Michigan is the winningest program in college football. As a Michigan fan, it blows my mind we have been unable to beat the Buckeyes the last seven years. I attribute the losses to two things. First, Jim Tressel’s sweater vest was like Kryptonite to the Wolverines. Second, when you have one of the worst defenses in the country you can’t win games.
This year is different. Michigan has a vastly improved defense from last year. This is because the current coaching staff is defense-minded. Brady Hoke is a defensive coach and former assistant coach of Lloyd Carr. He was part of the 1997 National Championship team. Hoke knows the rich traditions of the storied program. He has a deep respect and appreciation for the conference and the rivalries. He understands the importance of the Ohio State game. This game is really the only game true Michigan fans care about. I would be perfectly happy if Michigan lost every game, as long as we beat that school in Ohio. Obviously, I will be happier when we exceed everyone’s expectations for the year and end up with a 10-2 record. The other reason the defense is so improved is because of the new defensive coordinator, Greg Mattison. Coach Mattison is a defensive mastermind who left his NFL job coaching the Baltimore Ravens to come back to Michigan. He says he loves to coach college players because he can really teach them, as well as help them outside of football. He has done an excellent job teaching them the fundamentals and the new defensive scheme.
Another difference this year is the state of the Ohio State football program. Because of the scandals, they are without Coach Tressel and former star quarterback Terrelle Pryor. They are under sanctions by the NCAA and have lost several scholarships, commits (many committed to Michigan next year) and future recruits. As a Michigan fan, I have mixed feelings about this. I would have loved to see Michigan begin to dominate Ohio State again with Coach Tressel still in place. Unfortunately, this is unable to occur. On the other hand, I am glad to see anything that gives us a competitive advantage. I do respect their program and love to see both teams do well until they meet at the end of the regular season.
I am predicting a big win for Michigan this year. The seniors are definitely ready to make up for their three former embarrassments. Coach Hoke has done an excellent job of instilling the importance of this rivalry back into the players. One of the first things he did was install a countdown clock for this game where the players couldn’t miss it.
After seeing the way the Wolverines handled Nebraska last week, I believe they are ready to do the same thing to the Buckeyes. This Saturday’s game is at Michigan, who is undefeated at home this season. Ohio State will come ready to play. It is the biggest rivalry in the country. However, Michigan has too many weapons for Ohio State to handle.