Michigan gets the monkey off its back, beats Ohio State

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (C) celebrates with teammates after his diving touchdown into the end zone against Ohio State during the first half of their NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Michigan November 26, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook (UNITED STATES) – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

The streak is over. It had been 2,926 days since Michigan had last beat Ohio State, but today, the Wolverines ended that, picking up a 40-34 win against the Buckeyes in a thrilling game at the Big House.

Courtney Avery picked off a Braxton Miller pass in the final minute of the game to seal the win for Michigan, which is now 10-2 with a legitimate chance to be selected to a BCS bowl. In fact, at this point, I’d be surprised if the Wolverines were passed up by the Sugar Bowl, which is very likely going to have two at-large choices thanks to the SEC likely putting two teams in the national title game.

It was an improved defense that had Michigan in that position heading into today, but it was Denard Robinson that finished the job. The junior quarterback had the best game of his career in what was really a must-win situation for the Wolverines (more on that in a second). He was 14-of-17 for 166 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 170 yards and two scores. He’s had statistically better games, but this is the one that Denard will be remembered for in Michigan.

As to the must-win declaration: With Ohio State in the state it was in this season, and with Urban Meyer coming on board, if Michigan didn’t win this year, it might have been a while before the Wolverines found a way to win against the Buckeyes. Brady Hoke has done a great job in Year 1, but he’s led a bit of a charmed existence thanks to a very weak Big Ten, an 8-game home schedule, and his chief rival — both on the field and in recruiting — being hampered by a rough season on and off the field. He’s taken advantage and deserves credit for doing so — he should make no apologies for dragging a fading program back to 10-2 — but had he lost this game, a lot of the goodwill he has built up might have been gone.

It nearly was, had it not been for the erratic arm of Braxton Miller. The Ohio State freshman looked brilliant in spots, especially running the football, but he missed a lot of open receivers and cost the Buckeyes at least two sure touchdowns with overthrows. The second came on the final drive, as DeVier Posey had double-moved J.T. Floyd into oblivion and was running free down the sidelines.

The thought of Miller with some more seasoning and in Urban Meyer’s offense should scare not only Michigan fans and the rest of the Big Ten, but the rest of the country. Those two will win a lot of games together.

But not today. No, today belonged to Michigan, which isn’t thinking about all of that other stuff while celebrating the only thing that matters in Ann Arbor, beating Ohio State.

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Miller completes one pass in Ohio State win over Illinois

Woody Hayes would be proud. Sort of.

The Ohio State Buckeyes partied like it was 1969 as they pounded Illinois into submission with a physical defense and a solid running game, winning 17-7. The Buckeyes spent most of the day in the power-I, and Dan Herron returned to the lineup to lead the running attack. Meanwhile, Braxton Miller completed only one pass in the game – a touchdown to tight end Jake Stoneburner. On this windy day, the formula worked well as Miller was more than happy to run out of the pocket. I don’t know who is on a bigger learning curve – freshman quarterback Miller or first-year head coach Luke Fickell. Fickell seems to figure things out, but he’s always about three quarters too late. Even with this win, the lack of imagination of the Ohio State coaches in the passing game is embarrassing.

Meanwhile, The Fighting Illini learned what it was like to face a real defense. Despite their collapse last week against Nebraska, the Ohio State defense is a solid unit that plays physical football. Illinois had built a 6-0 record against mediocre competition, but reality set in against Ohio State.

Then there’s the Ron Zook factor. He’s going to take some heat for a late-game decision to go for it on fourth down when he could have kicked a field goal to bring the Illini within one score of a tie.

The Buckeyes have been a mess all year, but it will be interesting to see if they can compete with Wisconsin in a huge home game in two weeks after their bye week. It also looks like the Michigan game will be competitive this year.

Ohio State redefines offensive ineptitude in loss to Michigan State

Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell (C) runs onto the field prior to their NCAA football game against the University of Akron in Columbus, Ohio September 3, 2011. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

So, about that Ohio State offense. Woof.

The Buckeyes put on a performance for the ages, today against Michigan State. That is, if their ages were 8 or 9. They gained 178 yards in a 10-7 loss to the Spartans, 95 of it coming on their last two drives. The final drive covered 62 yards and ended in a touchdown pass by Joe Bauserman with 10 seconds remaining. Something to build on, I suppose.

But for the majority of the game, the Buckeyes were something worse than atrocious on offense, as true freshman Braxton Miller showed us all what it looks like when a true freshman with limited offensive weaponry around him plays against a legit Big Ten defense. That sight, but the way, is not pretty.

A week ago I wrote that Miller was the Buckeyes answer at quarterback, even though he struggled passing the football. Today he may have proven me wrong. I’m sure Miller, who is supremely talented (or so I hear), will one day be the man for the Buckeyes, and not out of necessity. But with DeVier Posey and Dan Herron coming back next week, it might be a better idea to just go with Bauserman and play boring, classic Big Ten offense. This is not to be confused with the so boring it’s kind of exciting offense that was on display today.

And before you get into the “Michigan State is top-ranked defense” argument, stop. The Spartans numbers are inflated by playing cupcakes and a Notre Dame team that was less interested in moving the ball and more interested in not letting Tommy Rees do Tommy Rees-type things in the second half. Even then, the Irish moved the ball up and down the field without a lot of interference at times.

The point is, this is not the best defense Ohio State is going to see this year, and yes things are going to get better when players return from suspension, but with who the Buckeyes have under center, it’s tough to even see it getting to “watchable.”

The defense is still solid, but it’s not as good as it has been, so I don’t see it being able to pull out games against better foes. It’s going to be a long season in Columbus.

Fade Material: College Football Week 3 Predictions

Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell (C) runs onto the field prior to their NCAA football game against the University of Akron in Columbus, Ohio September 3, 2011. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Well, go figure. I change the name of this column to “Fade Material” and then I start handing out winning picks. If I knew that was all I had to do, I would have changed the title years ago and avoided all the years of .500 or below predictions.

After a 3-1 performance in Week 1, I finished 3-0-1 with my Week 2 picks. Georgia was a push against South Carolina but TCU, Alabama and BYU had no problems covering. I’m still looking for my first sweep of the season, so let’s see if we can’t nail it this week. (Although I admit to having reservations about “Road Test Weekend.” There are some tough games on the board…)

Auburn @ Clemson, 12:00PM ET
Everyone keeps waiting for Auburn to lose and all they’ve done the past two weeks is pull wins out of their backsides. The No. 19 Tigers find themselves once again as underdogs, this time against an unranked Clemson team. Nobody can ever quite figure out Clemson, which either plays the game of its life or sinks to the level of its competition. They’re 1-4 against the spread in their last five home games and 3-7 ATS in their last 10 versus the SEC, while Auburn is 4-1 ATS in their last five road games. Auburn is also 6-0 ATS versus a team with a winning record and 4-0 ATS in their last four games an underdog. I think the Tigers of Auburn keeps this within a field goal, making that 3.5-point spread highly attractive.
THE PICK: AUBURN TIGERS +3.5

Ohio State @ Miami, 7:30PM ET
The Buckeyes face their first road test under new head coach Luke Fickell and while they didn’t look particularly sharp against Toledo last week at home, I like OSU to win outright tonight. They’ll face a quarterback in Jacory Harris, who is coming off a one-game suspension and who was unimpressive against Oho State last year. He threw four interceptions, including three in the first half alone. Granted, that was a different Buckeyes team last season but the defense is still solid and I expect them to give Harris trouble again this time around. The Buckeyes are 11-3 against the number in all games over the last two seasons and 14-4 ATS in road games in September since 1992.
THE PICK: OHIO STATE BUCKEYES +2.5

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Terrelle Pryor and other Ohio State players attack SI report

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor and head coach Jim Tressel celebrate after defeating the Oregon Ducks in the 96th Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, California, in this January 1, 2010 file photo. Five Ohio State American football players, including Pryor, were suspended on Thursday for five games next season for selling awards and gifts but can still play in next month’s Sugar Bowl. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) said the players must also repay money and benefits they received ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 to charity for selling off items including championship rings. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Do you believe everything you read? Well it seems like every national sportswriter and pundit is treating the Sports Illustrated article on Ohio State written by George Dohrmann as if it were holy scripture. Never mind that the primary source is an admitted criminal and most of the other allegations came from anonymous sources. SI cited 9 more players who sold Ohio State memorabilia for tattoos, so that’s the number – right? 28 players did the same thing starting in 2002. Check! So as a result you have every college football “expert” tossing around phrases like “completely out of control” when describing the Ohio State program.

Now we have Terrelle Pryor and other players responding to the allegations through their families and representatives, and the story no longer seems so cut and dry.

The attorney assigned to represent Terrelle Pryor and the other current Buckeyes identified in the SI article, Larry James, said that he doesn’t expect the Ohio State quarterback to be hit with NCAA violations over the cars he’s been driving at OSU, saying “I’m satisfied that this should go away.”

As for the cars, James said Pryor’s mother, Thomasina, purchased three cars for him during the course of his Ohio State career. James said Pryor also used three or four loaner cars in the past three years while his car was being repaired.

James said the first car was a Hyundai Sonata, which Pryor drove for a year, and the second was a Dodger Charger, both bought in the Pryors’ hometown of Jeanette, Pa. James said that the Charger was recently traded in for the 2007 Nissan 350Z that Pryor drove to a team meeting Monday night. James provided the bill of sale that showed a trade-in of more than $7,000 for the Charger, with Pryor’s mother then paying $11,435.05 for the car, financed at nearly $300 a month for more than four years.

James said Thomasina works 40 to 50 hours a week as a lab technician at a hospital, and lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Columbus.

“She has a home, not in the most desirable place to be, at a very nice rent rate because of the area of town that it’s in,” James said, explaining how she can afford to buy the car for her son.

“It paints a different picture. I think it’s unfortunate how the picture has been painted. You don’t have someone living high on the hog.”

Also Thursday, Pryor had his previously suspended license reinstated when he showed proof of insurance at a Bureau of Motor Vehicles office.

Also, James is pulling together Ohio State memorabilia from the other current players included in the SI article.

James said he is working with those players and their families to gather memorabilia, like Big Ten championship rings and Gold Pants trinkets. He estimated that if there are 50 items in question among the nine players, he expects to have 48 of the items in his Columbus office by 5 p.m. on Monday. Asked why he was gathering the memorabilia, James said he couldn’t say. But it’s reasonable to assume it is to show as proof to NCAA investigators.

The presence of that memorabilia would not rule out the possibility that players traded other items or autographs for cash or tattoos, but James said, “There is not a scintilla of evidence to suggest that.” James said some, but not all, of the nine players in question have visited the tattoo parlor in question, adding, “but unless you got something, there’s not a violation.”

Coming out of his meeting with the NCAA, James said the following: “I would say the proceedings do not cause me any angst at this point.”

Parent of some of the players are also speaking out.

Junior linebacker Storm Klein was listed as one of the players that sold personal items for tattoos or money, and his father, Jason Klein, has issued this response to the charges.

“I have raised my son right,” Jason Klein stressed Thursday evening. “Storm has no tattoos on his body whatsoever. He doesn’t have a drug problem, and multiple tests prove that. I have every single bit of his Ohio State memorabilia in my possession.”

Jason Klein went on to say that he was consulting his attorneys to consider legal action against SI.

Here’s another response:

Friday morning, John Simon Sr. issued a statement proclaiming the innocence of his son, Johnny, once again calling into question the accuracy of Dohrmann’s piece.

“Please understand the only reason you are hearing from family members of Ohio State players is because the players are forbidden from speaking out on their own behalf,” the elder Simon stated. “I would much rather be just a dad behind the scenes supporting our Buckeyes.”

“The only thing the Sports Illustrated article got right about Johnny was the spelling of his name,” he continued. “Other than that, NOTHING was accurate. He has NEVER been to that tattoo parlor. He has NEVER sold or traded any of his memorabilia. I have ALL the awards he has earned, including rings, jerseys, and anything else in question. In fact, I have everything he has been awarded since the days he played t-ball as a youngster.”

“He has never taken drugs, nor ever failed any type of drug test,” he continued. “He does have a few tattoos, but they were received from a local shop in Hubbard (OH).

Who knows where all of this will lead, but everyone is assuming that Ohio State is cooked. Yet if this attorney is correct, then the SI story is riddled with errors and character assassination. I’m sure the NCAA will find more problems at Ohio State now that they are digging around, but it might not be nearly as bad as suggested by Dorhmann in SI.

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