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November 17, 2006

Experts' view: Taking lessons from defeat

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The Ohio State and Michigan coaching staffs have surely spent hours in the film room this week scouting their opponents, looking for any tendencies or dents in the armor to exploit on Saturday.

What might those coaches see in the 22 different game tapes amassed so far this year? We're here to find out.

For this week's Ask the Experts, Rivals.com asked representatives from team sites across the network for some insight on Ohio State and Michigan from the point of view of their opponents.

All 16 teams that have faced Ohio State and Michigan - six schools have played both - have lost. However, some have had success in certain areas.

This week's Ask the Experts tries to pinpoint how the top two teams in the country should challenge one another:

The experts' view
Nate Bauer of BlueWhiteIllustrated.com:
How did Penn State hold Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez to a combined four catches for 31 yards?

"Penn State's defense is really good. It probably doesn't get as much credit as it should. Penn State was up 3-0 at halftime, but Troy Smith made it happen. He made an incredible play and hit (Brian) Robiskie for the only touchdown pass (a 37-yarder in the third quarter). The other touchdowns were returns of (Anthony) Morelli's interceptions.

The idea was to keep Smith moving around in the backfield. The linebackers are the core of the Penn State defense. Pittman did go over 100 yards in that game, but they kept Ohio State from making the big play. That's how Ohio State has beaten a lot of people. That's what Ted Ginn does. Penn State limited that well. That game was a combination of Smith making one fantastic play and Penn State's offense being dismal.

I would say it was an overall team effort, but Ed Johnson was getting to the quarterback. Justin King had a standout game covering Ginn for most of the game. He pretty much shut him down. The touchdown pass that Smith made was the type of throw that wins Heisman trophies. You want to take Smith out of his comfort zone as much as possible."

Paul Day of BadgerBlitz.com:
How did Wisconsin handle running back Mike Hart, who had 23 carries for 91 yards against the Badgers?

"In that game the light kind of switched on for the Wisconsin defense. The front four was pretty dominant. That was the game for Wisconsin that kick-started the defense. They played extremely well. Wisconsin might have upset Michigan, but the offense didn't do much.

The key for Wisconsin was to attack more. There was a lot more aggressive play up front. The front four opened up lanes and linebackers got in there. They attacked the backfield better than they had all season. Wisconsin had a good defensive game plan, but Michigan took advantage of the cornerback on Mario Manningham's side and took advantage of Manningham's speed (he had seven catches for 113 yards and two TDs). I think they saw something in Wisconsin where they could beat them vertically."

Mike Pegram of InsideIndiana.com:
How did Kellen Lewis prepare Michigan to face Troy Smith?

"Kellen is one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the pocket. He was recruited as a wide receiver by many programs around the country. Really, the only reason he went to Indiana was to play quarterback. What you have is as quick a player as you'll find at the quarterback position, so that's unusual. Kellen is skinny and kind of slides past people.

Learning to contain the pocket will help Michigan against Troy Smith. Against Indiana, the play that killed Indiana, Smith rolled right and rolled left for the big touchdown pass. Indiana has a good receivers with James Hardy, but they don't have the offensive line nor the running back talent of Ohio State. Troy is much stronger, as well as more experienced. Kellen prepared them for the elusive quarterback that can make something out of nothing. Against Michigan, Kellen had some success running the ball. However, Michigan had some success in the pass rush. Kellen made some mistakes and overthrew some guys which caused an interception deep in Michigan territory."

Jeff Johnson of OrangeandBlueNews.com:
How did Illinois stop Troy Smith, who was 13 of 23 passing for 108 yards against the Illini?

"What they did is they had a controlled pass rush. The defensive linemen stayed in their lanes and controlled their gaps. So, when he wanted to scramble, Smith wouldn't have a hole to run through. They mixed in blitz and pass rush. When they blitzed, they still stunt and hold the gaps while the linebackers plug the hole. They played a mix of man coverage and zone coverage and that gave Smith a lot of trouble.

They focused on stopping the run on first down. That's when they blitzed the most and linebackers stayed in their gaps. They wanted to keep him out of second and third and short and close the running lanes. They put eight in the box and dared him to pass, and then backed them off on passing downs. They doubled Ginn and that gave Smith some trouble, too. He had some trouble checking into the right play."

Louie Vaccher of WildcatReport.com:
How did Tyrell Sutton (12 carries, 57 yards, 4.8 yards per carry) have some success running the ball against Ohio State?

"Early in the game, the problem wasn't moving the ball - it was holding on to the ball. Northwestern gave the Buckeyes five turnovers. In the first quarter, Sutton had 32 yards before the Wildcats got way behind and things started to snowball. Northwestern had more success running against Ohio State than Michigan.

Against Ohio State they opened the pass game first, which opened the door for Sutton. He had 13-yard run and a 12-yarder. Against Michigan, they had rough weather and never got anything going. They had minus-13 yards rushing. Michigan did a better job than Ohio State at stopping the run. Against the Buckeyes, they came out throwing and made a few passes and that opened the way for Sutton."

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