This season has been a disaster for Michigan football. After a shaky non-conference slate, the Wolverines have gone just 3-4 in the Big Ten, in large part due to their atrocious offense. They have not only lost, but lost in ugly, frustrating games. Now all of the bad and vexation will come to an apex, with Michigan hosting their arch-rivals and the #3 team in the country Ohio State Buckeyes.
The Big Ten is mediocre this year, with just three ranked teams and just as many with one conference win or fewer. Above it all, however, has been Ohio State. They are undefeated, and with a win against Michigan this week and Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game, along with a loss by either Florida State or Alabama, the Buckeyes could be looking at a spot in the BCS Title Game. They have outscored their opponents by an average of 30.3 points and their closest margin of victory was 7 points over Wisconsin. The Big Ten hasn’t challenged the Buckeyes at all this year.
Michigan, on the other hand, has lost three of their last four and four of their last six games. And these losses haven’t even been to particularly good teams; only one of their losses have come to a ranked team (Michigan State). Losing is bad enough, but the utter incompetence that Michigan’s offense has displayed is what has been so angering.
Al Borges, Michigan’s embattled offensive coordinator, has been dealt a tough hand, with a young offensive line that has been hopelessly outmatched by Big Ten defenses, a group of questionable running backs and a quarterback as inconsistent as any. But, one would expect the coach to try to tailor his offense so that it lessens the impact of their deficiencies, while putting his players in position to do what they are good at. Suffice to say, Borges has not done that with his play-calling. As a result, Michigan has rushed for an average of 32.5 yards over their last four games, twice finishing with negative rushing yards. The passing game has been only slightly better. Devin Gardner, after throwing for over 230 yards five times in his first seven games this year, hasn’t done so once in the last four. Over that four game stretch, Gardner has also completed under 55% of his passes and capped it off with a horrific 13-28 for just 98 yards showing against Iowa last week in a game where Michigan did not score in the second half and lost by a field goal.
So with Ohio State playing exceptionally well and Michigan playing as poorly as they have since Rich Rodriguez left town, Saturday has the makings of a brutal beat-down. The Buckeyes beat Michigan by scores of 42-7 in 2008 and 37-7 in 2010 and there is very little evidence out there that would suggest this year’s scoreline won’t be just as bad. Michigan are 16 point underdogs and that seems conservative, as the fact that the game is in Ann Arbor and it being a rivalry game are keeping it somewhat close.
After a horrid, pitiful Big Ten season, expect “The Game” to be nothing more than a climax, an exclamation point that presents all of Michigan’s woes on their biggest stage of the season.
You can follow Alex Dale on Twitter @alexdaleCFB