Michigan-#9 Ohio State: Brutally Honest Preview of THE GAME

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This week is rivalry week in college football. That means you get a lot of awesome games with cool names like “The Iron Bowl” (Alabama-Auburn) and “The Holy War” (BYU-Utah). But only one of these rivalry games can claim an actual war in the history of the geographic region it covers.

That’s the Michigan Wolverines vs. the Ohio State Buckeyes, or “THE GAME,” as it’s called. There’s a reason ESPN Classic ran a marathon of past tOSU-UM games on Thanksgiving.

(Well, maybe two rivalries can claim actual battles: also Kansas-Mizzou, as they had the abolitionist vs. slave state skirmishes known as “Bleeding Kansas,” in the 1850s.)

Anyways, this game doesn’t have the #1 vs. #2 hype that it had in ’06 (seriously, if you weren’t excited about that game then, you literally are a terrorist!) but it’s still big nonetheless. OSU can knock Michigan out of a New Year’s Day bowl, and UM can keep the Bucks out of the BCS!

By Paul M. Banks

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Michigan (7-3, 3-4) synopsis: Michigan has been struggling the past three seasons, and this year numerous other traditional college football powers have joined them in sputtering towards mediocrity. Rich Rodriguez has felt his seat get a little less warm, as most UM fans are much happier about a 7 win season than they ever thought possible. Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson is likely gone at the end of the year (see Illinois game, 2010 season defensive statistics, rise of Syracuse in his absence), so maybe sacrificing him will give Rodriguez a little more political capital in 2011? It also helps that he complied with the NCAA, and the ruling that could have yielded serious sanctions ended up largely in Wolverine favor.

At the end of the pre-conference slate, QB Denard Robinson was a lock to win the Heisman; and take over the world and cure cancer, all on his off days.  But his megahype died down due to playing actual defenses and a season of wear and tear from an absurd amount of offensive plays slowing him down. Now, he will not even be invited to New York.

Michigan is in the bottom ten nationally in time of possession, but they should try and control clock here to stay in this game. They run their spread-option at three speeds; look for them to utilize the slow tempo like a Boyz II Men power ballad. And like Dr. Dre says in the Dr. Pepper commercial:

“Slower is better. Trust me, I’m a doctor.”

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tOSU synopsis: Their national title hopes are long dashed, and that’s unfortunate because this really was the best collection of talented classes amalgamating all at the same time Columbus has seen since ’02. But don’t cry for them when they “take their talents to South Beach” for the Orange Bowl, they have 5 stars waiting to be plugged in at all positions.

Ohio State has won the last five meetings with Michigan and 8 of the last 9 overall. Michigan has not won in Columbus since 2000. The Buckeyes leads the Big Ten and rank third nationally in both total and rushing defense. They are tied for the Big Ten lead with 17 INTs, meaning this season you’ve seen more turnovers than Evan Turner running the point (Hey-Hey! Thanks, I’ll be in Columbus all weekend! Remember to tip your bartenders. Yes, a reference joke. No I kid Evan Turner, you know I love him).

The best part of this rivalry may have been the game notes email from the SID. It said: “here’s the info from our friends up north.” Because everyone affiliated with tOSU only refers to UM as “that school up north.” But when even the most PR-friendly of professionals do this, you know the rivalry is serious.

I also brought in an Ohio State expert to break down this game, Ashleigh Ignelzi of Columbus Wired TV, and the Foxy Frenzy.com, She’s the “returning champion” on our show. By that I mean our podcast. You can hear her break down THE GAME here

Guys you’ll see Saturday eventually playing on Sundays:

Given that the NFL Mock Draft is by far my most read regular segment, (well, after all the Jenn Sterger, Erin Barry, Jenn Brown, Ines Sainz and Erin Andrews stuff) my job would be so much easier if the Buckeyes were my hometown team. There’s a ton of  NFL quality talent in Columbus every autumn.

There’s at least one or two future NFL players in every position group. DT Cameron Heyward could be a top ten pick, DE Dexter Larimore has some pro potential, Linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, defensive backs Chimdi Chekwa and Jermale Hines, OL Justin Boren and Mike Brewster. Pryor himself too.

DeVier Posey may not have the same GQ wardrobe or late ’90s boy band good looks of Sanzenbacher, but scouts love his ideal size, speed and ball skills for a professional receiver.

On the other side, Denard Robinson is too small to be a NFL QB or RB, but he could make a damn fine return specialist. See Antwaan Randle El, who he passed up as the Big Ten’s all-time leading rusher by a quarterback. Steve Schilling could follow in the footsteps of Jake Long, Linebacker Obi Ezeh will get some looks and Troy Woolfolk had some promise before the season ending injury.

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Prediction to be taken with a grain of salt (actually make that a whole truckload of salt)

OSU 63, Mich 21  (Banks’ 2010 record 15-8)

Today, this rivalry is civil (no more militia warfare like in 1835-6) as the two schools collaborate on numerous initiatives, including organ donation drives. There’s a mutual respect; because the two men who built up this bloodfeud, Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler, are essentially soul-mates underneath it all. No one else understood each other like they did, despite always being at each others’ throats. Ever play the old Nintendo video game Zelda II: the Adventure of Link? Remember, conquering the game entailed defeating your shadow at the end. It’s kind of like that.

It’s only fitting the final game I cover this college football regular season be in the exact same venue I started this fall: Ohio Stadium. It’s a football cathedral complete with stained glass and an entrance-way modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. It’s big enough for this game, which began in 1897, and has produced 76 Big Ten champions over the years.

And this game, a regular season bowl game, is big enough for me! Especially after last week’s Wrigleyville Classic, which was large and in charge in it’s own right. That said, OSU is tops in the conference in defense, second in offense. Michigan is first offense, but dead last in defense. With BCS rankings (and therefore style points) at stake, the rout will be on!

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com

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