Ohio State writer: Braxton Miller excels at big play, but also must hit with pass
Michigan's defense has been among the nation's best at preventing big plays.
Ohio State's offense is designed to hit them, which should make for a compelling matchup in Saturday's tilt between the No. 4 Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0) and No. 20 Wolverines (8-3, 6-1).
Doug Lesmerises, who covers Ohio State for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, was kind enough to breakdown that matchup and others heading into Saturday's game (noon, ABC):
MLive: Michigan's defense has been terrific, but still struggles with spread offenses and, specifically, mobile QBs. Ohio State happens to have one of those guys. How is Braxton Miller beating teams, and has his role evolved under Urban Meyer?
Doug Lesmerises: He's beating them with big plays. And they don't happen by accident. Ohio State's offense is kind of geared to do that, to hit a big pass, or more likely, get Miller into the open field and let him go to work. He turns 4 yards into 10 yards and 10 yards into 30 yards pretty easily with his ability to make guys miss. He has been given a little bigger role in the offense in checking to some plays throughout the year, but the emergence of Carlos Hyde as a complement in the run game has made Ohio State better as well.
MLive: Wisconsin had some luck slowing the Ohio State offense last week. Is there a chink in the armor the Badgers were able to exploit, or was it just an off day for OSU?
Lesmerises: Against Wisconsin last week, the Badgers laid out a gameplan of containing Miller with their defensive ends and bringing the safeties down to help against the run as well. And the Buckeyes were unable or unwilling to adjust and try to make them pay in the air. They also didn't give the ball to Hyde enough, which Meyer recognized immediately after the game. I think Ohio State will learn from that, but they still have to prove they can throw. So I'd try the same thing and take away Miller on the ground and hope for the best, at least until he proves he can make some big throws.
MLive: How is Ohio State handling the distraction of being unbeaten, but ineligible to play in a bowl? Do you think that helps or hurts them in this game, or is it irrelevant?
Lesmerises: They have their goal. I think having a down year last season, at 6-7, has been a big motivation. These guys weren't used to that and were embarrassed by it and wanted to earn their good names back, even if they couldn't go to a bowl. And the fact that Michigan broke Ohio State's seven-game winning streak last year is a big motivation, too. So there is no title game or bowl game out there, but there is a lot of pride on the line for Ohio State, and they felt what it was like last year when their pride was hurt.
MLive: Where is Ohio State's best matchup advantage in this game?
Lesmerises: Tough question. I'm not sure there's a huge edge anywhere. But I will tell you that defensive end John Simon played maybe the best game of his career last week, getting four sacks against Wisconsin, so he could make trouble for the Wolverines.
MLive: Ohio State avoids its first losing streak in The Game since 1999-2000 if…
Lesmerises: Braxton Miller plays one of his best games. But it can't just be on the ground. He needs to hit a few big passes like he has done at times this season, because I do think Michigan will score. I don't think 14 points in regulation will get the Buckeyes to overtime like it did last week. It won't a shootout, but if Miller is contained and limited to less than 200 yards, Ohio State could be in trouble.