Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Three Primary Keys to THE GAME.

1. Rabid Intensity. To beat OSU in Columbus, we need to be going at full throttle from the time we get off the bus until we finish the post-win serenade of The Victors before the tiny contingent of Michigan fans brave enough (not to mention, well-insured enough) to make the trip. Michigan teams have a tendency to reflect the attitude of their coaches. When any senior on this team speaks in an interview, you swear that Lloyd Carr is back there somehere answering the questions and pulling strings to make their mouths move in sync. When he's intense, they're intense. When he's pissed, they have a tendency to follow suit, and play downright nasty. Well, LC is pissed, reportedly storming out of an interview with ABC, cursing all the way. What set him off? Some say its leftover anger from the Columbus TV station's reporting that Prescott Burgess would be served with an arrest warrant. Some say a question regarding Breaston, and earlier comments by a former Buckeye calling him worthless. Some say it was repeated questions about Jim Tressel having his number. I'll have to wait to see for myself to know the truth, but honestly, it doesn't matter. Because at the end of the day, ABC could have wanted to talk about ice cream and LC would have found a way to get worked up. The fact of the matter is, this is the last big stop on the redemption tour, and he intends to make it count. It all starts with palpable intensity. It doesn't hurt that Schembechler is throwing "by gods" across the airways, daring OSU to try and pull another chickenshit pre-game dog sniffing fiasco. Make no mistake. Michigan, the entire living breathing nation of Michigan, is pissed. Intensity will not be a problem.

2. Destroy Troy. The difference in the last two OSU victories was Troy Smith. He's bigger and faster than he appears. Despite early shakiness in his career, he has evolved into an amazingly accurate passer. However, he does have a tendency to fumble the ball. Turnovers will be at a premium, and he is seemingly more likely to fumble than to throw a pick. Of course, he is more likely to fumble with Alan Branch and Lamar Woodley knocking him to the turf. Also, I would not be surprised to see OSU use Smith as an intentional rushing option, and not just as a scrambling passer. IU's QB had some success last week running QB draws. Keep in mind, however, that in several of those instances, he did so because Will Johnson and Chris Graham just missed making a tackle. Branch and Burgess would probably have fared better, at least on part of the successful runs. If Smith runs the ball, the opportunities to force a fumble increase. In the end, this will probably be the best front 7 that Troy Smith has ever faced. If they can't contain him and put him on the ground a few times, then drive him straight to New York and give him the damn Heisman Trophy. But I think they can. When these guys get after you, they get after you. They big. They fast. They strong. They nasty. And they fast.

3. Hart of a Lion. The Buckeyes have amassed some unbelievable numbers defensively, particularly considering that so many starters moved on to the NFL last season. They are giving up fewer points per game (7.8) than Michigan's vaunted '97 defense (9.5). They are averaging nearly 2 interceptions per game, including a spooky number of picks by the linebackers. But if there is one area where teams have had (relative) success against OSU, it's running the football. Michael Hart can make the difference in this game. If he is able to find the creases and get 4 yards here, 6 yards there, it becomes an entirely different ball game. The play action will work. The middle will open up. The long pass will be there. The screens and draws will work. It all starts and ends with Mike Hart. And there is not a single offensive player whose shoulders I would rather put it upon. No offense to Chad Henne, who everyone knows I love, but Mike Hart must carry this team to victory in Columbus. If he cannot make OSU cheat to stop him, they will pressure Henne on the edges, and sit back at the safety and LB positions and wait for him to make a mistake. They have done it to everyone they have played. They will jump on you offensively, force you to pass, and squat in the passing lanes. Well, if Michigan's D can keep the Buckeye offense in check (and if it can be done, it will happen Saturday), and Mike Hart can be reasonably effective, OSU won't have the luxury to sit back. They will have to commit tighter to the line of scrimmage to stop Hart. If they do, look for lightning to strike in the form of Manningham, Arrington, and/or Breaston. If they don't, then DeBord will try to grind them into dust.

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