As the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines get ready to renew their rivalry tomorrow afternoon, here's a look at the Maize and Blue from Wolverine Digest publisher Brandon Brown, who has been covering the program closely for several years.
Now 11 games into the season and Michigan’s strength is still its rushing attack, but they are more balanced than they were at the beginning of the season. The pass rushing duo of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo is also a handful for opponents.
Sophomore running back Blake Corum has missed two games but he was dressed and apparently ready last week. Most expect him to hit the field tomorrow against the Buckeyes giving Michigan a now three-headed monster of Corum, Hassan Haskins and freshman Donovan Edwards, who blew up against Maryland to the tune of 10 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown. If Michigan gets creative with those three the rushing attack could be even more of a strength.
Hutchinson and Ojabo each have 10 sacks apiece to pace the Big Ten and definitely stir the drink for Michigan’s defense. The U-M secondary isn’t overly talented, but they’ve played well and the pass rush has certainly helped them. Ohio State’s passing attack is a different animal, so it’s going to be interesting to see if the pass rush can shake up the Buckeyes at all.
Michigan doesn’t have just one glaring weakness, but a few issues have popped up at different times this year.
Early on in the season, Michigan barely threw the ball. The Wolverines were literally ahead of only the service academies in pass attempts through four weeks of the season. Since then, they’ve aired it out a bit more and have had some success doing it. Cade McNamara isn’t an All-American, but he’s accurate on short and intermediate routes and he doesn’t take sacks or turn the ball over. Those are valuable qualities and are big reasons why U-M is 10-1.
Michigan's defense is No. 32 against the run, No. 8 against the pass and No. 7 in points allowed. Mike Macdonald’s defense has been solid, but against Michigan State, his unit was GASHED by Kenneth Walker III. The Spartan running back scored five touchdowns on the day and exposed the Wolverines a bit. Michigan’s linebackers have also struggled at times when it comes to mobile quarterbacks and option plays involving tight ends. Ohio State is equipped to attack all of those weaknesses, which they’ve been able to do against everyone all season.
Three Players To Know
DE/LB Aidan Hutchinson, No. 97
At 6-6, 269 pounds, Hutchinson is big, strong, long and very athletic. During his first three years at Michigan, he was a traditional anchor defensive end tasked with setting the edge and eating up perimeter blockers. Now, he’s a stand-up, hybrid pass rusher and is truly thriving in his new role. He’s tied for the team and Big Ten lead with David Ojabo with 10 sacks through 11 games and is literally the highest-graded edge rusher in the country per Pro Football Focus. He has hurried opposing quarterbacks at least 30 times this season and consistently seems to be in the right place at the right time. He has a knack for making big plays and because of his motor and conditioning, rarely comes off the field. He’s doing it all for Michigan as a senior captain.
DE/LB David Ojabo, No. 55
Opposite Hutchinson you’ll find Ojabo. As a third-year player, Ojabo has really hit his stride. He’s only been playing football for a handful of years after being born in Nigeria and growing up in Scotland. Now that he’s been at Michigan learning and lifting, he’s getting the most out of his 6-5, 250-pound, uber-athletic frame. He’s an elite athlete with legit track speed and now he’s equipped with several effective pass rush moves. As mentioned above, he also has 10 sacks on the season and routinely manages to strip the ball away from opposing quarterbacks. Teams knew they had to game plan for Hutchinson, but now Ojabo is at or near the top of the scouting report as well.
RB Blake Corum, No. 2
Corum is just a sophomore, but he has established himself as Michigan’s home run threat. He has carried the ball 130 times for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns through 11 games and also scored a touchdown through the air. He’s also a dynamic weapon as a kick returner. He hasn’t reached the end zone on a kickoff yet, but he does have an 80-yard return under his belt. He’s only 5-8, 200 pounds, but he’s rocked up, extremely quick and fast and has great vision. Week after week, he’s good for an explosive play. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team and has earned praise from Jim Harbaugh and his teammates all season long for his approach and success. He’s been out for two weeks, so he should be fresh, but is he 100%? That’s the question.
Ohio State is favored by just seven points in this edition of The Game. I do think Michigan is going to show up, play hard and try to stay in the fight, I just think Ohio State is too good on offense. I like Michigan’s defense, I like what Mike Macdonald has done this year and I like the leadership and on-field play on that side of the ball, but I just think Ohio State scores too much and too easily. The only way I see Michigan being able to win the game is to win the turnover battle by quite a bit. If that doesn’t happen, I just don’t think OSU will be slowed down very often.
Ohio State 42, Michigan 20
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