The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 193 12 OHIO STATE • NOV. 29 BY RYAN TICE Ohio State entered last year's Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State without a loss since the Gator Bowl that capped the 2011 campaign; they were un- defeated under head coach Urban Meyer. However, the Spartans claimed a spot in the Rose Bowl with a 34-24 victory while the Buckeyes went to the Orange Bowl, where they suffered a 40-35 loss to Clemson. Those defeats could very well have been what helped bring back senior signal-caller Braxton Miller, one of four players in the nation to both rush and pass for 1,000 yards last year. Last year, he threw for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns against seven picks, while rushing for 1,068 yards and 12 scores despite missing almost three games with injury. He enters his fourth year as the starter leading all current Football Bowl Subdivi- sion quarterbacks with six game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime dur- ing his career. The two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year has a pair of top-10 finishes for the Heisman Trophy and will try to become the most accomplished quarterbacks in program history this fall, but he is currently missing a key piece — the championship ring. Obviously Ohio State still has plenty of talent, but the signal-caller will not be sur- rounded by a ton of experienced weapons — several players will be seeing significant action for the first time. Junior offensive tackle Taylor Decker is the only returning starter up front, and last year's top rusher and pass catcher must also be replaced. Center Chad Lindsay, a transfer from Alabama, was good enough to start four games for the Tide last year and should help solidify the front line immediately. Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott is the top returning player at running back after he rushed 30 times for 262 yards and two scores in 2013. Dontre Wilson (a hybrid weapon), Cardale Jones and Rod Smith also return after each rushed for at least 100 yards last year, and Meyer likes to spread the touches around — last year Carlos Hyde became the coach's first 1,000-yard back. There is more proven talent out wide with seniors Devin Smith, a wide receiver, and Jeff Heuerman, a tight end, both back. Smith ranked second on the team with 44 recep- tions for 660 yards and eight touchdowns, while Heuerman tallied 466 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Senior wideout Evan Spencer and some newcomers should also make an impact. The Buckeyes return seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, and the majority of them belong to the front seven, which only has to replace one starter. Noah Spence, who will be suspended for the first two games, and Joey Bosa might be the best pair of defensive ends in the land. The duo posted nearly identical statistics last year while combining for 96 total stops, 28 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. Senior tackle Michael Bennett is another stud on the nation's top defensive front — he notched 11.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and three forced fumbles last year — so don't expect opponents to run much against OSU. Junior linebacker Josh Perry, who will move to the weakside and lead the unit, finished fourth on the squad in tackles last year and tops all returning players with 64 tackles. On the back line, senior Doran Grant is back after he posted three interceptions and broke up another 10 passes. He'll have to take on the role of No. 1 corner, while red- shirt sophomore safety Tyvis Powell was a part-time starter last year. The secondary can't allow opponents to rack up an aver- age of 268.0 yards per game through the air again — that figure ranked 110th nationally. Ohio State is the favorite in the Big Ten East and a good bet to reach the College Football Playoff despite unproven perform- ers at several key positions — thanks to the return of Miller. The field general will be one of the nation's best players, and the Buckeyes can go as far as he takes them. Notes Ohio State finished among the nation's top 10 last year in scoring offense (third, 45.5 points per game), rushing offense (fifth, 308.6 yards per game) and total offense (seventh, 511.9 yards per game) … Sophomore punter Cameron Johnston is the lone returning specialist and logged 44.0 yards per attempt last year … OSU will not have to play the likely top three teams in the West Divi- sion (Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa) this year. ❑ 2014 SCHEDULE Date Opponent 2013 Result Aug. 30 at Navy — Sept. 6 Virginia Tech — Sept. 13 Kent State — Sept. 27 Cincinnati — Oct. 4 at Maryland — Oct. 18 Rutgers — Oct. 25 at Penn State W, 63-14 Nov. 1 Illinois W, 60-35 Nov. 8 at Michigan State L, 34-24 Nov. 15 at Minnesota — Nov. 22 Indiana W, 42-14 Nov. 29 Michigan W, 42-41 QUICK FACTS All-Time Series: U-M leads 58-46-6 First Meeting: U-M 34, OSU 0 (Oct. 16, 1897, at Ann Arbor) Last Meeting: OSU 42, U-M 41 (Nov. 30, 2013, at Ann Arbor) Head Coach: Urban Meyer, 24-12 at Ohio State (3rd year) and 128-25 overall (13th year) Off./Def. Systems: Spread/Multiple 2013 in Review: 12-2 overall, 8-0 Big Ten (1st Lead- ers Division) Final 2013 Ranking: No. 10 in USA Today coaches and No. 12 AP Returning Starters: 13 (5 offense, 7 defense, 1 specialist) Last Bowl Appearance: 2013 (Orange, vs. Clemson, L 40-35) Big Ten Conference Championships (last): 35 (2010) RETURNING LEADERS Passing: Braxton Miller (2,094 yards, 24 TD, 7 INT) Rushing: Braxton Miller (1,068 yards, 12 TD) Receiving: Devin Smith (660 yards, 8 TD) Tackles: Joshua Perry (64) Sacks: Noah Spence (8) Interceptions: Doran Grant (3) PLAYERS TO WATCH Offense: Taylor Decker, Jr., LT — Started at right tackle last year and will flip to the left side this season … The line — which helped the team rank 10th nationally with an average of 242 rushing yards per game in 2013 — must replace four starters … Sprained his MCL last year against Purdue, but did not miss a start. Defense: Joey Bosa, So., DE — Shined as a rookie and finished 0.5 sacks behind team leader Noah Spence with 7.5 … Also notched 44 tackles, 13.5 stops for loss, a fumble recovery and six quarter- back hurries. Buckeyes Have Championship Hopes For 2014 Campaign Senior quarterback Braxton Miller was one of four players in the nation to both rush and pass for 1,000 yards last year. PHOTO COURTESY OHIO STATE 182-193.Opponents.indd 193 6/19/14 1:12 PM

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