Football The Rivalry

Michigan Game is Personal for Mike Weber, Which Could Be Bad News for Wolverines

Mike Weber NU

Ohio State Buckeyes running back Mike Weber was imported from Detroit, Michigan.

It was not just a shirt worn by Weber when he arrived as a freshman, but a mentality.

A high school All-American at Detroit Cass Tech, Weber was a toss up as to whether he would end up at Ohio State or Michigan. Some will tell you that he went to bed the night before signing day as a Wolverine, but woke up as a Buckeye.

Who knows what dreams — or nightmares — led him to his ultimate decision, but there are certainly no regrets with where he finds himself now.

Against Michigan State this past Saturday, Weber rushed for 111 yards and went over the 1,000-yard mark on the season, becoming just the third freshman in Ohio State history to do so (Robert Smith, 1990; Maurice Clarett, 2002).

In that game, he could also be seen giving a few Spartans “the business,” which is something that quarterback J.T. Barrett had to rein in a bit during the game.

Now against Michigan, Weber is only going to be ramped up even more.

“Right now we’re looking at it as a national championship,” Weber said after the MSU game. “Now it’s really personal. A lot of people I played with, Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill, Michael Onwenu, Levert  Hill, all those guys I played with in high school, it’s going to be fun playing against those guys. I’m looking forward to it.”

Fun is something that Buckeye running backs have certainly had in this game over the years. Just looking back over this past century, a Buckeye running back has rushed for over 100 yards against the Wolverines 10 times. Ohio State is 10-0 in those games.

Five times Buckeye running backs have failed to rush for 100 yards against the Wolverines, but in two of those games — 2004 and 2011 — quarterbacks Troy Smith and Braxton Miller hit the century mark.

Three OSU running backs have hit the 200-yard mark against Michigan. Chris Wells in 2007 (39 atts, 222 yds), Carlos Hyde in 2013 (27 atts, 226 yds), and Ezekiel Elliott in 2015 (30 atts, 214 yds). Those three games all came in wins on the road, which tells you just how legendary those performances now are.

Mike Weber doesn’t have to worry about playing on the road, but that doesn’t mean he can’t go ahead and put up a legendary performance of his own.

Yardage has not been Weber’s issue this season, it has been touches. He has only had 20 carries in a game once this season, though history tells us that this is likely to change on Saturday when Michigan comes to town.

In four games under Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes’ starting running back has carried the ball at least 26 times in three of the four games. Elliott carried the ball just 17 times in the 2014 game. Quarterback J.T. Barrett added 89 yards rushing of his own in a little over one half of play.

Weber will have Barrett on his side again in this one, so both players will have to share the load. Meyer has shown that he is heavily-reliant on Barrett in big games, but Weber has also shown him that he can produce whenever called upon.

Saturday will call for everyone to play their very best, and this is a game that Weber has been looking forward to since he signed with Ohio State. He didn’t get to experience last year’s game, which is only making this a bigger game for the redshirt freshman.

Under Urban Meyer, OSU’s starting running back has rushed for an average of 177 yards against Michigan. Weber’s career high is 144 yards, which came against Rutgers on just 14 carries. He also had 14 attempts last week against Michigan State.

For a running back averaging 6.3 yards per carry like Weber is — and like Elliott averaged last season — 14 carries isn’t enough against Michigan, and Meyer knows it, that’s why his starting tailbacks have averaged 25 carries per game against the team up north.

Weber has nursed a shoulder injury the past month or two, but the time for nursing is over. This is Michigan and the Buckeyes are about to ask more of Mike Weber than they ever have before.

On Saturday he will get to experience his first Michigan game. He has been waiting for this day since he woke up nearly two years ago and decided to become a Buckeye. This is why he came here. It’s more than words on a shirt — it’s words from the heart.

“Now it’s really personal.”

Just as it always should be.

Ohio State running backs vs. Michigan since 2001

2001: Jonathan Wells, 25-129-3 (W)

2002: Maurice Clarett, 20-119-1 (W)

2003: Lydell Ross, 9-22-1 (L)

2004: Branden Joe, 14-52 (W)

2005: Antonio Pittman, 23-85-1 (W)

2006: Antonio Pittman, 18-139-1 (W)

2007: Beanie Wells, 39-222-2 (W)

2008: Beanie Wells, 15-134-1 (W)

2009: Boom Herron, 19-96-0 (W)

2010: Boom Herron, 22-175-1 (W)

2011: Boom Herron, 15-37-1 (L)

2012: Carlos Hyde, 26-146-1 (W)

2013: Carlos Hyde, 27-226-1 (W)

2014: Ezekiel Elliott, 17-121-2 (W)

2015: Ezekiel Elliott, 30-214-2 (W)

2016: Mike Weber…