Defense challenged to dual
Wolverines must solve riddle of dual-threat QBs before date with Buckeyes
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Every player on the Michigan and Ohio State rosters has had Nov. 24 circled on his calendar for quite a while. But at this point in the season, none might be more excited than Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller.
After watching how dual-threat quarterbacks have haunted the Michigan defense recently, Miller -- a Heisman contender and Maxwell Award semifinalist -- might be getting pretty excited at his own prospects against his chief rival.
Against junior Kain Colter and Northwestern, the Wolverines gave up 431 yards of total offense and 18 plays of 10 yards or more, including six plays of 20 yards or more. A week before, Michigan allowed Minnesota -- led by true freshman QB Philip Nelson -- to put up 13 plays of 10-plus yards. And the week before that, Nebraska and Taylor Martinez had 14 plays of 10 yards or more. All three of those opponents had one play of 30 yards or more.
"You have to give Kain Colter some of that respect because he made us miss," Hoke said. "We have to do a better job there."
But if Colter experienced success in making the Wolverines miss, Miller is going to give them fits.
This season, Miller has accounted for 39 plays of 20-plus yards, and 25 of those resulted in 30 or more yards. He's an explosive play waiting to happen on every snap.
That ability, coupled with his on-field demeanor, makes it difficult to remember that Miller is just a sophomore. He has run the offense like a veteran and keeps the chains moving for the Buckeyes. Miller already has led Ohio State to 24 touchdown drives of 70 yards or more this season.
Miller averages 291 yards of offense per game. That's No. 1 in the Big Ten and 22nd nationally. He's perhaps most dangerous as a runner, where he ranks fifth in the Big Ten in rushing. He has for four 50-plus yard runs this season.
He also has a nice complement in junior running back Carlos Hyde. Brown and Miller make up the most productive rushing duo in the Big Ten conference, averaging 207 yards rushing per game.
Which isn't great news for the Wolverines considering part of why Michigan struggled to defend Northwestern was because of the running tandem that Colter (82 yards) and running back Venric Mark (104) proved to be.
"We didn't get off blocks well enough and gave them too many big plays," senior safety Jordan Kovacs said. "I'm sure those are things that will get corrected."
Michigan better hope it can correct those issues before the Wolverines hit the field against the Buckeyes. Because while Michigan was able to walk away with a win this weekend, they still have a lot of defensive deficiencies to account for as they prepare for Ohio State -- deficiencies that Miller probably can't wait to take advantage of.
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