Ann Arbor, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - Bitter Big Ten Conference rivals get together on the final day of the 2013 regular season, as the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes pay a visit to the Michigan Wolverines.
Ohio State dismissed visiting Indiana last weekend, 42-14, to record its 23rd consecutive win, which is a new school record. It also assured the team of an appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game to be played in Indianapolis on Dec. 7, where it will take on Michigan State for the league's automatic BCS berth. OSU has never lost a game under current head coach Urban Meyer, who is about to complete his second season at the helm.
Michigan's campaign started with a ton of promise, as the team streaked out to a 5-0 start. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off from there as it dropped four its next six to tally a 7-4 overall record, and 3-4 ledger in league play. The Wolverines suffered a 24-21 loss at Iowa last weekend, and a victory over the hated Buckeyes will not only do wonders for their psyche, but also propel them into a significantly better bowl game.
UM head coach Brady Hoke spoke recently about the air of excitement surrounding this week's matchup with Ohio State.
"It's such a great rivalry that we are fortunate to be able to play and to be able to coach in. This week is a week that gets everybody involved: media, fans, all those people. Everybody has an opinion, which is good. It's good for the game because the game is talked about. It's going to be a lot of fun on Saturday to play the football game."
Meyer echoed Brady's sentiment and talked briefly about his own personal feelings on the rivalry.
"It's a really great game. Where I grew up in the ten year war, and I learned to dislike Michigan at a very young age. But, no, you never really appreciate it until you're behind the walls here and find out how serious it is."
Michigan owns a 58-45-6 advantage in the all-time series with Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have won eight of the last nine, and 10 of the last 12 meetings overall.
Braxton Miller ran for 144 yards and two TDs, while throwing for 160 yards and two scores to power the OSU offense in last week's trouncing of Indiana. The Buckeyes also got a solid effort from Carlos Hyde, who rushed for 117 yards and two scores. Hyde is the first RB in Urban Meyer's 12 years as a head coach to go over 1,000 yards in a season.
Ryan Shazier had a monster game in the frigid conditions, logging a staggering 20 tackles, five of which took place in the Indiana backfield. The OSU defense did not force a turnover in the game, but had four sacks and held the Hoosiers to just 7-of-21 success on third-down conversion attempts.
Ohio State owns the Big Ten's most productive offense, as the unit generates 530.9 yards per game and tallies 48.7 points per outing. Miller, who missed a few games due to injury earlier in the campaign, has thrown for 1,626 yards, 19 TDs and only four interceptions, with both Corey Brown and Devin Smith logging at least 40 receptions for a combined 1,187 yards and 16 scores. Hyde paces the rushing attack with 1,064 yards and 13 TDs, and Miller is also active on the ground with 738 yards and five scores.
Shazier is making a strong case for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as he has 108 total tackles, 19.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Noah Spence has seven of the team's league-leading 36 sacks. Overall, the Buckeyes are permitting just 18.4 points and 333.4 yards per tilt, with their effort against the run yielding a mere 95.3 ypg and only five TDs.
Despite an anemic offensive performance, the Wolverines held a 14-point halftime lead over Iowa last Saturday, but from there it was all Hawkeyes as the hosts scored 17 unanswered points to earn the three-point victory. When the final second ticked off the clock, Michigan had managed to total just 158 yards (60 rushing, 98 passing), as Devin Gardner completed only 13-of-28 passes. Two of them however, went for TDs, one each to Jeremy Gallon (six rec., 47 yards) and A.J. Williams.
Raymon Taylor tried his best to keep the Michigan defense clicking on all cylinders, but even his nine tackles (eight solo), fumble recovery and interception couldn't keep the Hawkeyes from gaining more than 400 yards on the day.
For the season, the Wolverines are putting up 33.1 ppg in amassing 362.8 ypg. Their weapon of choice has been the pass (234.0 ypg), as Gardner has hit the mark on 58.7 percent of his passes for more than 2,500 yards, 17 TDs and 11 picks. Jeremy Gallon has proven himself to be one of the Big Ten's top pass catchers, reeling in 71 balls for 1,109 yards and eight TDs, while Devin Funchess has 43 grabs for 686 yards and five scores. Fitzgerald Toussaint spearheads the rushing attack with 613 yards and 10 TDs, while Gardner has earned 473 yards while crossing the goal line 10 times.
Michigan is giving up 353.0 ypg, but has been pretty stingy when it comes to allowing points (25.1 ppg). The team has done a solid job against the run (116.4 ypg, nine TDs), and James Ross III paces the unit with 81 tackles. Taylor is next with 75, and his four interceptions sit only one behind the Big Ten leader in that department, Blake Countess.