Who's got the edge? Position-by-position breakdown of Michigan-Ohio State
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unbeaten teams playing at home tend to have a lot of advantages. Funny how that works.
And this one's no different.
No. 20 Michigan (8-3, 6-1) has a hot hand at quarterback in Devin Gardner, a wildcard in Denard Robinson and the nation's No. 1 pass defense. But No. 4 Ohio State (11-0, 7-0) has its own quarterback, and Braxton Miller has done well for himself, rising into a fringe Heisman Trophy candidate as a sophomore.
Cold temperatures and a stiff wind could neutralize Gardner's passing edge, placing more emphasis on the running game -- and that favors Miller, tailback Carlos Hyde and the Buckeyes.
A look at the matchups heading heading Saturday's game
Michigan knew Devin Gardner had the talent to cut it at quarterback, but even it must be surprised by the junior's torrid three-game debut. He's 46-of-70 passing (65.7 percent) for 834 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. His 268 yards passing per game would lead the league if he were eligible. Gardner's ability to move the chains (23-of-33 on third down) has helped spur the offense. Braxton Miller, though, is a Heisman Trophy candidate for a reason. He's still getting it done on the ground, ranking fourth in the Big Ten at 110.4 rushing yards per game, and is second at 278.5 yards of offense per game overall. He'll be more comfortable than Gardner playing in Columbus, has more experience and the conditions (projected 32 degrees, 15 mph wind) plays into his strengths as a runner if passing becomes difficult. Advantage: Ohio State
Thomas Rawls is expected to start here with Fitz Toussaint out for the season, although Denard Robinson likely will get reps as well. Rawls has 52 carries for 240 yards and four touchdowns this year. Robinson received a team-high 13 carries last week and gained 98 yards, much of which came with him in the backfield. Ohio State's situation is much clearer, with Carlos Hyde averaging 91.6 yards per game. He's a load to bring down, and gives the Buckeyes a proven tailback presence that Michigan lacks. Advantage: Ohio State
Ohio State's overall production has been better, but isolating Michigan's production the past three games with Gardner at quarterback levels things. Roy Roundtree is averaging 4.0 catches for 95.3 yards per game with Gardner, and Jeremy Gallon 5.3 catches for 99.7 yards. Ohio State's top wideout, Corey Brown, averages 4.7 catches for 52.2 yards for the season. Michigan is averaging 15.3 completions for 268 yards the past three games, and Ohio State 9.7 catches for 155.3 yards over the same stretch. Ohio State has been better, and Michigan is hotter. Advantage: Even
Michigan's offensive line has ebbed and flowed throughout the season -- but mostly ebbed, struggling to finish blocks. The biggest problems have come on the interior, where holes simply haven't opened for the tailbacks. No Michigan back has rushed for 100 yards this year. And now, it must face a defensive line that features two future pros. Ohio State's offensive line has become a strength, perhaps the most improved grouping under first-year coach Urban Meyer. The unit leads the way for a rushing game that ranks ninth nationally (245.5 yards per game). Offensive line coach Ed Warinner is among the nominees for the Broyles Award, given to the nation's top assistant. Advantage: Ohio State
Brady Hoke still laments the dearth of sacks from his defense -- 15 on the year, 10th in the league, and the line has generated just eight. But the line has otherwise performed well, plugging holes and keeping linebackers clean to make plays. Still,
Ohio State has two premier players here in John Simon and Jonathan Hankins. Simon leads the league in sacks (nine) and tackles for loss (14.5) -- and is coming off the best game of his career, lodging four sacks against Wisconsin. Advantage: Ohio State
Michigan's unit took a hit last week when WLB Desmond Morgan was sidelined by injury, but freshman James Ross stepped in with a team-high 12 tackles and Morgan is expected back this week, giving Michigan more options to throw at Miller. Jake Ryan has 13 tackles for loss, fourth in the league, and must contain the edge against Ohio State's spread system. OSU's Ryan Shazier has 14.5 tackles for loss, which leads the league, and 110 tackles overall, which is second. But Michigan has better depth. Advantage: Michigan
Michigan is No. 1 against the pass in the country, and fittingly, has held the edge here every week since the unit took form. That's true this week, although it's worth noting Miller hit three passes of at least 36 yards in last year's game and finished with 235 yards through the air. He entered that game averaging 76.2. Advantage: Michigan
Will Hagerup leads the Big Ten at 44.7 yards per punt and Brendan Gibbons is 14-of-16 on field goals, good for an 87.5-percent clip that ranks ninth nationally. They are two of Michigan's best players. Dennis Norfleet has cooled on kick returns, but still ranks third in the league at 23.3 yards per attempt. Ohio State isn't particularly good at anything on special teams except punt return, where it ranks second in the league thanks to Corey Brown's 13.9 yards per return. Michigan's punt coverage hasn't been great, so field position could be flipped if the Wolverines don't address that. Advantage: Michigan