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Across the Border: Northwestern

Massey from Buckeye Commentary stops by to give his weekly take on Michigan's game.

What I saw: Blah, blah, blah. You don’t care what I saw last week. We have talked enough about all those boring second-rate conference games. This week is the real deal. No matter how old I get and regardless of how many other things I have going on, this game makes me feel like I am 13-years old again. So, I am sure as hell not going to tell you to “get a life.” This game is very important.

Let’s skip ahead, shall we…

What I expect this week: Michigan has not been this excited for a game since the opening contest against Utah. In that game, the Michigan defense held Utah to 36 yards rushing on 43 attempts (.8 yards/rush). That turns out to be 150 less than the Utes’ season average.

A motivated Michigan defense can cause a lot of problems for this Ohio State offense. It is fashionable these days to say that the Ohio State offense has turned the corner, but a closer inspection reveals some big plays mixed in with a lot of short gains (1-3 yards) and even negative running plays. Pryor is a difference maker because he can run so well and Michigan has had difficulty defending a running a quarterback but, then again, lots of teams have difficulty stopping mobile quarterbacks. Just ask every SEC defense that faces Florida.

And, unless the Ohio State coaching veers dramatically from its recent trend (which they have been known to do in this game), the number of designed runs for Pryor will be a relatively low number. Stopping Wells will be the obvious focus of the Wolverine defense.

The problem is, Ohio State has a defense, too. And it has been playing really well of late. Combine that with the fact that Michigan’s offense is injury-riddled, which never allowed them to gain an appropriate rhythm, and you have a recipe for unleavened offense. Without gaining short fields off turnovers, it will be very difficult for the Wolverines to mount multiple scoring drives. I honestly believe that 250 yards of total offense would be an achievement for Michigan.

There has only been one time in the last 15 years when I was totally free of nerves for this game and that was 1998. That was the most talented Ohio State team I can remember and they were playing an average Wolverine squad coming off a national championship season. Michigan had no chance that afternoon. But I do not feel that way this week.

Michigan’s chances are not great but they have a little history on their side and sometimes that is all you need in a rivalry like this one. I have seen Shawn Springs fall down. I have seen Biakabutuka run for 300 yards. I have seen Stanley Jackson run a counter play to a Michigan LB.

I do not expect to see Nick Sheridan combine for 300 yards of total offense. But then again, I do not expect Tressel to be in a position “to go for three.”

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“Across the Border: Northwestern”