And so we come to the final game of the regular season, against our most hated rival. This game is the culmination of the B1G schedule, not for lacrosse results of late, but for decades of hatred, animosity, and heartbreak across the sporting spectrum.
It's game week for TTUN, and that means we get to count down to the most intense game on the calendar. And, in light of recent results, one of the most intriguing.
Offensively, TTUN is really good. The Wolverines shoot the ball at an above average clip, posting a shot percentage of .312 so far this year.
They've also done a great job playing team offense, with 59% of their goals being assisted. That really is telling, as most teams hover at or just below the 50% mark. The one area where TTUN struggles offensively is getting shots on cage.
Their SOG% is 57.4%, which is pretty appalling, considering the offensive talent they have recruited.
From a player perspective, the Wolverines are very balanced, if mostly average in terms of star power this year. 5 players have at least 25 points, and those same 5 players all have at least 18 goals apiece.
None of them will overwhelm you individually, but together they are a good unit with a lot to like. Alex Buckanavage leads the way with 24 goals and 43 points, both leading the team.
Right behind him is Kevin Mack, #12, with 18 goals and 18 assists. The pair will look to do the most damage against the Buckeyes on Friday. Senior middie Brent Noseworthy, #15, has dealt with injuries all year, missing 3 of the Wolverines 12 games.
It's a shame, as he holds the record for most points in a season for the Wolverines (48), most goals in a season (41), and was a 3rd-team all-American for Inside Lacrosse last year.
This year, TTUN's offense is predicated on dodges right down the middle, looking to pass to a wing to get the defense moving. Once the pass goes, the passer picks down, the wing utilizes the pick over the top (towards the middle), and looks to shoot first, then pass.
For a change up, the Wolverines will dodge from the high wing down the alley, step back, and try to hit a cutter from the opposite high wing. Given the Buckeyes' struggles with offenses attacking from two different fronts, this could net TTUN a few goals.
That said, this game will be won or lost in the Wolverines' defensive end.
While not elite, TTUN is not average on offense. They can score. But defensively, they are a complete mess. It's pretty encouraging, given the struggles of OSU offensively lately.
TTUN is allowing opponents to score nearly a third of their shots, and looks lost most of the time. In man defense, TTUN looks incapable of performing a second or third slide with any consistency.
Even a basic dodge, if it beats the shortie, can cause chaos within the Wolverines' defensive structure. Against Penn State and Maryland, the Wolverines switched to zone primarily, with no noticeable change.
The 3-3 zone they run is susceptible to being drawn out too far at the point by two man games, exposing the middle of the field to cuts from GLE.
If Jasinski, Wiseman, and Bugliosi can get free, look for Tre Leclaire and Jackson Reid to have an absolute field day.
In goal, TTUN has really struggled. They've gone between two different goalies most of the year as starter, neither with a save % over 50% on the year.
Senior keeper Gunner Garn (#43) has been starting the past two games, which have been close losses to Hopkins and Rutgers. Garn has a save % of 43.1% this season, which obviously isn't an elite figure.
Given the recruiting wins TTUN has had recently, it's strange to see how bad this position has been. It should be a boon to the Buckeye O, however, which is always what you want as an Ohio State fan.
Hopefully it leads to lots of Buckeye goals.
At the faceoff X, this Wolverine team is hopeless. There's no other way to put it. Four players have at least 25 draws, none of them at 50%.
The primary FOGO for TTUN has been an LSM, who has taken 158 draws and won less than 25% of them. That's hilariously bad, and bodes well for Justin Inacio. It will be on the Buckeyes to translate their faceoff dominance into goals, goals, and more goals.
The opportunities will be there. They just need to be converted.
On special teams, the Wolverines are decidedly better than the Buckeyes. TTUN is converting around 38% of their Man Up opportunities, and is only allowing their opponents to convert 31% of their own opportunities.
That's much better than the pathetic efforts of Ohio State, at 24.7% on Man Up and 37% on Man Down. Hopefully, HOPEFULLY, this isn't a penalty-marred affair that gifts the Wolverines some free goals.
This game is always a big deal to both programs, despite the lopsided nature of the rivalry of late.
Last year was an 8-6 nailbiter, and this year has the same look based on recent form/results. That said, I think the streak continues.
Final prediction: 12-9, Buckeyes.