Michigan Week Mic Check: Ohio State Offensive Line Faces Stiff Test of Keeping Pocket Clean Versus Michigan

By Chris Lauderback on November 24, 2021 at 3:05 pm
Aidan Hutchinson
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Just four sunrises away from a huge matchup with No. 5 Michigan in Ann Arbor, Ryan Day met with the media on Tuesday to discuss No. 2 Ohio State's preparations for a game with conference title and national championship implications. 

With last year's contest canceled due to coronavirus issues within Michigan's program, the anticipation for Saturday's clash was already through the roof and the fever pitch has only heightened with both teams entering the contest with everything on the line. 

You could hear in Day's voice just how serious and focused he is on readying his team for the challenges Michigan will bring. 

Chief among those figures to be a Wolverine pass rush anchored by a pair of defensive ends - Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo - that have given opponents fits all season. 

Day made no bones about how important it will be to neutralize the combo, along with the rest of the Michigan pass rushers. 

"Very big challenge for our tackles and our whole offense. These guys do a great job off the edge and the two inside guys are very powerful too. It's going to be a big challenge for our guys in protection, C.J., and for everybody."– Ryan Day on Michigan's pass rush

Digging a little deeper into the maize and blue pass rush, Michigan ranks No. 35 in the nation with 29 total sacks, good for 2.64 per game. 

Of those, Hutchinson and Ojabo - with 10 each - account for 20, or 69% of the team total. Their respective 0.91 sacks per game sit atop the Big Ten. Taylor Upshaw has 2.5 sacks but no other Wolverine has more than one. 

You might find it interesting Michigan's sacks seem to come in bunches. Seventeen of the 29 sacks on the season (59%) came in three games. The Wolverines recorded a ridiculous seven sacks against a Penn State squad currently ranked 91st in the country surrendering 2.55 per contest. Michigan had six against Wisconsin and the Badgers currently ranked 21st nationally giving up only 1.36 sacks per game. Finally, Jim Harbaugh's squad recorded four sacks against a Washington offense currently slotted No. 51 allowing 2.00 sacks per outing. 

Looking at Ohio State's pass protection, the Buckeyes rank No. 12 among FBS schools allowing 13 sacks on the season, or 1.18 per four quarters. 

The Buckeyes gave up seven sacks across the first five games and six over the last six outings. Michigan State's 14th-ranked pass rush recorded two sacks, both by defensive linemen, last weekend. Nebraska's 103rd-ranked pass rush also logged two with both coming from blitzing linebackers. 

Indiana's lone sack came from linebacker Micah McFadden in the third quarter of a 54-7 blowout and Maryland's No. 35 ranked defense in sacks per game picked up just one and it came against backups when Kyle McCord went down late in the fourth quarter of a 66-17 spanking. 

Penn State and Purdue, ranked No. 77 and No. 91 in sacks per game respectively, failed to record a sack against the Buckeyes. 

Over the last six games, Stroud has been sacked five times against 222 pass attempts. 

By the numbers, Ohio State's pass protection versus Michigan's pass rush is indeed a strength-on-strength scenario and whichever wins the battle up front will likely move on the Big Ten championship game next weekend and keep its playoff hopes alive. 

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