Michigan Wolverines: Ohio State Buckeyes


The new College Football Playoff is supposed to encourage schools to schedule better nonconference games, as teams try to beef up their schedule strength to earn one of the playoff’s coveted four spots at season’s end.

On Thursday, Texas A&M and UCLA announced that they’ll play each other during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Other schools have announced future marquee nonconference opponents, including Texas A&M vs. USC, Notre Dame vs. Texas, Alabama vs. Michigan State and LSU vs. Oklahoma.

Here are five other nonconference games I’d like to see in the future:

[+] EnlargeNick Saban, Urban Meyer
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesUrban Meyer and Nick Saban have faced off for SEC titles, but their current teams, Ohio State and Alabama, have played only three times in history.
1. Alabama vs. Ohio State: Alabama’s Nick Saban and OSU’s Urban Meyer dominated the SEC when Meyer was coaching at Florida, combining to win five BCS national championships from 2006 to 2012.

When Meyer was still coaching at Florida, the Crimson Tide and Gators played in two of the most anticipated SEC championship games. The No. 2 Gators beat the No. 1 Tide 31-20 in 2008, and then the Tide turned the tables on No. 1 UF with a 32-13 win in 2009.

Alabama and Ohio State have played only three times in history, with the Tide winning each time, most recently in a 24-17 victory in the 1995 Citrus Bowl.

2. Texas vs. Texas A&M: Perhaps the biggest casualty in conference realignment, Texas and Texas A&M haven’t played each other since the Aggies bolted the Big 12 for the SEC after the 2011 season. Sadly, there are no plans for the in-state rivals to play again in future regular seasons.

The Aggies and Longhorns played each other 118 times from 1894 to 2011, with their annual meeting traditionally being played on Thanksgiving Day. UT won nearly twice as many games as the Aggies (76-37-5), including nine of the last 12 meetings.

With former Louisville coach Charlie Strong taking over at Texas, and Kevin Sumlin building the Aggies into an SEC powerhouse, the game would also pit two of the sport’s best African-American coaches against each other.

3. Oregon vs. Baylor: Two of the game’s most explosive offenses -- and two of its best-dressed teams -- would undoubtedly light up the scoreboard if they ever played. In fact, the contest would probably look more like a track meet.

Under coach Art Briles, the Bears have become the Ducks of the Southwest, with their hurry-up, spread offense and myriad flashy uniforms closely resembling what Chip Kelly and then Mark Helfrich built at Oregon. The Bears and Ducks follow the same blueprint on offense: play fast and score fast.

We hoped to see this matchup in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last season, but alas, it didn’t happen. Oregon and Baylor have never met on the gridiron.

4. Michigan vs. USC: Two of the sport’s traditional heavyweights have faced each other eight times in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio, but only twice during the regular season -- in 1957 and 1958.

The Trojans won the last three meetings in the Rose Bowl, 32-18 in 2007, 28-14 in 2004 and 17-10 in 1990. USC has won six of the past seven meetings overall and holds a 6-4 advantage all-time.

We might have seen this matchup during the regular season if a Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling partnership hadn’t fallen apart in 2012.

5. Georgia vs. Florida State: UGA coach Mark Richt was a longtime assistant under legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden before taking over the Bulldogs, and he recently poached defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt off the Seminoles’ staff.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles go head-to-head for a lot of recruits every year, and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher upgraded his roster by effectively recruiting South Georgia and Atlanta.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles have played 11 times and only once since 1984 -- UGA defeated FSU 26-13 in the 2003 Sugar Bowl. Georgia leads the all-time series, 6-4-1.

Big Ten lunchtime links

December, 19, 2013
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Six shopping days left.
After looking at my team in our All-Time Draft and seeing some obvious holes -- defense? running back? -- I immediately tried to rectify my decision by heading over to Ohio State to try and pilfer one of their players from one of their all-time rosters.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Hawk
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesFormer Ohio State linebacker A.J.Hawk is an instinctive playmaker who would bolster any defensive lineup.
While the obvious choice for a steal would be two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, I feel decent enough about my running back/flex combination of Butch Woolfolk and Denard Robinson that I can try to bolster my defense. So the guy I would try to steal is linebacker A.J. Hawk.

Hawk might not have been the best linebacker in Ohio State history -- that was Chris Spielman -- but the former first-team All-American and 2005 Lombardi Award winner would fit well in the defensive scheme my coaches would devise. And the hair. You have to appreciate the hair.

In all seriousness, though, having covered Hawk during the 2006 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, when he played against his future brother-in-law Brady Quinn and Notre Dame, I saw first-hand what Hawk was able to do to an opposing offense. He sacked Quinn twice that day and changed much of what Notre Dame had tried to do.

His 394 tackles are fifth in school history, and his 41 tackles for loss are eighth. His 15 sacks are 13th. He led Ohio State in tackles for three consecutive years.

The final piece is that Hawk is a high-character guy. He is an intelligent playmaker with good instincts and can make plays from sideline-to-sideline. He would be the one player from Ohio State I’d steal.

Writers share their favorite pranks

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In conjunction with colleague Mark Schlabach's story on the history of pranks in college sports and the differentiation between a prank and vandalism, Michael Rothstein and Chantel Jennings decided to reflect and share our favorite college sports-related prank or mascot-related kerfuffle.

[+] EnlargeMascot Fight
AP Photo/Neal C. LauronIn 2010, there was a premeditated mascot attack in Columbus.
Chantel Jennings: For the week leading up to the Michigan-Michigan State football game, students will find couches, heaters, speakers and cookouts in the middle of Michigan’s bustling academic side of campus. The area, known as “The Diag,” houses a famous block M that was once painted green by visiting Spartan students. To avoid that, members of Theta Xi fraternity “Defend The Diag” every year, setting up a perimeter and guarding it 24 hours a day. The group has done this for more than a decade and even has a Twitter page with a profile that reads, “Protecting the most valuable piece of brass in existence from our little brother since 2000.”

Michael Rothstein: For as long as I can remember, I've always found mascots funny. When I was a kid, I loved when they fought. Now as a reporter, sometimes I'll look over to the mascot for moments of levity in the midst of a big game to remind me that, yes, this is all just a game. Mascot-on-mascot violence is often staged and expected. Then, there was this in 2010 when Ohio faced Ohio State. And the only one with the plan before the game was the man inside the Ohio mascot, Rufus Bobcat. Brutus, the Ohio State mascot, ran out on to the field with the rest of his Buckeyes brethren prior to the when he was speared and then chased down again by Rufus. What initially appeared to be a spontaneous idea was actually thought out beforehand as the man behind Rufus, Brandon Hanning, told reporters afterward he tried out to be Rufus solely for the moment where he could tackle Brutus. This did not go over well. He was fired for the incident.

Video: Hardaway Jr. talks OT win

February, 6, 2013
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Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. discusses his 23-point performance in Tuesday's 76-74 overtime victory over Ohio State.


ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Quick thoughts from No. 3 Michigan’s 76-74 overtime victory over No. 10 Ohio State at Crisler Center on Tuesday night:

Overview: Last season, with the game on the line, Michigan looked to then-freshman point guard Trey Burke to carry it. The Columbus, Ohio, native did, making two crucial, tough layups to give the Wolverines a victory over Ohio State in Ann Arbor with "College GameDay" looking on.

A year later, and Burke is now one of the best players in the country. Yet in a different season, it turned into the same situation for Michigan. At the end of the game, turn to Burke. After Burke missed an attempt at a game-winning 3-pointer in regulation, Burke hit Michigan’s only field goal in overtime.

Then, with less than a minute left, he stripped the ball from Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft, then blocked a Craft shot to help seal the win for Michigan in what had become one of the best basketball games of the season.

Turning point: Craft pulled up at the free-throw line with 10 seconds left and a shot to give the Buckeyes (17-5, 7-3 Big Ten) the lead. Out of nowhere, Burke came across the lane and blocked Craft’s shot -- preserving the Michigan lead and, eventually, the game after Glenn Robinson III made one free throw and Tim Hardaway Jr. blocked Craft on a drive at the buzzer.

Key player: Hardaway, with a team-high 23 points, might have been the one doing the majority of the scoring for the Wolverines (21-2, 8-2) on Tuesday night, but it was freshman forward Mitch McGary who made the biggest difference for Michigan. Playing 29 minutes, McGary had 14 points -- both career highs -- but performed the majority of his work dealing with the game's smaller things. He was doing a little bit of everything, also finishing with four steals and a block.

Key stat: Though it took overtime, Michigan's 76 points was the most allowed by Ohio State this season. Michigan allowed 70-plus points for the fifth time and the second consecutive game. The Wolverines gave up 81 points to Indiana on Saturday, then followed it up with 74 points against Ohio State.

Miscellaneous: Michigan redshirt sophomore center Jon Horford made his third consecutive start in place of Jordan Morgan, who played sparingly as he nurses an injured right ankle. ... Burke continued to move up Michigan’s career assist list, passing his predecessor, Darius Morris, to move into 12th place. He now has 322. ... Ohio State was led by Deshaun Thomas, who had 17 points, and LaQuinton Ross, who had 16 off the bench. ... Tuesday was Michigan coach John Beilein’s 60th birthday.

Next game: Michigan travels to Wisconsin to face the Badgers at noon on Saturday. Ohio State continues a tough stretch as No. 1 Indiana visits Columbus on Sunday for a 1 p.m. ET tip.

2014 OT Denzel Ward looking around 

January, 4, 2013
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Offensive tackle Denzel Ward (Chicago/Hales Franciscan), a 2014 Michigan commitment, has made quite an impression at the Under Armour 2013 Combine.

The 6-foot-9, 295-pound prospect now has other schools in hot pursuit, and he is considering jumping back into the process.

"I am committed to Michigan, but I don't know what is going to happen," Ward said. "Our family might be opening the recruiting process soon. Some other schools may be coming in real hard.
The "Inside the Game" position preview series concludes with a look at the Michigan and Ohio State secondaries.

Like many of the other position groups discussed by Austin Ward of BuckeyesNation and Michael Rothstein of WolverineNation, a peek into the secondaries of Michigan and Ohio State reveals a lot of similarities between the schools.


Ohio State
Ward:
No infusion of new talent is necessary for Ohio State.

All the Buckeyes need is a deep pool of veteran defensive backs to take another step forward, and throwing the ball against them could be one of the tougher challenges in the Big Ten.

Bradley Roby is shaping up as an emerging star at cornerback, and while Travis Howard and Doran Grant could battle for the right to start opposite him, the Buckeyes figure to be fine with either of them or backup Adam Griffin on the field.

C.J. Barnett might be poised to breakout as well at safety, though there’s plenty of experienced depth alongside him at the back of the defense. A pair of juniors in Christian Bryant and Corey Brown and senior Orhian Johnson provide plenty of options for defensive backs coach Everett Withers, who brings a proven track record of creating turnovers with him to Ohio State.

The Buckeyes picked off 13 passes last season, with Johnson and Roby tied for the team lead with three apiece. But both of those numbers will have to improve for Withers to be happy at the end of the season, and there is more than enough know-how and ability to make that happen.

Rothstein: What once was a group of players thought to have little talent and no experience has turned into this: the best unit on Michigan’s entire roster.

A few holdovers from the disastrous 2009 and 2010 seasons for the Michigan secondary remain on the roster in key positions, including starting cornerback J.T. Floyd and safety Jordan Kovacs, both of whom were thrown into unenviable positions as young players in a 3-3-5 defense few inside the Michigan program were familiar with.

But they learned and went from questionable players to two of the more reliable players anywhere on the Michigan roster. Joining them in the likely starting defensive backfield are safety Thomas Gordon and sophomore cornerback Blake Countess.

All four started at least half of Michigan’s games a season ago.

The four are just the front line of an incredibly deep secondary with both experience -- nickel back Courtney Avery -- and a youthful push, including highly touted freshman safety Jarrod Wilson and sophomore cornerback Delonte Hollowell, who stood out on special teams as a freshman.

There could be trouble if Kovacs were to be injured, but otherwise this is Michigan’s most dependable position group.
The "Inside the Game" position preview series continues with the crux of any defense -- and long a position with a lot of lineage at both Michigan and Ohio State: Linebackers.

BuckeyeNation’s Austin Ward and WolverineNation’s Michael Rothstein take a look at the men in the middle of both defenses.


Michigan
Rothstein:
Michigan’s linebackers can rejoice. For the first time since any of them has been a Wolverine, they will play in essentially the same defensive scheme with the same defensive coordinator for the second season in a row.

And if you think that doesn’t make a difference, you’re kidding yourself. Even defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said as much, that having the players learning the same system for the second year allows for a faster refresher course along with more advanced teaching. And for the linebackers more than any other defensive position group, this is critical.

Michigan has the bulk of its main playmakers at the position back, including fifth-year senior Kenny Demens in the middle along with sophomores Desmond Morgan and Jake Ryan on the outside.

Demens is Michigan’s leading returning tackler with 94 last season, including three sacks. Morgan, as a freshman, was fifth in tackles with 63. At linebacker, that kind of production is expected.

That starting group, though, will be pushed. Junior Cam Gordon is fighting with Ryan for time, as is senior Brandin Hawthorne behind Morgan. Also involved are a gaggle of talented freshmen, including James Ross III, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Kaleb Ringer and Joe Bolden, who enrolled last spring and could see a lot of time his freshman season.

Still, though, it is a young group with a lot of room to grow and likely won’t see its true potential for another season or two.

Ohio State
Ward:
There may not be a linebacker with the name recognition of the Ohio State legends that have come before them.

By its own admission, the current group of Buckeyes didn’t live up to the expectations established by those predecessors.

But even without a Hawk or Laurinaitis this fall, the middle of the defense should be much improved even if there isn’t any established star on the roster during training camp.

Perhaps by the time the Buckeyes take on their rivals at the end of the season, though, sophomores Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant could make themselves a lot more familiar to folks around the Big Ten. Shazier in particular began building some buzz for himself during a three-game tackling barrage when he was inserted into the starting lineup due to injury last season and responded with 30 takedowns.

Now Shazier appears to have a more permanent spot in the rotation, and along with Grant and senior Etienne Sabino they should give defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell a solid foundation to start with. While there isn’t much experience in reserve to work with right now, the Buckeyes loaded up with five talented signees in February who will ultimately be charged with restoring the program’s proud defensive tradition.

There probably won’t be as much pressure to do it right away with arguably the best line in the nation in front and a skilled, veteran secondary behind them. But they should be able to get things back on track either way.
Our "Inside the Game" positional previews with WolverineNation's Michael Rothstein and BuckeyeNation's Austin Ward continue in the trenches.

Ward and Rothstein discuss the contrast in the defensive lines. The Buckeyes could go as far as nine deep and believe they are among the nation's best units, while the Wolverines lost three-fourths of their top-notch line from a year ago, have another player on indefinite suspension and are unsettled at best.


Ohio State
Ward:
The expectation up front for Ohio State is not just to be better than its rivals.

It’s not even to be the best in the conference.

The Buckeyes are going into this season with the goal of establishing themselves as the deepest and most talented group in the nation, and they certainly have a shot at building their case.

It helps to start at the top with the return of tireless, tenacious end John Simon and the emergence of Johnathan Hankins next to him as a force at defensive tackle, but there’s plenty more ammunition than that.

Garrett Goebel and Adam Bellamy round out the projected first unit, and even though he’s listed behind Hankins, Michael Bennett could be too disruptive in the middle to keep on the sideline. When Nathan Williams receives full clearance from his knee surgery, he could provide another scary weapon on the edge for a team that could conceivably roll through nine guys without a substantial drop-off.

On top of that, there’s a talented trio of newcomers who will fight to either be included or expand that rotation. Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Se’Von Pittman gave Ohio State a recruiting haul in February that would make any program envious. And it figures to set up the Buckeyes not just for a good run in the trenches this fall, but also into the next few seasons.

Michigan
Rothstein:
On a team filled with current or former defensive line coaches -- besides Jerry Montgomery both head coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison came up as defensive line coaches before assuming loftier titles -- there is a lack of a lot of things with their former pet position.

Experience, for one, is lacking as the line will boast three new starters and the one returning starter, senior Craig Roh, is adjusting to added weight and a new position as a strongside defensive end.

Depth is another issue, as the Wolverines could see multiple freshmen push for time on the line behind some of the inexperienced starters.

Will Campbell and Jibreel Black are the likely starters on the interior of the line, with Campbell being three years of promise without production and Black adding weight and learning to play inside after being converted from defensive end. At rush end, sophomore Brennen Beyer slides in as the likely starter after Frank Clark’s indefinite suspension due to legal issues.

Behind them are talented freshmen in Ondre Pipkins, Tom Strobel, Chris Wormley and Matt Godin -- all of whom could push for time. Nathan Brink provides some veteran stability at end and tackle, but the walk-on doesn’t have a ton of experience.

It’s a position full of questions at a spot where the Wolverines can’t really have them, as much of what Mattison likes to do on defense comes from the expectation of a defensive line getting pressure on a quarterback.
Our "Inside the Game" positional previews with WolverineNation's Michael Rothstein and BuckeyeNation's Austin Ward continue with the men who hardly accumulate any statistics at all -- the offensive line.

Ward and Rothstein discuss the contrast in the lines -- the Buckeyes with a lot of new players and the Wolverines with some experience.

Ohio State
Ward: Most of the faces are going to be new after losing three starters.

The schemes figure to be significantly different with a new offense and position coach.

That might make it hard to gauge how productive Ohio State can be up front heading into training camp, and it could even take a few games to figure out how smooth the transition will be this fall.

But the Buckeyes will enter practice with a reasonably good idea who will open the season with the first unit after Jack Mewhort impressed at left tackle in the spring, Corey Linsley jumped up to grab a job at center and Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell settled in at the guard spots.

A battle between Reid Fragel and Taylor Decker will pick up again this month for the gig at right tackle, and after that the Buckeyes figure to be closely monitoring a few newcomers as they work to build depth.

Joey O’Conner and Pat Elflein boast four-star pedigrees, Kyle Dodson could conceivably work his way into the mix at tackle and Jacoby Boren turned heads after enrolling early and claiming a backup job during the spring. All of them have at least minor injury concerns heading into the fall, though if all are healthy and ready to contribute, they provide another reason why the Buckeyes could look much stouter in the trenches in a month or two than they might now.

Michigan
Rothstein: The leadership in the middle is gone and that is not to be taken lightly, but otherwise, Michigan returns much of its offensive line from a season ago.

The Wolverines’ biggest questions revolve on the interior of the line, where fifth-year senior Ricky Barnum will have to replace David Molk, last season’s Rimington Award winner, and some combination of walk-on Joey Burzynski, fifth-year senior Elliott Mealer, redshirt freshman Chris Bryant and freshman Kyle Kalis will vie for the left guard slot previously held by Michigan’s new right tackle, Michael Schofield.

It is a unit, though, that has experience. Schofield started most of last season at left guard and has next-level potential. Taylor Lewan, a potential NFL first-round draft pick, is in third year as a starter at left tackle, and fifth-year senior Patrick Omameh will start his third season at right guard.

Lewan and Omameh will be looked to as the leaders of the line, having held offensive line camps for the younger players during voluntary workouts in the summer to help teach them various plays Michigan runs as well as different blocking schemes the Wolverines use.

So much of line play, though, depends on chemistry and continuity. Much of that will fall to Lewan, who has often said he plans on taking more of a leadership role this season.

Michigan’s biggest issue comes in who will back up the starters. The Wolverines appear to have options at guard with the losers of the left guard battle filling in at both spots. At center, Michigan has only redshirt freshman Jack Miller behind Barnum, and the Florida native has a history of injuries.

At tackle, there is not much depth and Michigan could have to look to incoming freshmen should Schofield or Lewan go down, which would be a tricky proposition on a team very dependent on its running game.
Welcome to "Inside The Game," a weekly discussion of some aspect of the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry with BuckeyeNation’s Austin Ward and WolverineNation’s Michael Rothstein.

To kick things off, Ward and Rothstein will make arguments for each position group as to which has a better unit -- Michigan or Ohio State. Then you get to decide. The two start where almost everything starts on a college football team -- the quarterback.

BUCKEYES
Ward:
Thrown into the pool as a freshman, Braxton Miller didn’t drown.

Playing in an offense that might not have been ideally suited for his skills, the sophomore now has a spread system and a new Ohio State coach in Urban Meyer who is salivating over his athleticism.

A year older and with starting experience, still as dynamic but in an offense tailor-made for his abilities, Miller could be on the brink of exploding on the national scene.

And assuming he stays healthy, he’ll have almost another full season of action under his belt by the time the Buckeyes take on their rivals in November -- a showdown that could include two of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.

Miller might not have quite as much national recognition as his counterpart just yet, but what might give the Buckeyes an edge is the depth they have under center this fall thanks to a similar set of skills backup Kenny Guiton brings to the table.

Both players are more than capable of making plays on the ground, and while there might have been some initial concern about accuracy or arm strength, Meyer tested his passers plenty in the spring and clearly feels comfortable with both options heading into camp.

WOLVERINES
Rothstein:
Denard Robinson is back for one final go-round and if he wants to have the kind of success he’d like this season, all of it will start with how accurate his passing is. Gone are his two biggest safety nets -- Junior Hemingway and Kevin Koger -- and in their place come Roy Roundtree, Jeremy Gallon and a lot of inexperienced players at receiver and tight end.

This means Robinson will have to be more accurate with his passing.

His running will be there and he has a shot at breaking Pat White’s NCAA quarterback rushing record with a good season. But for the Wolverines to have success, he has to finally mature as a passing quarterback as much as a rushing one.

Robinson has already made great strides in other areas. His leadership has improved. His public speaking has grown exponentially. All of that could help him on the field, but if he puts the type of effort into the on-field growth as much as he did with his off-the-field stuff, he could have a special year

Teams still don’t know totally how to stop him and he’s going on his third season as a starter. All of that could line up for a special final season for Robinson at Michigan.
One name on Michigan’s radar throughout the spring has been defensive end Mike Barwick (Cincinnati/Summit Country Day), and the talented 2014 lineman made it up to Michigan’s camp on Tuesday.

“The camp was great,” he said. “I got great coaching and I got to face some good competition.”

Barwick visited the Wolverines earlier this spring for a practice and talked this week about his experience on that trip, too.

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Michigan-Ohio State rivalry nuggets

June, 13, 2012
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The 10 Years War. The Charles Woodson-David Boston fight. Woody Hayes refusing to buy gas in Michigan. Recruits burning letters from the other side.

The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is perhaps the fiercest in sports. And with Michigan on the rise again and Ohio State starting fresh with Urban Meyer, nothing will ever change that.

Or so we thought. Behold the healing power of ribs! For the full story (ESPN Playbook), click here.
Every day in the Ohio State football locker room, there is a reminder. Much like what is at Michigan, the rivalry between the Wolverines and Buckeyes is never far from anyone’s mind.

At Michigan, there are countdown clocks. Last season there was a count posted of days since Michigan had beaten Ohio State. At Ohio State, there are videos playing.

“In the locker room every day, we have videos playing of the past 100 years of the tradition of the game,” Buckeyes fullback Zach Boren said. “That video has been playing for a long time. It reminds us every day how significant that game is and how many great games have been played in that rivalry.”

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