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SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
11/18/2006 05:34:00 PM

Ohio State-Michigan Halftime Observations

Oakland Arena
Troy Smith absolutely tore apart Michigan's secondary in the first half.
AP

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Wow. If you were worried Ohio State-Michigan wouldn’t live up to the hype, you can put that to rest. The first half contained so many twists and turns, big plays and momentum changes, I’ve had to re-write this Blog entry about five times. And while I could have imagined a back-and-forth game, never would have I anticipated such an offensive explosion by both sides.

As it stands now, however, Ohio State is right on the brink of putting this thing away. And that’s a direct result of Troy Smith delivering one of the greatest big-game performances I’ve ever seen.

Smith, who’s completed 21 of 26 throws for 241 yards and three touchdowns, is picking apart one of the nation’s stingiest defenses as easily he did Texas’, Iowa’s or anybody else’s. The defining sequence came on the series that put the Buckeyes up 21-7, with Smith first spinning away from pressure and delivering a downfield strike that Brian Robiskie turned into a 40-yard gain, then executing a brilliant, ball-hide play-fake on his 39-yard touchdown strike to Ted Ginn Jr.

I’ve really liked Ohio State’s play-calling. Showing obvious respect for Michigan’s ability to stuff the run, the Buckeyes have barely tried (though Chris Wells certainly made the most of his one carry), instead lining up Smith in the shotgun, spreading out as many as five receivers and throwing a lot of quick passes and screens. The result: Smith has already thrown for nearly as many yards (241) as any opposing quarterback has against Michigan all season (Drew Stanton’s 252 yards leads the pack).

On the flip side, Chad Henne couldn’t have looked more brilliant on Michigan’s opening series (4-for-4 for 67 yards, including two long passes to Mario Manningham in which he checked off at the line) and on its final offensive play (a 37-yard touchdown to Adrian Arrington), but really struggled in between. He made a huge mistake on Michigan’s second series, overthrowing a wide-open Manningham deep down the sideline on what would have been an easy touchdown.

If he converts that, Michigan goes up 14-7, and maybe this is a different game. As it is, Henne struggled to handle Ohio State’s pressure and, if not for a pass interference call on OSU’s Malcolm Jenkins shortly before the Arrington touchdown, this game might already be over.

As it is, OSU’s 80-yard touchdown just before the half was a dagger, especially considering it gets the ball back to start the second half. Michigan is either going to need to make some major adjustments to slow down Smith or gain some turnovers if it hopes to have a chance of coming back.

One other note: Ohio State installed a new sod field just three weeks before this game (the second time this season it’s had to tear up its entire playing surface), and it shows. Several Michigan players have slipped on key plays (defensive Rondell Biggs while rushing Smith on his 27-yard third-down pass to Roy Hall and Manningham while attempting to catch a first-down throw), and you can already see huge divots in certain portions of the field.
posted by Stewart Mandel | View comments |

Comments:

Posted: 6:04 PM   by rtrammell
stuart-has it occurred to you that michigan's d just isn't that great?
I do recall people saying just a few short weeks ago that lousiville and wvu had no defense and they didn't deserve to be in the national championship, MICHIGAN and OHIO ST. have no defenses. Neither one of these teams have played anyone all year...OVERRATED NOTRE DAME team for michigan and a texas team for ohio state in the big12. Can we say overrated and all for the money?
Posted: 6:17 PM   by Anonymous
if only the refs would actually call a penalty against Ohio State that score would be alot different
Posted: 6:25 PM   by Anonymous
people complained nonstop about the lack of defense in wvu-louisville. i don't see a lot of defense being played at the horshoe this evening. sometimes the skill players are just too good.
Posted: 7:06 PM   by J Bell
CollegeFootballGuru,

I guess you werent watching the game when the called the pass interference on an uncatchable ball or the bizarre personal foul on the punt that both extended Michigan drives. Face it, you got beat by a better team, have fun in the Rose Bowl
Guess defense doesn't matter much if the teams are ohio state/michigan or USC/TEXAS (41-38 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP). Ohio State/Michigan are not the two best teams in the country.
Posted: 7:37 PM   by Anonymous
WOW. That was some atrocious defense on display!
I agree with squirrel12345. Neither team has played anyone of real consequence this season. Gaudy records compiled versus inferior competition doesn't equate to the two best teams in the country. Step up and play some real competition and your status as an "elite" team.
Posted: 7:39 PM   by Anonymous
Did the last 7 minutes of this game really just unfold that way? The roughing the passer penalty against Michigan puts a major damper on my enthusiasum for college football in general. How many times have we seen borderline calls like this be the difference maker in big games. This is arguably the biggest game in 100 years of college football, but apparently the outcome can still be changed by a little yellow flag. Then, as if the refs had some sort of Michigan vendetta, they proceeded to miss a late hit out of bounds on steve breaston on the ensuing kickoff, a facemask at around the 30 yardline, and then pulled out a holding call that osu had been getting away with all day against Michigan to move them farther back. Michigan still scored, but the point remains. REFS: STOP DECIDING THE GAME FOR THE PLAYERS. LET THEM PLAY.
Posted: 7:41 PM   by Anonymous
WooHoo.... we win... I'll be sure to mail out a thank you card to the referees on Monday since the mail doesn't run on Sunday. I have a few left over that I sent to the crew that gave us the NC against Miami a couple of years back. I am so thankful that there are that many pro-Buckeye refs in college football.
Posted: 7:55 PM   by riverrat25
Wow first of all michigan and ohio state do have great defenses they just have amazing offenses too. And I would love to see this game again in a neutral l site WITH NO NEW SOD. Every big play occured because a player was slipping. And anyone saying Louisville and West Virginia are just as good are idiots. This game for both defenses was a first for both. West Virginia couldn't beat Wisconsin. Louisville couldn't beat Texas. They all just run 500 yards against Eastern Washington (remember that West Virginia?). Until West Virginia wants to schedule someone tough out of conference (at least Louisville tried by scheduling Miami) you cannot make a case for them. And maybe Rutgers does deserve a BCS bowl if Boise State gets one, but a National Championship isn't gonna happen. What happens when Ohio State blows out any team they played in Glendale. Think how close the Michigan game was in Columbus.
Posted: 8:03 PM   by Anonymous
This game has always featured great athletes. The difference now is Tressel.
Wow, everytime i looked someone was dropping a pass. Either Troy Smith and Chad Henne have cannons for arm, or these recievers are a bit overrated.
Posted: 8:14 PM   by mjhokie
Going along with this "defense" theme, funny how everybody complained about the amount of yards and scoring in the Rutgers/Louisville game as proof Rutgers doesn't belong. Well, Rutgers basically shut out the high powered Louisville offense in the 2nd half when it counted, and if I remember correctly, USC and Texas scored MORE combined points and MORE combined yards in last year's BCS title game.

So, Texas and USC didn't deserve to be in that game?
Posted: 8:17 PM   by Anonymous
There were not too many blown defensive assignments. The offense's were very efficient balancing/establishing both the run AND pass. That's the difference between OSU/UM and the rest of the nation. They are the only two teams with the ability to run/pass on top defenses (not so for SEC teams, WVU, Rutgers, USC) and they both have great defenses (not so with Louisville, Notre Dame)

Overall it was a great game, I'm glad that the Buckeye's winning drive was sustained due to the only vicious hit of the game by a Michigan player.
Posted: 8:18 PM   by Anonymous
There were not too many blown defensive assignments. The offense's were very efficient balancing/establishing both the run AND pass. That's the difference between OSU/UM and the rest of the nation. They are the only two teams with the ability to run/pass on top defenses (not so for SEC teams, WVU, Rutgers, USC) and they both have great defenses (not so with Louisville, Notre Dame)

Overall it was a great game, I'm glad that the Buckeye's winning drive was sustained due to the only vicious hit of the game by a Michigan player.
Posted: 8:19 PM   by J.D. Bolick
Great play-calling and offensive performances from Ohio State, but it's disappointing that no one in the country seems like they are a complete team. At least Troy Smith justified the relentless Heisman hype.
Posted: 8:46 PM   by Anonymous
Those two team should be in BCS bowl. They are the top two team in the nation.
Posted: 8:46 PM   by Anonymous
More penalties? If you didn't notice OSU had more penalties than you. And actually if you havn't noticed, either michigan or ohio state leads in almost every defensive aspect in the country. The difference is we're undefeated and your not. So get over how "overrated" we are, cause we're number one and off to the desert for the national championship january 8.
Posted: 8:51 PM   by Anonymous
Not a fan of either team but the officiating was very one sided slanted towards State. it is a shame that the zebras once again influence what should be settled on field
Posted: 9:13 PM   by Anonymous
The reason Michigan's defense struggled was because Ohio State's offense is two-dimensional. Louisville and Virginia and Rutgers are just run run run run run. If Michigan played one of those teams they would dominate them start to finish Ohio States O is just that good and there D plays good enough not to lose any games. Good luck to anybody stopping them.
Posted: 9:31 PM   by Anonymous
There's more games to go in the season to determine things. It's up to the contending teams to prove their cause.

Michigan shouldn't drop too much in the polls. Tough to see anyone faulting them for a 3 point loss at the Horseshoe.

At this time, I am happily expecting a good Capital One Bowl with Wisconsin facing a quality SEC program again.
Hey Squirrel!

Overrated? No defense? Do you THINK before you post that kind of thing? OSU and Michigan are clearly the two best teams in the country right now...that's not just me saying that but almost all the announcers, etc. I don't know what would convince you (probably nothing, since even your team getting its hat handed to it by one of those two would be seen by you as bad umpiring, bad calls, etc. Both teams have demonstrated strong defenses. And if you're an SEC person making that comment about D, you've GOT to be kidding me. If there was EVER a conference overrated for its defense...wow.
Posted: 10:14 PM   by Anonymous
What a GREAT GAME. If UM is not in the Title Game against OSU it may be very DULL.
Posted: 10:56 PM   by Anonymous
Stuart, your becomming such a whinner. So what the turf was new in Columbus. Last I checked both OSU and Michigan played on the same surface. New, old ,mud, snow what makes the difference. Football used to be a man's game where there was no whining and no excuses. Guess the likes of you "experts" who sit in the climate controlled booths and studios have figured out whats been wrong with the game for the past hundred or so years. Maybe we should just build a dome and pave the surface and control the climate so every game is in 70 degrees and sunny. Or, maybe you and your expert friends should just stick to celebrity poker, billiards and bowling. Enough excuses. Michigan got beat by a better OSU team, just like OSU has lost games in the past to a better Michigan team, no excuses. The better team won this year. Is that so hard to accept? Man up Stuart.
Posted: 11:02 PM   by Rine'4life
The greatest game I have ever seen. Even though the Rines'lost, you have to be impressed. They put up alot of points. Just four points too few. If theres no rematch then it would be a shame. No other team in the nation could hang with Ohio State. I don't care what you SEC homers say.(And I live in Tennessee)! Arkansas nor Florida can beat Ohio State or Michigan for that matter. This was one for the ages. For all the Michigan fans, please dont get on here and complain. We lost a great game. The refs didn't beat us we be us. Sure that Crable call was kind of petty, but if Henne his Manningham on two different times with him wide open its a different game. Sure that penalty killed us. But we had other chances. Hopefully we'll see the in two months. I think it'll be different then. Go Blue!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted: 11:54 PM   by Anonymous
It's sad when we have to rely on the refs to win the game for us... TS doesn't deserve the heisman after that 2nd half tonight. We'll have to see how Brady does against USC to see if he deserves it.

Michigan had us beat tonight. I saw atleast 3 or 4 times at the beginning of the game where we should have been called for unsportsman like with pushing and shoving after the play was dead. They missed holds on both of those big rushing TDs. That penalty ont he hit on Smith was a gift from god. And they totally missed 2 face masks on Michigans last drive.

Can't say much though, the refs not calling that pass interference call against Miami a couple of years ago got us a NC. I don't like winning with the refs, but it puts a 'W' beside the schedule.
Posted: 12:14 AM   by Anonymous
what a great game (except for the turf), but I don't think UM should get a rematch over a USC or Arkansas team that is playing so well. How can you say someone is the national champion when they don't have to beat anyone out of conference for the bcs game?
Posted: 12:38 AM   by Anonymous
Stuart, last time I checked, Ohio State was playing on the same field as Michigan. The first time OSU stepped on the field was the same time that Michigan first stepped on the new field. I guess the better team didn't let the new field get in their way!
Posted: 11:05 AM   by Anonymous
Stewart,

You think it was draining for you? Imagine how it felt to all of us who bleed scarlet & gray. It is known as THE GAME for a reason - the players leave it all on the field, may the best team win. I thought the 2002 National Championship game was exciting, but it certainly did not make me as nervous as this one. In a town, where the Rose Bowl used to be the greatest prize...but, oh, the air in Arizona is so much sweeter.
Posted: 2:25 PM   by Anonymous
so much whining from the michigan fans...if they aren't blaming old Bo for the loss, they're blaming the zebras for catching their player committing a penalty.

here's some news: Bo didn't distract your defense when they watched Pittman and Wells tear up the middle on simple iso plays. The ref kept the score respectful, though still out of reach, when he kept his hankey in his pocket when a gratuitous block in the back was committed on the goal line on your last gasp effort to score points.

are you guys michigan fans or notre dame fans? the din coming from the midwest sounds the same.

go booohooohooo!!!!
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