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So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance…

November 27, 2010

If you’ve picked up the paper, surfed the internet, listened to the radio, or turned on a television this week, you’re well aware of the chances most people are giving Michigan against OSU this weekend.  Zip. Zero. Zilch.  After all, Michigan has the worst defense in the country, and Ohio State is 10-1 and has blown through most of its opponents.  And though Michigan has won 7 games this year, they’ve lost by double digits to every good team on their schedule.  Factor in that the game is in Columbus and OSU is playing for a share of the Big Ten title, and OSU is a 17 point favorite – which many experts think is too low.

But here’s what I will say….

It is definitely an uphill climb, but this game is winnable for Michigan.  Don’t believe me?  I’ll give you a few reasons why….

  1. The Offense – Sure the Michigan offense has started slow against PSU, Iowa, Wisconsin and MSU.  Not surprisingly, Michigan lost all of those games.  And in each of those games, save for maybe MSU, the offense had great success at some point in the game.  Despite its slow starts against those teams, this offense is still a Top 5 offense nationally.  When its clicking, there isn’t a defense in the country that can stop it.   With its quick strike ability and playmakers all over the field, it’s not impossible to envision a scenario where Michigan starts hot, and builds a 10-14 point lead.  Do that, and we’ve got a chance.  The problem in the past was that any offensive success came once we had spotted our opponents a double-digit lead.  Getting a fast start tomorrow is imperative.  It won’t guarantee a win, but I’m pretty sure that getting behind will guarantee a loss.
  2. OSU is Slightly Overrated – I’m not going to suggest that OSU is some sort of paper tiger masquerading as a Top 10 team – because they aren’t – they are definitely a very good team.  But unlike some OSU teams in the past that were barely challenged, this OSU team has looked vulnerable at times.  They fell behind early to Illinois and Penn State, struggled to beat Iowa, and never recovered from their poor start against Wisconsin.  They are deserving of their 10-1 record, but they aren’t the juggernaut they’ve been in the past.  In some years, like 2008, OSU’s B- game would have won them the game.  If they don’t bring at least their A- game tomorrow, this will be a close game in the 4th quarter.
  3. It’s a Rivalry – I don’t believe in the cliché that you throw out the records when two rivals meet.  In 2008 OSU was 9-2 and Michigan was 3-8 – we all knew how that one was going to end.  But Michigan hung tough for a half, and only trailed 14-7 at the half.  In 2009, OSU was clearly a better team, but Michigan trailed 14-10 in the 3rd quarter, and may have pulled off the upset if it weren’t for 5 turnovers.  Despite Rich Rod’s shortcomings, his teams, though winless against OSU, have overperformed against the Buckeyes the last 2 years.  I expect a similar effort tomorrow.  In the end, OSU may be too talented, but they were much more talented last year, and needed 5 turnovers, including a gift of a touchdown, to emerge victorious in Ann Arbor.  Sometimes rivalries are closer games just because it’s a rivalry.  Some have tried to claim that Rich Rod doesn’t get the rivalry, but given the way his teams have competed at a higher level against OSU, I think he gets it just fine.  And I think he’ll have the troops ready tomorrow.
  4. Denard Robinson – I know Denard hasn’t been “Shoelace, Heisman Trophy Candidate” in about 7 or 8 weeks.  Part of that is because of injuries, part of that is adjustments by other teams, and part of that is because the rest of the team hasn’t played as well.  But Denard Robinson showed early in the season that he was capable of doing things on a football field very few people have ever been capable of.  His performances against Notre Dame and Indiana were in a different stratosphere.  Now obviously OSU has a much better team and defense than Indiana and Notre Dame, so I don’t expect 500 yard games.  But if he can throw the ball effectively, OSU is going to have their hands full.  Great players make their mark in this game – Desmond Howard, Charles Woodson, Tim Biakabatuka, Troy Smith etc.  If Denard is great – and I think he is – he’ll bring something special tomorrow.  It may not be enough, but I wouldn’t count him out.
  5. You Never Know – The beauty about college football is that you never know what it’s going to bring.  in 1969 Bo Schembechler and Michigan hosted an OSU team dubbed “Team of the Century”.  Michigan was solid, but unproven.  Michigan dominated the Buckeyes, and it launched the 10 Year War.  In 2001, first year coach Jim Tressel brought a 6-4 OSU team into Ann Arbor to face an 8-2 Michigan team that needed a win for the Big Ten Title.  Nobody gave OSU a chance of beating a Michigan team that while flawed, was viewed as superior to an OSU team that had losses to multiple sub .500 teams.  Michigan came out flat, never recovered, and OSU won.  And as we all know, it set the stage for OSU’s domination of Michigan over the last decade.  Is Michigan going to win on Saturday because OSU won in 2001?  Of course not.  But don’t tell me it can’t happen.  In college football, this is exactly the type of game where the underdog shocks the world.

The bottom line is that on paper, OSU should win this by a couple of touchdowns.  But to invoke another cliché “That’s why they play the games”.  Michigan may not win tomorrow.  It may not even be close.  But don’t tell me that there isn’t even a chance.  I’ve watched enough football to know that’s not the case.

SATURDAY PREDICTIONS

  • The Michigan defense turns in one of its best performances of the year
  • Terrelle Pryor makes several great plays with his feet and arms, and several poor plays with his head
  • Denard Robinson looks more like “Shoelace” in South Bend than Denard in Happy Valley
  • Michigan keeps it close, but it’s not enough.  OSU 34 Michigan 27
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