Michigan mailbag: It's rivalry week, folks
November, 27, 2013
By Chantel Jennings | ESPN.com
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesFrank Clark and the Wolverines must get pressure on Braxton Miller without letting him take off.With tomorrow being Thanksgiving, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who stops by here to read. There’s a lot to be thankful for and the fact I get to write about stuff that people read and care about is pretty darn awesome. So thanks.
With that, let’s get to the mailbag.
1. Matt Faremouth, Woodhaven: What does Michigan need to do to have a chance Saturday?
A: Michigan would need to play its best football by far, and Ohio State would have to make some costly mistakes, which it hasn’t done much of this season. Michigan needs to find a way to contain quarterback Braxton Miller. His arm and accuracy are greatly improved from last season and if Michigan rushes without being smart and creates holes in the defense, Miller will make the Wolverines pay with his feet. He has accounted for 19 passing touchdowns with just four interceptions, and he has found the end zone five times with his feet (all in the last four games). Add to that his targets down field and running back Carlos Hyde and the Buckeyes’ offensive attack is pretty scary. Oh yeah, and the experienced offensive line. Don't forget the O-line.
Offensively for Michigan, the players who need to make the biggest jump are the linemen. They need to protect for Devin Gardner better than they have all season. The Buckeyes' pass rush is going to be fierce, and those young guys will need to play well and play together. And if they can do that, they give Gardner a chance. Gardner then needs to make smart plays, hit his receivers in stride and not turn the ball over. This is a defense the Wolverines will need to run against, which probably means Gardner will have to pick up some yardage with his feet. But if he can do that successfully, it’ll keep the pass rush at bay at least a bit. And the running backs need to help out, too. Basically, every player needs to play his best and give full effort on every single play. That’s not too hard, right?
2. Tim, New York: Will Gardner finish this game?
A: Interesting question. There are three scenarios in which I see him not taking the final snap for Michigan. 1) If Michigan is ahead by a lot. 2) If Michigan is trailing by a lot. 3) If Gardner is injured. In all of the instances the Wolverines would turn to freshman quarterback Shane Morris. I don’t see No. 1 happening. No. 2 and No. 3 are possible. Gardner has gotten beat up this season, and Ohio State leads the conference in sacks (36), so they definitely can -- and will try to -- get pressure. Obviously, you never want to see a kid get injured or have to leave a game because they’re hurting, so I truly hope No. 3 doesn’t happen, either. I would say No. 2 is the most probable. If this game gets out of hand and Ohio State takes a big lead, I could see the Wolverines letting a few backup get in for the experience.
Mike Carter/USA TODAY SportsDevin Gardner has been beaten up this season and will need better protection if MIchigan has any hope of an upset in The Game.
3. Joshua, Michigan: Should there be any worry about Jabrill Peppers flipping?
A: Peppers said the reason he wants to take the visits is because of the rumors that Hoke might not be at Michigan next year. He said he’s still 100 percent committed to the Wolverines. However, this definitely opens the door for other programs. A few months ago Peppers was ready to run through the doors for Michigan and now he’s checking out his options. This is supposedly spurred by the fact some people are saying Hoke is “on the hot seat.” Now, I really don’t think Hoke is. The people who sign his checks and the people who play for him love him, and those are the two most important groups to please. But the rumors have started and have now affected a Michigan commit. And, I would assume Michigan’s play on the field definitely hasn’t helped Peppers’ perception of the program. At the end of the day, recruiting is a tough world. I’m not going to tell people not to worry until Peppers has signed his letter of intent and faxed it in to Michigan.
4. Paul Shen, Ann Arbor: Is it more important that Michigan sustains drives to keep OSU's offense on the bench? Or should the defense try to stop it?
A: Both. All of the above. Everything and anything.
But if I have to pick one? I’d go with defense. Sustaining drives means nothing if the Wolverines falter in the red zone. Miller will need to be slowed. Hyde will need to be slowed. The defense needs to create turnovers. The defensive line needs to get smart pressure on Miller. Jake Ryan needs to have the game of his life. If the Wolverines' defense can do all of that, I think the offense could muster some luck and pieces of its previous self to find the end zone. Or field goal range. Heck, if the defense plays like that, maybe it can just get some safeties?