Greetings, Buckeye fans and welcome to this special edition of the 11W Roundtable. Why is it a special edition, you might ask?
Not only is this the Michigan Roundtable, this is an Eleven Warriors staff issue of epic proportions, featuring all your favorite Dubster Analysts.
As this is quite the edition, we'll keep the introduction short and get this started.
I would like to thank the entire staff for an entire season of participation.
"The Game" is here and the Buckeyes are 11-0. Before we dive in to discussion about the game itself, what are your feelings on this Buckeye team and the season that has been so far?
Ramzy: Every year begins with this crazy pipe dream of a perfect season. It was imperfect from the outset with the postseason ban, but the fact that they're 11-0 with nothing the play for after November is beyond cathartic. It's a slap in the face to everyone who wanted to see the Buckeyes suffer through a painful rebuilding process. Well, bootlickers, this is what rebuilding looks like. Suck it.
Chris: What a fun ride. I tried to temper my expectations even with Urban at the controls knowing this is basically the same roster that stunk up the joint last year. It’s really been awesome watching Hyde develop into a legit sidekick, Shazier truly begin to emerge as a potentially all-time great Buckeye LB thanks in large part to Boren’s successful position switch, Simon and Hankins show their grit every play and Braxton provide some unbelievably insane moments. More than that, the way these players and coaches came together in the face of a postseason ban to reel off 10 straight has been incredible even if the competition has been mediocre.
Joe: I like the character of the team and the way the offense has dominated in the red zone. I would like to see better production from the passing game but overall I'm pleased with the season. How could we not be happy with 11-0?
Chad: I love this team because there has been obvious growth throughout the year. It's obvious that the team isn't a finished product yet and that's exciting.
Following the nail-biter win in OT against Wisconsin, what are two things you'd like to see the Buckeyes change come this weekend?
Sarah: By the end of the third quarter last week when Badger fans were jumping around, before Ohio State turned Camp Randall into an actual House of Pain for them (nailed it), I was basically eating my own hair out of frustration and nervousness.
Because I don't want to go bald, I'd like to see a much more comfortable Buckeye win. But I've said the same thing numerous times this season, so whatever gets them to 12-0, I guess. My hair grows fast.
More specifically, I'd to see a much more decisive Braxton than we got against Wisconsin. Michigan will try to sell out to stop him, so I'm hoping the entire offense is ready to make them pay. Get Braxton on the edge and attack Michigan's vulnerability there, some runs up the gut from Hyde, deep passes to Devin Smith, etc. I think this is the week Stoneburner's hands will return, after they temporarily dissolved like Marty McFly's when he was playing "Earth Angel."
No one is, smartly, throwing Bradley Roby's way anymore, but I'm going to encourage Gardner to try it so that Roby can pick him off. Just as long as the defense keeps getting stops when they need to, then I don't need a whole lot to change on that side of the ball.
Chris: For the first time all year, I was often puzzled by what the plan was on offense and Braxton’s lack of execution. Obviously, I’d like to see the offense find a flow once more and I’d also like to see, and expect, to open it up a bit more this week through the air.
The other thing I’d like to see is a bit more of Brax, Hyde and Rod Smith in the backfield at the same time.
Chad: While I'd like to see some effective constraint plays, with screens, slants, and packaged hitch routes, I'll settle for whatever works – even if it is Hyde on inside zone 40 times. On defense, there's no need to change too much – I like the pressure the defensive line and linebackers have been getting lately. Make sure Gardner/Robinson have new turf on their jerseys each play.
Ross: Offensively, I want to see OSU pass primarily with sprint out and play-action bootleg passing. They tend to move away from it and overly rely on the dropback pass game.
Describe your reaction to the goal-line stand and Montee Ball fumble. Where were you and what did you do?
Ramzy: I was doing the backstroke in a sea of bourbon. After Shazier blasted him with the force of a thousand suns, I switched to the breaststroke.
Joe: At that point I had already turned the game off in disgust, knowing that I had the DVR rolling. When I watched that play later, my first reaction was that Wisconsin got lucky it was just a turnover. Their lineman got one hand out and grabbed Bryant by the shirt for the tackle; otherwise, he goes 99 yards the other way. Very lucky, Badger fans.
Jeff: Unbridled joy. Plain and simple. All I could scream was "I'VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THAT IN MY LIFE". Who fumbles right into a defensive players arms on the goal line? It looked like Ball pitched it to Christian Bryant. Ryan Shazier is a bad man and I'm sure Montee is seeing RDS in his sleep.
Dave: Holy $%#&! Wow, $%^#.
Sarah: I've let Ryan Shazier take all the credit, but I really caused that fumble. A couple minutes before it happened, when Joe Tessitore would not shut up about Montee Ball trying to set the all-time touchdown record, I said out loud, "It'd be so much more fitting if Ball fumbled here."
So after only his second career lost fumble (you're welcome), I did a Colbert-esque "I called it!" victory brag.
If you had an AP vote, what would your top 5 look like?
Chris: Notre Dame, Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State.
Alex: Notre Dame, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, and Oregon. I just wouldn't be able to keep two undefeated teams away from the top, even though I think Alabama is better than both OSU and the Fighting Irish.
Chad: Notre Dame, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, Oregon.
How do you foresee the Ohio State Michigan game playing out?
Chris: Obviously, I expect the usual incredibly intense hard-hitting affair. Frankly, I’m more concerned about the Wolverines now than I was a few weeks ago as I prefer Denard under center because he makes them more one-dimensional. At the same time, while I do think that Gardner is the more accurate passer, for whatever reason I see the Bullets coming up with a few turnovers, one coming late, helping the Buckeyes win by 7-10 points. I wish I could say it’s going to be the Braxton Miller show, and it very well could turn into that, but after his struggles the past four games (49% completion, 3.8 ypc), I’m hoping the Bullets can keep the Michigan offense in check.
Joe: To paraphrase Patton, we're going to kick the h*** out of them and go through them like crap through a goose.
Derek: With Braxton having his worst game individually last week I expect him to come out aggressive and very effective against the Wolverines. He will try to redeem his performance from last weekend, and will probably be encouraged to do so. Braxton just has to make sure not to try to do too much himself and make costly mistakes while doing so.
Sarah: I decided a year ago that I'd pick Ohio State to win this game, and whether I'm just confident or stubborn, I'm sticking to that. I don't think it will be a blowout win, probably 7 or fewer points, but I expect John Simon to pick up where he left off last week and for the senior class as a whole to go out in style.
Last year as freshmen, Braxton and Shazier came ready to play against Michigan. They're the type of players who are at their best the bigger the game and there's no bigger game than on Saturday.
Denard Robinson seems like he is now the second-string QB and backup RB. How do the Buckeyes prepare for a combo of Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson at QB?
Alex: I think it is a tricky situation to prepare for and unfortunately you need to prepare for both as a passer and runner. There is enough film on Gardner now after the last couple of games to see tendencies and strengths/weaknesses. I expect a lot of pressure off the edge against him to force him to make quick decisions and keep him inside the pocket, as he has been very effective throwing on the run. Denard is a little bit more of an elusive runner so you probably have to play more of a contain game, with a spy like Shazier who can close quickly. Make Denard beat you with his arm and hope his lollipop throws end up in Bradley Roby's arms.
Chad: I think the defense will have to mind their assignments for trick plays and won't be able to stack the box as much as they would if the only threat was Denard.
Jeff: I don't really think you can – there's so little game tape of the two on the field together in those roles. But, that's why I'm not a football coach. Rest assured Fickell and the rest of the defense won't leave any stone unturned. After that the D is simply going to have to go out and play fundamentally sound football.
Ross: I do not know if this statement is correct. Denard literally could not throw. I still think Michigan's offense is more dynamic with him at quarterback because they cannot run the football without him. Devin Gardner's success has come at home against some pretty porous defenses. That being said, I do not think Robinson will be able to throw so I think we will see both. The Buckeyes have to identify where Denard is at all times because it drastically changes what Michigan will do. If Denard is at QB, Michigan will likely run inverted veer. If he is in the backfield, look for some type of sweep or decoy action. When Denard is not on the field, you have to be prepared for more of a play action style pass game.
Jason: Thankfully, there's film of the Iowa game, so the Ohio State shouldn't have too much trouble putting together a plan to stop the two-headed monster that is Gardner and Robinson.
Do you expect any recruiting commitments from any of this weekend's visitors?
Alex: I don't expect any, but you never know. Guys like Shelton Gibson can certainly pull the trigger and you know Urban will be pressing for someone like Auburn commit Trey Johnson to leave as a Buckeye. From what I have gathered I am not expecting anything, but I will certainly be on the watch and hoping to put up the gray box for everyone.
Derek: Looking at the list of visitors, 2013 and 2014, it is hard to pinpoint one player as being extremely likely to end his recruiting process and proclaim himself a Buckeye. However, with the expected atmosphere and the number of recruits Ohio State is in good position with being in Columbus present for such an electric game, it is hard not to see one guy pledging to the good guys.
Dave: Like Alex said, a guy like Gibson seems to just be waiting to pull the trigger. I am not sure if the staff will lock down any commitments on game day, but you can surely bet that the weekend will leave some lasting impressions, followed by a few commitments in a few weeks from now. The visitor list is long and talent filled.
Bonus: What must work out, in your opinion, for the AP writers to consensually vote for Ohio State at #1 (if the Buckeyes win on Saturday)?
Jason: Ohio State has to finish 12-0 and everyone in front of them has to lose one more game. Just to be safe.
Ramzy: Ohio State has to win against Michigan convincingly, like Alabama did in the first week. And then you have to watch for what happens with the rest of the higher-ranked teams. Regardless, I don't see it happening. There are too many outlying anchors in the AP that will bog them down. I see #2 as their ceiling. Life could be worse. Just beat Michigan – the AP poll means absolutely nothing by comparison.
Alex: Notre Dame loses to USC on Saturday, Alabama loses to either Auburn or Georgia in the SEC title game, and Georgia loses to either Georgia Tech or beats Alabama and loses in the national title game. I think if some of those scenarios play out, there is a shot OSU can end up in the #1 spot, but it's doubtful as I think even if everything plays out perfectly, there are too many voters out there who won't peg the Bucks on top just because of the sanctions.
Jeff: In my opinion, here's how it happens. Notre Dame needs to lose to USC, and Alabama needs to lose to Florida or Georgia in the SEC championship game. Then the SEC team needs to lose in the national championship. Also before any of that happens OSU needs to win and do it convincingly. In all honesty I don't see this happening, but then again Kansas State and Oregon were #1 and #2 last week.
Sarah: The South would have to secede again.