Ohio State Football

OSU/Michigan Preview: Michigan Offense vs. Ohio State Defense

11.13.06 | 3 Comments

In this entry we’ll take an in-depth look at the Michigan offense and the OSU defense. Let’s start with the Michigan attack.

Great offensive play starts with the big eaters on the line, two tackles, two guards, a center, and 0-2 tight ends/fullbacks/h-backs. Michigan has a good group anchored by all-world tackle Jake Long (6’7″ 317lb JR.) The other starters are Ruben Riley (T), guards Adam Kraus and Alex Mitchell, and capable center Mark Bihl. The quality of any offensive line is measured by the output of the running game and how many quarterback sacks are allowed. The running game is just fine thank you very much with the Wolverines averaging 194.5 yards per game and the Maize and Blue have only given up 14 sacks on the year, or 1.2 per game. Those statistics speak well of this line, they block well for the run and protect their passer.

The running game is anchored by Mike Hart (1,373 yard, 11 TDs) supported by capable backups Kevin Grady, Brandon Minor, and Jerome Jackson. The fullbacks are Obi Oluigbo and Will Paul. The running game has been the focus of the offense through the last part of the season due to injuries in the receiving corp making their production all the more impressive as opponents knew Michigan would line up in the I formation and attempt to run it down their throats. To Michigan’s credit, they have been able to execute that game plan week in and week out.

The passing game is led by Chad Henne (1,932 yards, 18 TDs, 7 Int,) a third year starter for the Wolverines. Henne is an efficient, drop back quarterback with a strong arm. He’s not terribly mobile and relies on the offensive line for protection. Henne’s targets include Mario Manningham (recently returned from a knee injury, not yet 100% fit – season stats 538 yards, 9 TDs,) Steve Breaston (537 yards, 1 TD,) Adrian Arrington (420 yards, 6 TDs,) and tight end Carson Butler (142 yards, 1 TD.) There is no doubt about it, the passing game suffered while Manningham was out injured. But, Steve Breaston had the game of his life vs. Indiana on Saturday and seemed to get around the dropsies he’s experienced throughout his career. Manningham caught one pass Saturday, but still doesn’t look in his early season form. Arrington continues to develop and impress displaying another solid effort Saturday. TE Butler makes tough catches over the middle and I’ve seen him pick up several key first downs in addition to being an excellent blocker.

Overall offensive production for Michigan this season has been impressive: 4,102 yards and 40 touchdowns, or 373 yards per game and 29 points per game. This isn’t a gimmick offense, no spread, no option, not alot of misdirection. It’s a simple, physical, and brutally effective straight forward attack. Given that the Michigan’s defense has been very strong this year, the offense has simply needed to be efficient and minimize turnovers, exactly what has happened to date.

Now let’s turn our gaze to the OSU defense; defensive success starts up front with the big eaters too. The two returning defensive starters for the Bucks were Quinn Pitcock (6’3″ 295lbs SR) and David Patterson each playing defensive tackle. The ends are Jay Richardson and Vernon Gholston. These players have motors that simply don’t stop and part of that is due to liberal substitution, the second team line is nearly the same quality as the starters including Lawrence Wilson and Alex Barrow at end and Joel Penton and Todd Denlinger at tackle. The quality of a defensive line can be gauged by looking at sacks, tackles for loss, and the efficacy of the opponent’s running game. For the season, the Buckeye defense has accumulated 33 sacks, 68 tackles for loss, and allows 90 yards per game rushing. These statistics indicate that while the Bucks don’t get the publicity of the Michigan or Texas defensive line, they are every bit as productive in results.

After losing the 3 starting linebackers to the NFL last year, one would expect a sharp drop off in production for the new starters this year. That simply hasn’t been the case, led by sophomore middle linebacker James Laurinitis, this has been a stellar unit. There are 5 other LBs who play in a platoon arrangement with substitutions being made on the basis of down and distance. JUCO transfer Larry Grant is the 2nd string MLB, Curtis Terry and John Kerr/Ross Homan are the strong-side ‘backers and Marcus Freeman and Curtis Terry are the weak-side ‘backers. The quality of the linbacking corp can be gauged by opponent’s rushing production (in support of the defensive line) and opponent’s third down conversion percentage. As indicated above, the Bucks are giving up around 90 yards a game rushing and opponent’s third down conversion percentage is 30.6% on the season. In addition, the OSU LB’s have picked off 9 passes this year. Results to date suggest the presence of a strong and active linebacker unit.

The secondary is a very similar story to the linebackers, all 4 starters departed mostly to the NFL. Again, one would expect a sharp decline in efficiency and production. However, the back 4 (and often the back 5 as OSU plays alot of nickle coverage) has been productive. Sophomore cornerback Malcolm Jenkins leads this unit with fantastic support from Antonio Smith, Jamario O’Neal, and Brandon Mitchell (with Donald Washington often in as the nickle back.) The measure of any secondary is in the success of opposition’s passing game in yards per game, interceptions, and passing defense efficiency. This secondary has been efficient allowing 171 yards per game, snagging 12 (21 total including LBs) interceptions, and the #6 rated passing efficiency defense in the country on the season. This statistical summary is even more impressive when one considers that virtually every OSU opponent has abandoned the run by the second half and is forced to chuck the ball to try to get back into the game.

Overall, the Buckeye defense is ranked 1st in the country where it matters most, scoring defense allowing just under 8 points per game to opponents. The high point total allowed was early in the season at Iowa when the D gave up 17. Overall, the defense is giving up around 261 yards per game. This is fast unit that is often overlooked due to the star power on the offensive side of the ball.

The key matchup between these two units is the Michigan offensive line vs. the OSU defensive line. If the Bucks can consistently apply pressure to QB Henne with a 4 man rush, it’s going to be a long day for the Wolverines. On the other hand, if the Michigan offensive line can help establish the run and give Henne time to throw, it’s going to be a long day for the Bucks. Hart vs. the linebackers will also be interesting to see, Hart has gotten his 100 yards in virtually every game, I think he’s got a good chance to get them in this game too. The OSU secondary vs. the Michigan receivers will also be a great matchup. If Manningham was 100%, it would be even more interesting. However, I think because Breaston historically has the dropsies and Manningham seems to be without cutting ability, the defensive backfield has a substantial advantage in the matchup.

Michigan brings a good and consistent offensive unit into the game. OSU brings a borderline great defense into the game. Success in the matchup between these two units will go the way of the team that consistently wins the battles in the trenches. Given the depth, speed, and production of the Buckeye defensive line, it might prove to be a long day for the boys in blue.

5 days to OSU/Michigan
Ohio State’s 2006 record: 11-0 Next up: Michigan 11/18
Tune: Stormy Monday Blues by T-Bone Walker
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