A Michigan fan and an Ohio State fan debate Saturday's big game.

A Michigan fan and an Ohio State fan debate Saturday's big game.

A Michigan fan and an Ohio State fan debate Saturday's big game.

The stadium scene.
Nov. 16 2006 12:53 PM

Mutual Contempt

A Michigan fan and an Ohio State fan explain why they hate each other and who's going to win Saturday's big game.

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That's the basic lay of the game as I see it. Of course, even if I could be sure Michigan would out-rush and out-pass OSU, it wouldn't guarantee a victory. In any given game, a few plays in the red zone, turnovers, and whatnot can have the decisive influence. In 2002, for instance, Michigan outgained OSU by more than 100 yards. But a few plays killed us. We stripped the ball from your receiver, but you recovered and went on to score. You knocked the ball loose from our quarterback and recovered. A terrible pass-interference call sustained a Buckeye touchdown drive, and so on.

If you think I'm bitter, I'm not. After OSU won that game, I predicted that the Buckeyes, a heavy underdog, would match up well with overhyped Miami, and they did. What will happen in Columbus? No idea, but methinks the seven-point spread in Ohio State's favor is too large.


God, I can't wait.

Aaron: I've got no quarrel with one thing you said—you're damn right we won the Toledo War. I'll let the surveying crowd sort out who was in the clear over the Toledo strip, but Ohioans know the Michigan ruffians opened fire at our law-abiding surveyors, who were dispatched by President Andrew Jackson, by the way. As for Woody's unsuccessful two-point conversion, I'm glad you caught my error. I assumed your defense couldn't possibly have been wretched enough to give up 50 before the conversion try in 1968. My mistake.

Hurtling forward into the modern age, I love how you have carefully constructed a plausible argument on a steaming pile of statistics.

Let's deconstruct this Michigan-played-a-tougher-schedule argument. We played six common Big Ten opponents; Michigan also played Wisconsin, while Ohio State played Illinois. Out of conference, we each played two soft Mid-American Conference teams and one big dog: The Bucks played Texas, and Michigan played Notre Dame. What's left? We played Cincinnati, and you played Vanderbilt. That's pretty much the same schedule. Now, let's look at what each team did against common opponents.

We beat both Minnesota and Northwestern by 30 points more than you, Penn State by 15 more, Michigan State by 13 more, Indiana by 10 more, and Iowa by seven more. (Lest you misinterpret the only single-digit margin, we could have named our score in the Hawkeye blowout.) It amuses me to no end that you think your coach plays it close to the vest in the fourth quarter while Ohio State plays wide open. They have a name in college football for sitting on the big lead, punting, and playing defense to eke out a win—it's called Tresselball.

I noticed that you said very little about the Michigan offense. Let's focus on that.

More often than not, you win football games through explosive offensive plays that get you touchdowns, not field goals. Your big play receiver is Mario Manningham, who had eight touchdowns in four games when your offense was clicking in September and early October. He's the one offensive threat that concerns me. But he's coming off midseason knee surgery and will be matched up against OSU's lockdown corner Malcolm Jenkins. Texas' big-play wideout Limas Sweed had all of three catches for 37 yards with Jenkins in his grill all day. When Manningham missed three Big Ten games due to injury, your team had a total of four passing plays longer than 20 yards and none over 30 yards. That tells me that you have no deep threat when Mario is out or, in this case, wearing a Jenkins blanket.

I agree that our defensive weakness is stopping the run, and I like your hard-nosed running back Mike Hart. But he's a Smurfy speed back who needs lanes to run in. Our safeties will creep up because they don't have to respect the deep ball, and Hart will be hemmed in all day.

Wisely, you conceded that Ohio State has a great offense. Likewise, I will concede that Michigan's run defense is statistically about as good as can be, allowing an insane 30 yards per game. What you failed to dwell on is that your pass defense is as suspect as your run defense is stellar. You rank only 65th against the pass this year in the NCAA, and my scouting has shown that the Michigan secondary is shaky outside of DB Leon Hall.