Thursday, November 22, 2012
Picks to click: Bucks to watch vs. Michigan
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A look at three Ohio State players who will be critical as the Buckeyes prepare to close the season with a rivalry showdown against Michigan on Saturday at The Horseshoe (TV: ABC, noon).
Carlos Hyde (34) should see a lot of action against Michigan after being somewhat forgotten against Wisconsin.
The basics: The sophomore running back didn’t hide his frustration with not getting the football more often last week, but the Buckeyes won’t hold it against him. Urban Meyer admitted almost as soon as the victory over Wisconsin was over that Hyde needed more touches to spark the rushing attack, particularly because he only gets more difficult to bring down the deeper a game gets with his unique combination of size and undervalued speed.
By the numbers: With the benefit of a conference championship game and a bowl appearance, Hyde would be in line to go over 1,000 yards pretty easily -- even after missing two full outings and part of another. He’s still got a shot at hitting that milestone, but he’ll need a steady diet of carries to get the 176 yards necessary to cross that barrier.
Opportunity for impact: The Wolverines have continued their successful rebuilding job on the defensive side of the football, ranking among the best in the Big Ten in both total yardage and points allowed. But if there’s a weakness, it’s been in slowing down opponents on the ground, and Hyde has made life miserable for tacklers since returning from a knee sprain in September to terrorize even the best rush defenses in the conference. Especially after offering a reminder of his importance in overtime last week, Hyde should have a full workload against Michigan.
He said it: “We’re certainly not a finished product, and it showed. ... But the way Carlos Hyde ran, I think we’ve got to give him the ball a little bit more.” -- Meyer after beating the Badgers
The basics: If the sophomore cornerback is seriously considering an early departure to the NFL, one more strong performance with a lot of attention on him would certainly boost his stock. If he’s planning on returning, the Buckeyes could still use one more playmaking performance in the secondary to help set the table for a run to a championship next season. Either way, Roby has proven more than capable of consistently providing what Ohio State needs both in coverage and in stopping the run.
By the numbers: While it’s the 19 passes defended that instantly grab attention on Roby’s stats sheet, he’s more than held his own as a tackler to help slow down rushing games and has even made himself a nuisance in the backfield occasionally. Despite missing a game with a shoulder injury, Roby still ranks third on the team with 55 tackles and clearly doesn’t mind doing a little dirty work.
Opportunity for impact: No passing attack in the Big Ten has been more generous with the football than Michigan’s, and only three teams in the entire country have thrown more interceptions than the 17 it has already served up this season. The Wolverines have looked a bit different offensively lately as they’ve dealt with an elbow injury for Denard Robinson and worked in Devin Gardner at quarterback, but they’re still prone to occasional costly mistakes in the passing game no matter who takes the snap.
He said it: “I’m definitely a smarter player, and I feel that’s what [cornerbacks] coach [Kerry] Coombs brought when he came here. He’s a very smart coach, and he allowed me and Travis [Howard] to involve ourselves in the mental part of the game. That’s really what it is that I feel I’m way better at. I kind of know what’s going to happen, I know the tendencies of the offense and things like that and I didn’t know that last year.” -- Roby on his strides since last season
The basics: The Buckeyes would surely prefer to avoid having a sequel to the feel-good story the senior has written this season, because relying on a starting fullback to make the switch to linebacker and start three days later isn’t much of an endorsement on the talent already on hand defensively. But the way Boren has handled the transition makes the retelling of his tale enjoyable for years to come, particularly if he can cap it with one more win and a perfect season.
By the numbers: Boren is in a position to make a lot of plays, but in just less than half of a season, he’s shot past a decent handful of full-time defenders on the statistical leader board. Heading into his sixth game at linebacker, Boren has made 41 tackles -- more takedowns than three different season-long starters on that side of the ball.
Opportunity for impact: The loss of starting tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint is a significant blow to a rushing attack capable of stacking up yardage, but recently the Wolverines have had a handy answer by turning Robinson loose as a rusher. The versatility of Robinson and the number of different personnel packages Michigan is likely to unveil against its rivals will make identifying plays and focusing on assignments of utmost importance for the Buckeyes, and Boren has no problem following orders.
He said it: “One of the great stories, in my mind, in college football and, certainly, Ohio State history. What he’s done, the selfless approach and what he would do for this team is extraordinary. Incredible human being.” -- Meyer