The Game is just days away…
In a previous article, I compared the Michigan and Ohio State offenses. Today, I’m going to do the same, but with the defenses. These are two incredibly talented groups, and the defensive performance could be the difference in the game.
In 2022, Ohio State’s defense was gashed for huge plays against the Wolverines. Despite struggling to consistently move the ball down the field, Michigan was able to light up the scoreboard through a string of huge plays. The Ohio State defense – or lack thereof – was the difference in The Game. So, how do these defenses compare in 2023? Let’s take a look.
Ohio State Defense
Opponents are averaging only 9.27 points per game against the Ohio State defense this year. The Buckeyes are yet to face an offense as dynamic as Michigan’s, but that’s a tremendous number nonetheless.
On the ground, the Buckeye defense is allowing 3.3 yards per carry, with an average of 108.5 per game. For reference, Michigan is averaging about 4.5 yards per carry. Against Penn State, which was completely one-dimensional, the Buckeyes gave up only 49 rushing yards, at 1.9 per carry.
Against Notre Dame, however, who is more dynamic in the air, the Buckeyes gave up 176 rushing yards, at 4.5 per carry. What’s the point here? When an offense makes the Buckeye defense worry about the pass, they can have rushing success. Sam Hartman, Notre Dame’s quarterback, was 17-25 for 175 yards and one touchdown. He wasn’t tremendous by all means, but he did enough to make the defense worry about the pass. The Irish were not one-dimensional.
Through the air, the Buckeyes are giving up only 144.36 yards per game, which is the lowest mark in the nation. A solid chunk of that can likely be attributed to playing in the Big Ten, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
The Buckeyes have a solid secondary led by Denzel Burke, but they’re definitely beatable. They’re emphasizing not giving up big plays this season, which allows for success underneath. For JJ McCarthy, who is at his best throwing short to medium routes, this plays into his strengths.
The most impressive thing about this Buckeye defense, in my opinion, is their pass rush. Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau are great off the EDGEs, and defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. is a great interior lineman. Hall is coming into The Game injured, so it’ll be interesting to see his impact, but the Buckeyes have been phenomenal at applying pressure.
Against Penn State, Drew Allar was never able to find a rhythm because he was constantly under pressure. While Michigan has an advantage in JJ McCarthy’s mobility, the Wolverines are going to need to give him time if they want to win. For Michigan, Ohio State’s pass rush definitely seems like the biggest hurdle to overcome.