big pass or Miller breaking a play for a long gain.Carlos Hyde presents big problems for Michigan. Here is a big back that can run for over 100 yards that presents the perfect compliment to Braxton Miller. Michigan’s middle has been soft at times this year, but also at times has held down the fort and minimized damage. The Ohio State line will blast Hyde on straight dives or run the power isoblast to give him more blockers. Against Wisconsin, a physical team, Hyde was difficult to stop on short yardage and provided Ohio State with nice four or five yard runs early in the down count. Michigan will be well prepared for the power game, but it comes down to whether the front four can hold and the linebackers fill enough to stop Hyde in critical situations.
Ohio State will run the inside read that gives Michigan a double problem: Miller outside or Hyde (or another back) inside. Michigan will not only need to play with great strength but also great discipline. Gap integrity is a must, and the Michigan defense has worked very hard to become better as the year has progressed.
The edge is a concern any time an athlete like Braxton Miller is on the field. Michigan has had difficulty holding leverage on the edge for several years. Technique has been taught, situations practiced, and now it will come down to the players at the edge fighting off blocks and not allowing Miller a chance to simply make a one-on-one move on an outside defender. This is much easier said than done. Nebraska gave up the edge and paid dearly in an Ohio State rout.
The Ohio State receivers are capable of big plays either down the edge, up the seam, or on the post. Philly Brown could be a nightmare for Michigan; he is a great talent and tough downfield. The Michigan defense still does not defend the tight end game well, and so Ohio State will obviously use that option in key situations Saturday.
Miller has a strong arm; the accuracy is still a little up and down. But he is most accurate when comfortably in the pocket on play action throwing over the middle. Michigan has been vulnerable over the middle lately. The safety play of Michigan still does now show speed in defending the passing game, although the run support has been better. Ohio State will take its shots downfield, like most other teams Michigan has played lately. The result will be known Saturday.
The Ohio State defense is loaded with talent, but has not performed as an elite unit. There were key injuries early and the linebacker situation dictated moving Zach Boren to linebacker. Tackles were misses in space and the passing game of many opponents has yielded good results.The front four are very stout against the run, especially inside tackle J. Hankins from Detroit. Running the inside read play that has yielded little this year may be a waste of downs for Michigan.
The Michigan offensive line has had a good year in pass protection, sans some problems in the A Gap area. The belief here is that Michigan can and must pass to move the ball. The other option is Denard’s magic at running back, which from the one back formation is not that much different than the quarterback iso series he has run all year.
Coach Borges certainly must be aware of Ohio State’s strength’s and weaknesses. He has a chance to create a game plan that Ohio State will be hard pressed to totally predict. This game plan and the execution by the players may be the most critical element of Michigan’s chances for a win Saturday.
Ohio State will see the same base plays for Denard that were displayed Saturday. There are tons of options that Ohio State must additionally prepare for, such as halfback passes from Denard, reverses, plays that get Smith or Denard to the flat (although Devin goosed the ball to Denard last week on such a pass), and Devin taking off up the middle if the entire defense flows with Denard. Who knows, alchemist Al may throw in fleaflickers, throwbacks to the quarterback on sweeps, the entire package. There is of course only so much time to prepare, so the number of options off of the new D and D offense will be limited by necessity.
But it may be the passing game that gives Michigan the best chance of winning. Although Ohio State has some elite athletes in the defensive backfield, the unit has given up yardage. The backs look for the interception and will jump routes. It will be absolutely critical for Devin to successfully read the intent of Ohio State’s defensive backfield and know where the help is when the defenders jump routes. Ohio State will probably not change the attack mode, and so Michigan, with good pass protection, will have chances at big plays. It comes down to a good sell job by the receiver and a good read by Devin Gardner. Again, Coach Borges will be critical to Devin executing the passing game and not throwing interceptions. The linebackers can be had in the passing game, and Coach Borges may choose to send receivers to open areas in the middle and sit, staying away from route jumping corners.
Look for Michigan receivers to attempt to drive the Ohio State corners deep and then run outs, Devin has demonstrated clearly that he can throw this pattern well. If the corners jump the route, then Denard must rely on the receiver to turn upfield and then quickly make a throw. The slot man may run a post to get inside the help safety.It will be interesting to see how much Ohio State blitzes. John Simon does not need a blitz; he is a one-man pass rush. Michigan’s plans for passing success hinge in large part on neutralizing the very quick Simon as a rusher. Simon will go one-on one with Michigan’s two tackles: will Michigan use a back (not Denard of course) to max protect against Simon? The zone blitz package could yield big stops for Ohio State, or Borges can pick the right time and hit Ohio State with the right call.
Ohio State covers the edge reasonably well, so Denard’s damage may have to come on his magical runs between the tackles. Michigan would love to get Denard outside, but the outside linebackers of Ohio State have very good speed and the defensive ends have held up well the last few weeks, excepting some big runs by Wisconsin’s Ball. Still, like Miller, Denard can make any human miss at the edge. Both teams can accept the two great athletes, Miller and Robinson, breaking a few big plays. The key for both defenses is limiting the damage to a level that permits defensive stops.
One factor in Saturday’s game will be how well Denard can hold up. Anyone holding the ball is going to get smacked hard on Saturday. As an aside, this game has always been portrayed as clean, and was cleanly played last year, sans a couple of dumb Michigan penalties at the end, more so not bright rather than dirty play.
Both teams will be prepared Saturday. Ohio State has by far the better athletes. Ohio State is 12-0, regardless of the talk about schedule. Ohio Stadium will be the loudest place Michigan will ever play, and the fans live for one thing in life, an Ohio State victory over Michigan. Some in Columbus expect as much as a five-.touchdown Ohio State victory. If Ohio State gets ahead expect Meyer to speed up the game and go for a big knockout
In previous years, Michigan has entered Ohio Stadium with no plan or any real hope to win the game. The results were easy Ohio State wins, where Michigan struggled to score, let alone win. Things are different now, Ohio State is favored, but Michigan will not be meek. The defense will need to hold down the highest scoring offense in the conference. Conversely the offense will need to take up time and move the ball much like last week against Iowa, mixing in the big play at just the right time. Usually in this game the team that runs the ball the best wins. Ohio State has run the ball the best since Hyde has returned. Michigan simply probably needs to pass to win the game. Several lesser teams moved the ball through the air against the Buckeyes this year, especially Indiana with the quick passing game in the flat. California had good results throwing to talented, fast receivers.
Michigan has played Notre Dame and Alabama this year, so the Wolverines know about power football. That experience should help Saturday.
Like the old days, nothing is certain this year, and predicting the turning point or player who makes the unexpected crucial play is nothing more than a pure guess.
Best of luck to Team 133.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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