Breaking Down 'The Game' – UM's Passing Game vs OSU's Pass Defense
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — For Michigan to have a chance in this one, quarterback Devin Gardner is going to have to have one of the very best games of his career. The Wolverines stand a better chance of moving the ball through the air than they do on the ground, which makes this particular matchup so intriguing. If handled properly, it could be the area that keeps Michigan in the game.
UM Pass Offense: 234.0 ypg
OSU Pass Defense: 238.1 ypg
Devin Gardner has been a different quarterback over the second half of the season. He's been less explosive, but the good news is that he's cut down on his interceptions. He's now gone three games without throwing a pick, but Michigan is still just 1-2 in those games. There are rumors swirling that he is hurt, and while they may just be rumors, it's not a stretch to say that Gardner is far from healthy.
He'll be targeting Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess, and it will be up to cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Doran Grant to make sure that those two are corralled. Funchess will line up at receiver more than he'll line up at tight end, so the Buckeyes should be able to stick a cornerback on him more often than not. He's a big target, but has had issues with drops the last couple of weeks.
The issue isn't with Michigan's skill players as much as it is with the offensive line's inability to keep Gardner out of harm's way. The Wolverines are 112th in the nation in sacks allowed, and that number keeps getting worse as more teams continue to blitz the you-know-what out of Michigan's guards and center. Even simple twists and stunts from defensive lines are too much for this group at times. Every time Gardner drops back, he expects to have company almost immediately.
Ryan Shazier wraps up Devin Gardner
Photo by Dan Harker
The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten and are second in the nation in sacks (36.0), so this is going to be Michigan's biggest challenge to date; and to this point, even the small challenges have been too much. On passing downs, the Buckeyes will put three defensive ends on the field, along with Michael Bennett, who is one of the quickest defensive tackles in the nation. They will also blitz on those downs, so Michigan's offensive line will have fun with that.
Noah Spence, Michael Bennett and freshman Joey Bosa are all in the top 10 in the Big Ten in sacks, and they don't necessarily need help from blitzers to put pressure on a quarterback. If they get to Gardner early, he will bail out quickly. He has had issues feeling pressure that isn't necessarily there, as well as throwing to linebackers who he should have seen all along. His accuracy has waned, but he hasn't gotten any help from his teammates.
Photo by Dan Harker
Michigan hasn't had the advantage in the passing game since the Indiana game, and they're unlikely to have it here either. They will make some plays, however, as Gallon and Funchess are too good to stay quiet for long. The Wolverines will need to attack downfield, because they won't be able to piecemeal it all the way down the field with the dinks and dunks. They will need to grab large swatches of land when they can, and hope nothing bad happens the rest of the time. There may be an opportunity for a big play from receiver Jehu Chesson if they can match him up against Corey Brown. In fact, expect the Wolverines to try to match Brown up with their receivers whenever they can.
OSU Run vs. Michigan Run Defense
OSU Pass vs. Michigan Pass Defense
Michigan Run vs. OSU Run Defense
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