The Buckeyes started the year very poorly, but have rounded into form over its course (with a 9-0 hiccup here or there). This should be a test for the Wolverines, but one they can pass with a strong game.
The TempoFreeLax.com numbers are out of date, thanks to the NCAA’s hilarious inability to be good at literally anything (well, litigation, I guess) shutting down the ability to pull the stats. The raw numbers are still here:
|Ohio State 2015|
Inconsistency aside, Ohio State has been a very good team this year. They are strong on the possession game (and play few possessions, preventing opposing offenses from getting in a groove).
They also have a pretty good offense, and it’s not one that’s built up its numbers against bums: They’ve beaten Denver and Johns Hopkins by scoring 13 and 15 goals, respectively. They also got shut out against Notre Dame, so… inconsistency. Yeah.
On defense, the Buckeyes have really struggled. They lost to Detroit in a really slow game (a typically mediocre UDM offense reached .300 against them). They needed just about every goal against Denver and Hopkins to win.
OSU is Vulnerable, but they have certainly shown the potential to become an elite team. Opening loss to Detroit and the shutout against Notre Dame make the big picture seem a little uglier than it probably is.
OSU’s offense was not super-good to start the year (and the Notre Dame hiccup was just a couple weeks ago, so they’re clearly prone to falling back into that rut – though nobody’s confusing Michigan’s defense with Notre Dame’s). However, they’ve picked things up in the grand scheme.
It should come as no surprise that Jesse King is the straw the stirs the drink. The Canadian senior midfielder leads OSU in both goals (29) and assists (17). If you can shut down King, the rest of the Ohio State offense has a hard time picking things up around him. It’s a potentially dangerous strategy with junior attack Carter Brown (24 goals, 13 assists) and senior midfielder David Planning (11 goals, 12 assists) also on the field, but it’s one that Detroit rode to success, and is probably worth the risk, at least for parts of the contest.
The other threats are junior attack Ryan Hunter – a finisher with 11 goals and three assists – senior midfielder Turner Evans (six and six), and freshman attack Connor Chell. I’m letting those guys try to beat me while getting King out of the game and trying to limit the damage of Brown and Planning.
The Buckeyes have shown struggles trying to compensate for a King that isn’t strongly in the game, and letting OSU try from the outside with Gerald Logan between the pipes is a viable strategy.
The Buckeyes have built their recent reputation on being a strong defense, but it’s just not the case this season. They’ve limited goals allowed by playing a few dogs and primarily keeping a slow pace of play, but they’re not the solid stopping unit they were in the recent past.
Redshirt sophomore Tom Carey has been the main man between the pipes, and he actually has a pretty good save percentage at .555. He’s not lighting the world on fire, but it’s been enough to get the wins.
Junior Robbie Haus has been the only every-game starter on close D, and he’s the defensive side of the ball’s GB leader with 20. He’s also caused eight turnovers on the season, not a huge number for a Buckeye defense that is more prone to letting the opponents get off bad shots that putting their goalie in a vulnerable position. Senior Evan Mulchrone is more of a dangerman, with 13 CTs on the year. He’s played in all 12 games as an LSM, starting seven.
Junior Chris Mahoney has started all nine games in which he’s played, missing the first two contests and the close win against Bellarmine completely. The Buckeyes are clearly a much better defense with him. Freshman Brandon Barger has also gotten into the mix.
The Michigan offense is better with sophomore attack Ian King in the lineup, and the Cincinnati native might play with an additional chip on his shoulder against his home-state team. The U-M offense will need to be well-rounded to see success, but there will be opportunities. Beating the Buckeyes’ season average of 1.1 shots against per possession will be a key.
Senior Chris May has been outstanding on facoffs, winning .647 on the season. He’s Patrick McEwen’s No. 7 specialist in the nation. With Michigan’s struggles on the draw this year, look for mixing of personnel to find the right combination. The changes to the faceoff rules seem to have worked against Brad Lott’s style of play, but Michael McDonnell has been able to spell him adequately, and LSM Chase Brown is capable of getting in to muck things up. If U-M can keep this phase of the game to a 60/40 loss, they’ll be within striking distance. Whether they can… is a little more questionable.
Ohio State is a pretty good clearing team, gaining the offensive box on .883 of attempts. That’s No. 14 nationally, albeit against some teams that aren’t very good (Robert Morris) or are good but don’t emphasize the ride (Denver). Michigan’s ability to bring that percentage down can help them make up some ground in the possession game that they’re likely to cede at the dot.
Coming the other way, the Buckeyes are a decent riding team, but nothing special. Michigan has gone in fits and starts of being a very good clearing team and having some struggles. Whichever Michigan team shows up in that regard will tell a big part of the story of this game. U-M must make the most of its possessions.
Ohio State doesn’t commit many penalties, but opponents have committed a ton against them. They’re also decent at converting, finishing 12 of 43 EMO opportunities this season. The man-down D is also good. Playing 6v6 and not putting the defense in bad positions is another key for Michigan. Fortunately, the Wolverines are in the fourth year of being a very clean team (one game against Jacksonville with hilariously poor officiating notwithstanding), so it should be a break-even there.
It’s Michigan’s goal to make it to the Big Ten Tournament this year, and currently sitting fourth in the standings at 1-1 (the Buckeyes are tied at the top at 2-0), they need every win they can get. One against a team that’s likely to be somewhere in the 2-4 range also provide tiebreaker opportunities.
The Maize and Blue have played the best team in the league and the worst (Maryland and Rutgers, respectively, and neither with much competition for that mantle), and achieved the results expected of them in those situations. Going 2-1 against the remaining three teams – Ohio State, Johns Hopkins, and Penn State – might be a lot to ask, but it’s what will be necessary to guarantee entry to the tournament. 1-2 might be enough in certain situations.
If I had to guess today, I would say Michigan steals one of the next three and finishes as the No. 5 team in the league (narrowly missing the tournament), but a win today would go a long way toward surpassing that finish.
Ohio State is a real enigma. They’ve shown that they can be really good against good teams (Denver), really bad against good teams (Notre Dame), and somewhere in between against a lot of others. A loss to Detroit is probably not in line with their hopes, either.
- Michigan comes out with a plan to limit Jesse King, and they’re successful for a quarter or two. However, he breaks through after the break, and U-M just doesn’t have the manpower to keep him in check the whole contest.
- Gerald Logan wins the battle of the goalkeepers, albeit facing significantly more opportunities to shine. He’ll face some rubber, and do the standard Gerald Logan thing to keep the back of his net clean.
- Ohio State has a very good day in possession (and that’s probably enough to swing it on a day where the offensive efficiencies will be pretty even). They’re too good on faceoffs for this Michigan team, and they’ll do enough in the ride/clear phase to solidify that advantage.
- Ian King has a very nice day – he changes the Michigan offense when he’s in the lineup, as we’ve seen in his absence – though some of it might not show up on the scoreboard against a strong Buckeyes D.
Michigan comes close in this one. The Buckeyes have top-end potential, but they’re also capable of laying clunkers. Michigan has never beaten them, and the rivalry factor makes that burn a little more. Things could go either way, but OSU escapes with a 10-9 win.
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