Breaking Down 'The Game' – UM's Run Game vs OSU's Run Defense
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Michigan running game might be the entire story when it comes to this game, and yet at the same time it's almost a complete after thought. Most believe that whatever the Wolverines get in the running game would be considered a bonus, which is outrageous when you think about the history of this game. The Buckeyes will likely be more concerned about other aspects of Michigan's offense, but the plan will always remain to stop the run first.
UM Rushing Offense: 128.8 ypg
OSU Rushing Defense: 95.3 ypg
There are three ball carriers to know on the Michigan offense, and none of them have done well this season. The carries will be split up between Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green, with some carries from Devin Gardner here and there as well. Together, they are averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. They have been completely unsuccessful running from the I-formation lately, and have only found a little bit of relief by running the ball mainly via draw plays recently. Gardner may prove the most effective runner of the group, provided he is healthy enough to be used properly.
Michigan runners have found little success
Photo by Dan Harker
The Buckeyes will have their three starting linebackers back this weekend, having missed middle linebacker Curtis Grant the last few weeks, and only getting strongside linebacker Joshua Perry back last week. Along with Ryan Shazier – the Big Ten's leading tackler – the Buckeyes should be more than capable of shutting down a running game that only cryptozoologists believe actually exists at this point.
Michigan's offensive line has struggled all season long when it comes to run blocking, and things have only gotten worse as time has moved on. Teams have been able to completely shut down the Wolverine running game without even having to focus their energy into doing so. When Ohio State spent 85% of their energy on stopping the Wisconsin running game, it worked, but it left cornerback Bradley Roby in an unwinnable position against Jared Abbrederis. There will be no such need in this game, however.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The Michigan offensive line, specifically the interior, has been unable to get to the second level this season, and in the rare times when they do, they don't necessarily find anybody to block. Blitzes between the guards and center completely confound this team, and their play-calling hasn't caught anybody off guard in a month. Even if the offensive line was more talented, it wouldn't matter because defenses seem to know what is coming.
Despite a front seven without a single senior, Ohio State is sixth in the nation in rushing defense; and even if they were 60th, this would still be a bad matchup for the Wolverines. To call the Michigan running game hapless would be an understatement. Of all of the variables in this contest, Michigan's inability to run the ball is the most sure. It is hard to even imagine a scenario where the Wolverines have much success here.
Clearly, the Buckeyes have the advantage when it comes to Michigan's ability to run the ball. There are few teams where the Wolverines would have the advantage in this situation, and I'm not sure that any of them are in the Big Ten. The winner of this game will most likely be the team that rushes for the most yards, and the probability of that team being Michigan is almost zero.
OSU Pass vs. Michigan Pass Defense
OSU Run vs. Michigan Run Defense
Michigan Pass vs. OSU Pass Defense
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