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Can the Wolverines Finally Own the Buckeyes?
Every third Saturday in November, a legendary college football rival renews itself on the gridiron. The University of Michigan and The Ohio State University tangle on the football field every year in what is one of the most bitter battles in the country.
The Michigan vs OSU football game nearly always has a lot on the line. For the better part of two decades, the winner claimed the conference championship and a trip to the Tournament of Roses.
There has never been a year when the game has taken on anything less than a bitter gridiron war, no matter how well each team’s fortunes have been the previous weeks. The fact of the matter is, these two universities are in some expert’s eyes, the bitterest rivals in all of the sports.
But, can Michigan, losers, for now, six consecutive seasons, finally beat the Buckeyes? Early season rankings had OSU in the playoff conversation, but Michigan didn’t seem on the same level as the Buckeyes. Most fans thought the Wolverines might have a nice season, but it would end with another disappointment in Columbus, Ohio on November 24th.
Not so fast college football fanatics. This season there are a couple underlying reasons why Michigan may very well be able to knock off their bitterest rival in college football. Here are two points that make what at season’s start many felt improbable, could turn out to be a long awaited reality for the Maze and Blue faithful.
Thus far this season, the Buckeye defense has been suspect against the run. They don’t even make the top 50 list in defending against opposition rushing attacks. So much so, that the Penn State quarterback, Trace McSorley, split through the OSU defense for 175 yards on 25 attempts.
Sure, McSorley is a noteworthy threat to run against any defense. His heroics would have bumped the Nittany Lions past OSU in the rankings if not for a pair of 4th quarter TD passes by the Buckeye’s signal caller. In the 46 point opening week victory over Oregon State, Artavis Pierce pierced the Ohio State defense for 168 yards and a pair of scores.
In fact, four times in their first seven games OSU has been carved up by at least one player for more than 150 yards on the ground. Michigan averages over 200 yards on the ground each week, with the opening loss to Notre Dame driving that average down.
Former Sarasota Riverview High School stat, Michigan senior Karan Higdon, pounded the heart of the Northwestern defense 30 times in the Wolverines 20-17 victory at Evanston. Higdon out gained Wisconsin’s heralded freshman Jonathon Taylor, helping Michigan to trounce the then #15 ranked Badgers at The Big House.
On the other side of this discussion, it must be noted the Michigan run defense is ranked 15th in the BCS. If Michigan can plug the holes, forcing the Buckeyes to constantly have to throw the ball, they will be able to take advantage of this edge. This edge will become even more emphatic if the Big Blue can run the ball successfully on the vulnerable Buckeye run defense.
Game Time Motivation
The Wolverine’s only have the opening week blemish on their record. Ohio State has yet to be beaten and is currently ranked second in both polls. The Buckeyes are undoubtedly a BCS playoff contender. In spite of that one loss to Notre Dame, Michigan is as equally viable a mention, worthy of the BCS playoff conversation.
The one-loss Wolverines currently sit at sixth and seventh in the pair of noteworthy polls. Unfortunately, in front of them sit those same Fighting Irish. With the number of precarious week-to-week matchups still on the schedule, Michigan could easily leapfrog at least two teams before the third Saturday in November.
The consensus number one is Alabama. No one really believes that a former Buckeye quarterback is going to have enough moxie to upset the Crimson Tide, even on the home turf in Baton Rouge. Alabama will likely play another one-loss team in the SEC championship, whoever wins the World’s Biggest Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, Florida.
The best case scenario for Michigan fans would be a Gator upset of the Bulldogs in Jacksonville, then Clemson to falter somehow on their way to trying to secure the ACC championship. As promising as it seems though, Michigan does need some timely upsets and a little help to be involved in the final four conversation at season’s end.
However, to even hope of being a talking point at that all-important BCS committee soirée, the Wolverines cannot lose another game. Another loss for Michigan, either this coming week against cross-state rival Michigan State or against Penn State in Ann Arbor will spell the end of any title hopes.
By winning each game until that date with the Buckeyes, will add a mammoth amount of game time motivation. The Buckeyes really don’t have too many pressing challenges ahead on their schedule, other than a likewise trip to East Lansing to face the upset-minded Spartans.
If all prognostications hold true, OSU will be no worse than the second highest rated team in the nation, with Michigan at worst, sitting at the doorstep of entering as one of the best four college football teams in the country.
If that happens, and the likelihood isn’t beyond the spectrum of reality, the real, game-time motivation for the 115th meeting between these two schools will take on a level of intensity few-times rivaled in their storied history.
The Michigan vs OSU football game always has pageantry. No matter where these bitter rivals sit in the national rankings, or how successful the previous weeks on the schedule have been, this game is a war of personal magnitude.
It’s been said that either of these teams could lose every game of the year leading up to the third Saturday in November, but beat their bitter rival, and an otherwise pitiful season would be somewhat salvaged.
This year, there may be a whole lot more on the line than just Wolverine/Buckeye bragging rights for another 365 days. And that ramped up game intensity may be the most glaring reason why Michigan really can beat OSU.
The running game will be critical for both schools. However, whoever feeds off that sense of urgent motivation may well be the team with the more points on the scoreboard at game’s end. For Michigan fans, it would be a joyful end to seven years of agonizing disappointment.