With Texas enjoying its first bye week of the season, we turn our attention to other matchups of note this Saturday that can have an effect on the Longhorns outside chance at a BCS bid.
# 7 Ohio State at #21 Michigan
It seems fitting that anytime this rivalry comes up, everyone starts talking about Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler. The Ohio State/Michigan match up is a relic and our best link to the football of that era. If they put this game in black and white, it might look very similar to those old games. Why is this a problem? Because the Big Ten is getting lost in the new era of speed and spread offenses. Appalachian State showed the weakness with the Big Ten's outdated systems, Oregon exploited it, and Illinois and Ron Zook hammered it home all season long. Illinois is about the only team playing a spread offense in the Big Ten, and they have been able to move into third place in the conference with wins over Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin.
The aforementioned teams have made this game all but meaningless outside of the Big Ten, with the teams playing for a conference title, a trip to the Rose Bowl, and nothing more. They both come into the game following a loss for the first time since 1959. Ohio State saw its National Championship hopes dashed, but can still take joy in doing what it has done the last three years, and that is beat Michigan. QB Todd Boeckman (2121 yds/23 TDs/11 INTs) had his first bad game last week and hopes to bounce back this week. He has benefited all season from the running of Chris Wells (1241 yds/12 TDs) and his two main receivers, Brian Robiskie (864 yds/10 TDs) and Brian Hartline (610 yds/5 TDs). But the strength of Ohio State always is the defense, which is ranked 2nd in the nation this season. They will be a hard unit to beat, angry after a loss, exposed against a spread attack again, and joyful about facing a typical Big Ten offense.
This game is much more interesting for Michigan. As a team that needs this game to have anything to show for a disastrous 0-2 start that derailed any title hopes, Michigan is a disappointment. A senior laden team, that had Chad Henne and Mike Hart return to try and win a championship, they will also lose much of their defense, their offensive line and possibly both their top Wide Recievers (Manningham is a draft eligible junior). A loss also might spell the end of an era for Lloyd Carr at Michigan. Boosters have been frustrated, well just about every year since Michigan won a National title, but the voices have been especially loud after the first two losses of the season. A loss to Ohio State would mark an 8-4 season for the Wolverines, and could very well be the final straw for Lloyd Carr. (I can't say I endorse firing a coach who wins 8 to 10 games every season and recruits well. That's another story for another day.) Chad Henne (1497 yds/14 TDs/7 INTs) has been a huge disappointment for a fourth year starter and Mike Hart (1188 yds/12 TDs) might not play. The defense has been solid since getting shredded the first two weeks and will need to stop the run to be successful.
A Michigan win would be the worst thing for Texas, as it would probably but Hawaii or Boise State in a BCS bowl courtesy of them finishing ahead of the Wolverines, and there would be a chance that Ohio State could steal a BCS birth from Texas. An Ohio State win would keep the universe at peace, but the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl and keep Michigan out of the BCS picture.
While the game is in the Big House, this is still Lloyd Carr vs. Jim Tressel, Mike Hart probably won't play or won't be anywhere near 100%, and it is still Chad "Big Game Loss" Henne at quarterback. Lloyd Carr coaches his last game in the Big House as the Wolverines go down 31-17.