41 points given up. 603 yards allowed. These are numbers fans in Columbus are not accustomed to being put up against the once-vaunted Silver Bullets defense. Especially considering that Michigan came into the game with an offensive attack that had struggled for much of the season. The Buckeyes expected Joey Bosa, Noah Spence, and Ryan Shazier would be making plays in the backfield throughout the game. Instead, Michigan brought their big guns to this offensive shootout. The Buckeyes were not ready for what hit them and played atrociously on defense. However, I think it’s safe to say that fans of the Scarlet and Grey should fear not too much for the defense. “The Game” was a perfect storm of awful that likely won’t be seen again…at least until Jameis Winston and the Seminoles line up against the Buckeyes in BCS Championship Game.
One of two things happened on Saturday. Either Michigan played possum all season long for the sole purpose of lulling Ohio State into a false sense of security, or Al Borges realized he was going to have to throw everything and the kitchen sink at Ohio State to win the game (I’ll side with the latter). Regardless of Michigan’s strategy, it’s safe to say that the game plan caught both Luke Fickell and the players completely off guard. Michigan ran misdirections, screens, misdirection screens, sweeps, reverses, you name it they ran it. All in hope that it would keep the defense off-balanced and over pursuing. And it worked beautifully for them. The defense was reacting instead of dictating the entire game and the poor tackling reared its ugly head again as a result of guys being out-of-place. Thankfully the Buckeyes won, and it was all because Al Borges resorted to his predictable self on the 2-point conversion as the defense knew what was coming.
Ohio State’s defense is clearly not as good this season (or last) as it has been in the previous decade plus, but it is also not as bad as it looked on Saturday. Michigan has talented offensive players, but for whatever reason they had been terrible for most of the season. In hindsight, it’s not shocking that they managed to get up for their biggest rival and deliver their best offensive performance of the season. Michigan got on a roll and Ohio State couldn’t stop the bleeding except for a few key stops early in the second half that allowed the Buckeyes to build a two touchdown lead. Expect a huge defensive improvement this Saturday against a Michigan State offense that doesn’t have a mobile quarterback or the skill players that Michigan does.
The Buckeyes have issues on defense, there’s no denying that. But it’s a young defense, the talent is there, and it’s amazing how much can change in the course of just one week. If Ohio State beats Michigan State on Saturday to claim the B1G championship, they’ll be in the BCS Championship Game. The opponent will probably be Florida State. Buckeyes fans can only hope that Urban Meyer can pull off a mini miracle in the weeks leading up to January 6th, because that’s what it will take for the defense to hold up against that potent offensive attack.