We are (slowly) approaching the biggest game in the last decade for Michigan football in what seems to be a week where time is moving in slow motion.
The last time Michigan played in a game of this magnitude was 2006. A game that captured a national audience in a #1 vs. #2 match up between rivals with a birth in the National Championship on the line.
Ten years later, we find ourselves in a very familiar position. This time it’s #2 vs. #3. This time there is a trip in the B1G Championship game mixed in with a playoff birth.
Last week made a lot of Michigan fans nervous because the gap between Wilton Speight and John O’Korn seemed greater than the “heated QB competition” we heard about during the summer led us to believe.
Now by no means was John O’Korn what I was hoping to see, but there were other factors at play. Yes, he did look nervous and uncomfortable with happy feet in the pocket early on. Yes, he missed some easy throws by a wide margin. But it’s not all doom and gloom either.
The difference in offensive line play from the first half to the second was night and day. Especially with run blocking. O’Korn showed flashes with the 30 yard scramble and throwing a really pretty deep ball (protection gave him an ideal pocket) to Darboh that went off his fingertips.
Unless you were in Ann Arbor, you don’t know how nasty the weather was. Waving flags on television didn’t do it justice. It was flat out horrible outside and the weather for this coming Saturday in Columbus is projected to be ideal football weather (as of now).
Although it was great for O’Korn to get that experience, I think any of those valuable in game reps will be applied in a back up role.
I think Wilton Speight will walk onto the field as the starting QB at the Horseshoe when Michigan gets it’s first possession of the game. There have been some whispers swirling, but I have had this opinion for quite some time. I think Wilton Speight will start.
To follow that up, I don’t think Wilton Speight would’ve been able to play had they tried to rush him back for the Indiana game. I think it was a calculated gamble to give themselves the best chance to have the team’s true QB available for the noon kick in Columbus.
This won’t catch OSU off guard, for as good as their coaching staff is, they will prepare accordingly and be ready to go. Catching OSU off guard is not the purpose, Speight (even if not 100%) gives Michigan the best possible chance of beating the Buckeyes for the first time in too long.
This game has been running through my mind in a perpetual loop since the clock hit triple zeroes in the snow globe that was the Big House last Saturday. There are obviously exceptions in every fan base, but both teams recent performances have people a bit unsure of what to expect when these two rivals collide on Saturday.
However, the national media pundits make it sound like Michigan doesn’t have a chance and it’s nearly a forgone conclusion that Ohio State or Penn State will represent the B1G’s East division in Indianapolis.
Here are some of my thoughts and predictions regarding the game that have me a bit more optimistic about Michigan’s chance of winning and continuing what has the makings of a magical season:
- As I said before, Wilton Speight starts. I don’t think he will put up gaudy numbers, but he will give the offense a better chance to score points in a game that I think turns into a low scoring slugfest. Look for a lot of three step drops and quick slants to limit any chance of him taking big hits. If the running game is successful, I think you can get greedy with play action, deep drops, and airing it out a couple times. Stat line prediction – 13/20 for 145 yards and a TD with no turnovers.
- This is not going to be a game of dark horses and unsung heroes. In order for Michigan to win, they need their seniors and their stars to carry them in a big way. With that being said, I think De’Veon Smith has another big game. Stat line prediction – 115+ yards rushing and continuing to be an anchor in pass protection and blitz pick up.
- Granted OSU is better than Indiana, the Indiana D-Line is solid and our offensive line was able to create big holes and give O’Korn time in the second half. They will need to maintain that same effort for 60 minutes on Saturday. Also keep an eye out for how OSU’s O-Line handles Michigan upfront. Rashan Gary, Taco Charlton, and Chris Wormley have been getting held by the opposition (with no flags) for quite some time now. Penalty yardage could put JT Barrett and OSU in some tough down and distances and obvious passing situations. Which favors Michigan.
- In order to be successful and win down there, Michigan will have to continue to have a balanced attack and spread the ball around to all of it’s playmakers. I don’t see one guy shining like Darboh did against Sparty. Stat line prediction – Jake Butt will be Michigan’s leading receiver with 50+ yards and a TD.
- Kenny Allen has brought some much needed stability back to the kicking game since his struggles early on. I think he continues to be an under the radar difference maker with punts to maintain (or gain) field position in tandem with excellent kick coverage. I think he will quietly be one of the players of the game.
- It’s difficult to predict what and how Jabrill Peppers will impact the game because of the numerous roles he plays in all three aspects for Michigan. However, I think he plays his best game of his career in the maize and blue. Stat line prediction – I think he has his signature moment as a Wolverine, but I have no idea how that happens or what it looks like. My heart tells me it’s a punt return but I recognize that the past is influencing that in a significant way.
- Regardless of who starts at quarterback for Michigan, this game will be won or lost based on how the defense performs. Luckily for us, our defensive coordinator isn’t out doing job interviews at Purdue or anything this week. I think our defense will hit JT Barrett early and often and will force 2+ turnovers. One of which will be a game changer to either flip momentum or throw gasoline on an already burning fire of momentum.
- Random additional prediction – There will be a moment that will flirt with breaking into the Top 5 All-Time Michigan moments list.
Final Score Prediction – Michigan 19 – Ohio State 17
This game will be an old fashioned slugfest. What are your thoughts?