Thursday, November 22, 2012
By WolverineNation staff
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It is Ohio State week, Michigan’s biggest rivalry and the fiercest in the Big Ten. So what else would the WolverineNation staff focus on other than the Buckeyes?
Nothing, of course.
This week, the staff looks at keys for Michigan, areas of concern and the intriguing question of where, exactly, do the Wolverines put Denard Robinson.
1) If Michigan were to win Saturday, what would be the one absolute key that would have to happen for the Wolverines to do so?
Michael Rothstein: Keep Braxton Miller under 300 total yards. Michigan cannot afford to get in a shootout on the road against this season’s version of Miller and Ohio State. It did so last year and won, but that was in Ann Arbor against a freshman Miller. This year’s Miller is a year older and smarter with his arm and legs. If Michigan can contain the edge and turn Miller into just a passer, that would be a big key for Michigan.
Carlos Hyde has become a dangerous backfield complement to Braxton Miller.
Chantel Jennings: Michigan-Ohio State is historically a defensive battle. Whichever team's D makes more plays and more stops is going to be the team that leaves the field happy. With that, I think the key for the Wolverines is that their front seven needs to limit the rushing yardage from Miller and Carlos Hyde, the Big Ten's most productive running tandem. The Wolverines need to get enough pressure with just a four-man rush (and yes, throw in an occasional blitz), and linebackers Jake Ryan, Kenny Demens and James Ross need to make plays.
Tom VanHaaren: The defense will need to hold Miller in check. Potentially taking a little from what Wisconsin did defensively against the Buckeyes and get Miller to throw rather then extend a play with his legs. If he does take off running the Michigan defense needs to be sound fundamentally and keep contain.
2) Last week Denard Robinson played quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Where does he play the most Saturday?
Rothstein: Quarterback. He won’t be there full-time -- expect him to line up in the slot a decent amount -- but if Robinson can have any velocity on his throws, his dual-threat ability on plays when he lines up there ratchets up to previous levels of concern for defenses. Wouldn’t expect him at quarterback for more than 40-50 percent of Michigan’s snaps, but it remains one part of a potentially lethal offense for Michigan.
Jennings: I'm guessing we'll see him most at a running back-ish position. I can see him lining up a bit at quarterback, but we haven't seen him attempt a 15-plus yard pass since the Nebraska game. Whether that's gamesmanship or not, I just don't see him getting in the pocket and bombing a few down the field. If he lines up there, OSU will probably know what's coming. But, if Devin Gardner lines up at QB with Robinson elsewhere on the field, it's a bigger surprise and bigger threat for OSU.
VanHaaren: I think his role will be similar to what it was against Iowa. The offense has been clicking with Gardner at quarterback and it seems as though Robinson's inability to grip the ball is a hindrance to his performance. I would expect much of the same unless Robinson is fully recovered.
3) What is Michigan's biggest concern entering Saturday's game against Ohio State?
Rothstein: Miller. Michigan has struggled with mobile quarterbacks this season, and Miller is better than all of those previously faced. While Greg Mattison can come up with creative schemes, it is on the players not to be distracted and lose contain on Miller, an area the Wolverines struggled with against Northwestern, Illinois and Nebraska. If it happens against Miller and Ohio State, it will be a long, long day for Michigan no matter the adjustments it makes.
Jennings: I would say Michigan's defense, but I think Mattison is going to have a bit of a leg up on Meyer's offense considering the two have coached together. He knows tendencies and what Meyer likes/doesn't like. Meyer knows that regarding Mattison, too, but I think it's a bigger advantage for the D. So, instead I'll say running back. This is a big moment for Thomas Rawls. The Wolverines stuck by Fitzgerald Toussaint for the entire season despite his lack of production. Now, in the biggest game of the year, they'll throw Rawls to the wolves and hope for the best.
VanHaaren: Not letting the Ohio State crowd and the enormity of this game get to them. There is always a ton of emotion in this game, but now Michigan has a quarterback who has started only three games. There is potential for the offense to make mistakes, and it will need to remain calm and not shoot itself in the foot.