“The Game” Preview: Buckeyes look to win 24th straight game, keep BCS title hopes alive

On Saturday, the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes takes on rival Michigan. Kickoff at Michigan Stadium is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on ABC with Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe handling the broadcast duties. As always, you can hear the contest on your terrestrial radio dial all across Buckeyeland on the 64-station Ohio State IMG Sports Network and around the world on satellite radio Sirius/XM 91 with “Big Daddy” Paul Keels, Jim Lachey and Marty Bannister on the call.

Philly Brown #10 of the Ohio State Buckeyes scores a touchdown on a 14-yard pass reception in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 24, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Philly Brown #10 of the Ohio State Buckeyes scores a touchdown on a 14-yard pass reception in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 24, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Ohio State enters the conference tilt with an unblemished 11-0 record, are 7-0 in Big Ten play, and have already clinched the Leaders Division crown. The 11 wins have come against Buffalo (40-20), San Diego State (42-7), California (52-34), Florida A&M (76-0), Wisconsin (31-24), Northwestern (40-30), Iowa (34-24), Penn State (63-14), Purdue (56-0), Illinois (60-35) and Indiana (42-14).

Michigan is 7-4 overall and 3-4 in the Big Ten, losing the three out of the last four in conference action. The seven wins were over Central Michigan (59-9), Notre Dame (41-30), Akron (28-24), Connecticut (24-21), Minnesota (42-13), Indiana (63-47) and Northwestern (27-19, 3 OT). The losses were to Penn State (43-40, 4 OT), Michigan State (29-6), Nebraska (17-13) and Iowa (24-21).

The Buckeyes are third in the latest BCS standings, 0.0964 points ahead of fourth-place Auburn. Ohio State is also ranked third in both the Associated Press and USA Today top 25 college football polls. The Wolverines were ranked 18th in the AP preseason poll and moved up as high as No. 11 after U-M’s win over Notre Dame, but dropped out of the rankings for the second time this year following their loss to Michigan State.

2012 – OHIO STATE VS. MICHIGAN

Urban Meyer enhanced his reputation as one of the top coaches in the country by leading Ohio State to a 26-21 win in his first matchup against Michigan, completing an undefeated slate with the Buckeyes. It’s Ohio State’s sixth unbeaten, untied season in school history.

Meyer, who came in and picked up the pieces after OSU’s 6-7 mark in 2011, was also saddled with the NCAA sanctions related to violations under previous head coach Jim Tressel, sanctions that kept 12-0 Ohio State out of the Big Ten title game and any bowl game.

Michigan used two big plays to take a 21-20 lead at the half, but the Ohio State defense never allowed the Wolverines past midfield in the final 30 minutes.

The Buckeyes took a 7-0 lead early as Braxton Miller hit Devin Smith for 52 yards, and then Carlos Hyde plowed in from three yards out. Hyde had 26 carries for 146 yards on the day.

Michigan used senior quarterback Denard Robinson, who had not started the past three games due to an elbow injury, on its first series. Robinson ripped off a 30-yard run, and ended up leading Michigan with 122 yards rushing.

Devin Gardner, who led Michigan to wins in its previous three games, hit Roy Roundtree with a 75-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter to make it 7-7.

Ohio State went ahead 10-7 on a 41-yard field goal by Drew Basil in the final minute of the opening period on a drive crippled by three penalties inside the Michigan 30-yard-line.

Michigan took its first lead of the day after recovering a fumble at the OSU 25. Gardner scored from two yards to produce a 14-10 advantage.

Ohio State went up 17-14 with 1:30 left in the half when Miller hit Brown for a 14-yard touchdown. Miller passed for 189 yards and rushed for 57 more.

Robinson’s 67-yard scoring burst just two plays later put Michigan on top, but the Buckeyes got a 52-yarder from Basil on the final play of the half to cut Michigan’s lead to 21-20.

The Buckeyes stopped Michigan on a fourth-down play near midfield to open the second half, then Basil hit a 28-yard field goal for a 23-21 lead. After a Robinson fumble was recovered by Ohio State’s Nathan Williams at the UM 37, Basil missed a 39-yarder.

Michigan watched Gardner fumble the ball away midway through the fourth quarter and set the Buckeyes up at the 10, but Ohio State settled for Basil’s 25-yard field goal for a 26-21 lead with 6:26 to play, and made it stand up.

OHIO STATE’S LAST GAME

Junior quarterback Braxton Miller gained 144 yards on the ground and threw for another 160 yards as No. 4/3 Ohio State defeated Indiana, 42-14, at Oho Stadium in Columbus on Saturday.

The game was significant on several levels. With the win over Indiana, Ohio State clinched a spot in the 2013 Big Ten Championship game and will play Michigan State at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 7. Its the Buckeyes second-consecutive Big Ten Leaders Division title. Ohio State also established a school record 23-game win streak, eclipsing the previous streak of 22 games set from 1967-69. The win streak is the longest in the country. The Buckeyes also broke the school record for single-season points, passing the 504 set in 1998.

Ohio State scored on consecutive possessions to start the game as Hyde scored on a 16-yard run and Miller hit paydirt after running through the middle of Indiana’s porous defense and down the near-sideline on a 37-yard scamper with 8:11 left in the first quarter that put OSU up 14-0.

But then the Buckeye offense hit the skids. Miller was sacked and fumbled at the OSU 36 on the next possession after forcing the Hoosiers to punt.

Early in the second quarter, Ohio State got a big play from its special teams as Bradley Roby blocked an Indiana punt that was recovered by Ron Tanner at the IU 8 yard line.

The Buckeyes needed just two plays to go ahead 21-0 with 8:36 to go in the second stanza as Miller ran around the right end on a reverse and somersaulted into the end zone eventually landing on his head for the TD.

Ohio State added one more touchdown just before halftime as Hyde ran five yards up the middle for the score with just 37 seconds left.

For the game, the Buckeyes totaled 471 yards of offense with 311 of those coming on the ground. Defensively, Ohio State was led by linebacker Ryan Shazier, who had 20 total tackles, including 16 solos, five tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.

MICHIGAN’S LAST GAME

Jake Rudock threw for 239 yards with two touchdowns to lead the Iowa Hawkeyes over the Michigan Wolverines, 24-21, in a Big Ten Conference battle at Kinnick Stadium.

Rudock converted 19-of-30 passes and was intercepted three times in the triumph. Mark Weisman finished with 88 yards rushing and a score on 17 carries for the Hawkeyes (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten). Tevaun Smith added five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown while C.J. Fiedorowicz caught three balls for 42 yards and a score.

For the Wolverines (7-4, 3-4), Devin Gardner threw for two touchdowns but just 98 yards on 13-of-28 passing. Derrick Green was the team’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 11 times for only 23 yards. Jeremy Gallon caught six balls for 47 yards and a touchdown.

The Michigan defense struck first as Brennen Beyer picked off a Rudock pass and returned it seven yards for the score less than two minutes into the contest.

The Hawkeyes tied it up late in the quarter when Rudock connected with Fiedorowicz for a five-yard touchdown pass.

The Wolverine offense found the end zone when Gardner hit Williams for a two- yard scoring pass in the second frame. In the final minute of the half, Gardner hooked up with Gallon for a nine-yard scoring strike to give the visitors a 21-7 lead going into the break.

The Hawkeyes cut the Wolverines lead to 21-14, as Rudock hooked up with Smith on a 55-yard touchdown pass early in third. Iowa tied it up when Weisman ran it in from nine yards out with 12:11 remaining in regulation. The Hawkeyes took their first lead of the day on a 34-yard field goal, giving them a 24-21 advantage with just over six minutes remaining in regulation.

On the ensuing series, the Wolverines drove the ball into Hawkeye territory, but Gardner fumbled and it was recovered by Iowa with just over two minutes to play. The Hawkeyes then ran out the clock as it recorded a third straight home win over Michigan for the first time in program history.

Iowa dominated on offense, finishing the game with 407 yards to just 158 for Michigan. Both teams struggled on third down, with the Hawkeyes converting 4- of-15 and the Wolverines just 4-of-14.

SCOUTING THE BUCKEYES

Ohio State is led by junior quarterback Braxton Miller, who has thrown for 1,626 yards on 132-of-195 (67.7%) passing with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions in eight-plus games. He’s also second on the team in rushing with 738 yards on 116 carries (6.4 avg) and five more scores.

Toting the rock, senior Carlos Hyde has gained 1,064 yards on 138 attempts (7.7 avg) with 13 rushing touchdowns. Senior Jordan Hall is second with 79 carries for 519 yards (6.7 avg) and eight TDs.

The Buckeyes’ top two wide receivers are senior Philly Brown with 49 receptions for 596 yards and nine touchdowns, and junior Devin Smith, who has 40 catches for 591 yards and seven TDs.

Defensively, junior linebacker Ryan Shazier leads the team with 108 total tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss. Senior strong safety C.J. Barnett is second on Ohio State’s roster with 61 stops. Sophomore defensive end Noah Spence has a team-leading 7.5 sacks, while junior cornerbacks Bradley Roby and Doran Grant both have three interceptions.

SCOUTING THE WOLVERINES

Junior quarterback Devin Gardner has completed 58.7 percent (176-300) of his passes for 2,509 yards with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Gardner is also second on the U-M squad in rushing with 473 yards in 156 attempts and 10 TDs.

Leading the Wolverines on the ground is senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, who has carried the ball 178 times for 613 yards and 11 touchdowns.

On the receiving end of Gardner’s passes, senior Jeremy Gallon has reeled in 71 balls for 1,109 yards and eight TDs, while Devin Funchess has 43 grabs for 686 yards and five scores.

Defensively, sophomore weakside linebacker James Ross III paces the unit with 81 tackles. Junior cornerback Raymon Taylor is next with 75. Junior defensive end Frank Clark leads the team in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (12.0). Sophomore cornerback Blake Countess tops the Big Ten with five interceptions.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Ohio State leads the Big Ten in scoring offense (48.7 ppg), total offense (530.9 ypg), and rushing offense (314.7 ypg). The Buckeyes are fifth in the conference in passing offense (216.2 ypg). Defensively, OSU is third in the Big Ten in scoring defense (18.4 ppg), fourth in total defense (333.4 ypg), second in rushing defense (95.3 ypg), and 10th in pass defense (238.1 ypg).

Michigan is fifth in the Big Ten in scoring offense (33.1 ppg), 10th in total offense (362.8 ypg), 11th in rushing offense (128.8 ypg), and fourth in passing offense (234.0 ypg). Over on the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Wolverines are seventh in the conference in scoring defense (25.1 ppg), fifth in total defense (353.0 ypg), fourth in rushing defense (116.4 ypg), and ninth in pass defense (236.6 ypg).

Prediction

Michigan just doesn’t have a strong enough defense to stop Ohio State. Offensively, the Wolverines have been struggling as of late and won’t be able to keep up with the Buckeyes.

Going conservative with my prediction, though I think Ohio State just might win by an even bigger margin.

Ohio State 42, Michigan 16