When Ohio State cornerback Denzel Burke was asked Tuesday afternoon what stands out about Michigan on film, he gave the most succinct answer possible. And when Press Pros writers Jeff Gilbert and Sonny Fulks break down Saturday’s outcome in Ann Arbor it shouldn’t surprise you. We go ‘old school’.
(Ed. Note: It was suggested that Buckeyes writer Jeff Gilbert and I do a reprisal of the old Saturday Night Live skit with Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin. Who wins the big game Saturday, why, and moreover…what’s the outcome ‘after’ the outcome. Read, and enjoy….SF)
From Jeff Gilbert
“Nothing!” That’s what Ohio State cornerback Denzel Burke said on Tuesday, when asked about what stood out about this 2023 Michigan team.
Tuesday night at 10 o’clock I went to my YouTube TV DVR and began to watch the Big Ten Network’s 60-minute version of Michigan at Maryland. I came to almost the same conclusion.
I saw Maryland receivers wide open. You don’t have to imagine what that would mean for Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and Cade Stover running free through the Michigan secondary. Those guys and the home-run threat of TreVeyon Henderson running the football through that same secondary are vastly superior to anything Michigan has faced this season.
I saw a Michigan offense that will lack firepower if turned one-dimensional (which I expect to happen) against Ohio State’s shut-down defense. The running back talent is among the best and the quarterback talent ranks highly. But the receiving talent and line talent will be outclassed by Ohio State’s 11 at the point of attack, in gaps and down the field.
Yes, “Nothing” is a strong statement. But what I think Burke meant is that they haven’t seen anything in Michigan’s arsenal that scares them, that they don’t believe they can’t neutralize. And this defense, knowing doubts linger about how good it will be in a big game, is motivated to prove it is elite.
Since the Notre Dame win, I have expected the four-quarter onslaught of the Ohio State offense. The offensive line continues to improve, and all the weapons are healthy. Two weeks ago, we saw a first half of it against Michigan State. That half, the second half at Rutgers, and the third quarter against Minnesota are storm clouds gathering on a Midwest horizon.
The Buckeye hailstorm is coming.
The effects will be swift and dominating. Ohio State will jump to an early 14-3 lead and enjoy the freedom to run or pass in almost any situation. Michigan won’t be able to run the football on every down like it did in the second half against Penn State, and that puts the run-first-to-set-up-the-pass Wolverines in a vulnerable position that not even Jim Harbaugh could rescue them from.
The Buckeyes will leave no doubt. And Harbaugh will throw his remote at the TV. Not just because of the loss, but because the realization will set in that he’s coached his last game at Michigan. And that his tenure will be remembered far more for why it ended than it will be for two conference titles.
Call me crazy.
But this Ohio State season is different. The Buckeyes didn’t dominate from the start. It’s been a slow build like a sluggish volcano gathering unseen momentum. Compare the Indiana film to the Minnesota film. It’s like going from HD to 4K ultra. This team has grown into a physical, nasty beast that will be unleashed on an unsuspecting public.
That’s how I see the 119th version of the rivalry playing out. Outlandish? Not to me. I simply see it as “nothing” but a return to normal.
Ohio State 36, Michigan 16
From Sonny Fulks
I’m too old for this kind of trumped-up drama. That’s my opening statement, because I think Michigan has been fortunate to come off the mat the past two years and win the way they did…as if they received a gift.
I’m going to be critical with this, because I believe the reason that Ohio State lost those games was more a matter of physical personality and allowing too many big plays, instead of some kind of Michigan metamorphosis, not previously, or since seen. For reference, go back and watch their game with TCU last year.
The whole Harbaugh-cheating scandal has set the backdrop for an ugliness at this game that mighty trump anything you can remember with Ohio State and Michigan. Michigan-against-the-world is pure ‘smoke screen’. They did this to themselves. My sense is…this could get stupid, and regrettable, football aside. I’ll leave it at that.
But I also agree with you, Jeff, at the obvious differences between, as you put it…HD (Michigan) and 4K ultra (Ohio State), athletically. The issue, at the end of the day, is whether Ohio State can somehow find that big game personality they’ve lost in recent years because they dink and dunk too much with the passing game…instead of dominating with the running game first to set up those surface-to-air missiles to Marvin, Egbuka, et. al.
Before anyone talks about strength of schedule with either team, and who’s better because of it, let’s be honest and say that both teams have fattened up this year on teams that no one is going to watch during bowl season, and that includes Notre Dame and Penn State.
I don’t know if Penn State’s offense could score 42 points against Hilliard Bradley. And Notre Dame has progressed since the Ohio State game to be a much-too-talked-about average (for them) at 8-3. They lost to Ohio State, they lost to Louisville, they lost to Clemson, and they should have lost to Duke. A lot of people believed that Duke was the better team that night. Lucky for the Irish they played Navy, Tennessee State, and Central Michigan.
But there’ll be so much emotion Saturday that Ohio State has to take the crowd out of the game, and you do that with the running game. Those five big guys up front have to defeat Michigan physically and emotionally, Henderson and Trayanum getting a dependable four and five yards per carry. I need to see some blood-letting with this offensive line I haven’t seen. Then…I agree with you about finding open receivers running loose in the secondary. But to do that they have to make it easier for Kyle McCord, who’s never been in these shoes before.
I agree with you, ‘Jane’, that it’s been a slow build. But when I compare Indiana to Minnesota I still see two football teams that tell us way too little about how good Ohio State can be on that one given day. I’m not sure Minnesota could have stopped Hilliard Bradley from scoring 42 points last week.
I think being healthy – Henderson, Egbuka, Harrison, Stover, Burke, and Eichenberg – is huge.
I think another year of Jim Knowles tweaking the defense as he’s done is huge. And that means no…big…plays!
But Ohio State has to play with the big-game confidence they showed last year against Georgia, in a game they should have won. I’m shaking my head over a three-score margin, and if it comes down to a kick at the end I hope they do a better job of setting up Jayden Fielding than they did Noah Ruggles.
Conclusion: My daughter says she wants me to put my Friday Night ‘Picks’ success on the line, when there’s much more at stake. So here you go: I’m picking Ohio State, by a field goal…27-24!
Then, we’ll see what’s next. We’ll see if there really is an NCAA governing body. We’ll see if there really is anything resembling integrity and character left in college sports. We’ll kiss the old neighborhood goodbye with the addition of USC, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon to the Big Ten next year. And we’ll see who throws Jim Harbaugh a life line.
My walk-off echoes my open. It’s become hard to find the football in all of this. So…much…drama!