Ohio State football: Urban Meyer frets about defense as Michigan looms

Bill Rabinowitz
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer looks down against Maryland Terrapins during the 1st quarter of their game at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium in College Park, Maryland on November 17, 2018. [Kyle Robertson]

Michigan week has arrived, and the signs of it are impossible to miss.

LL Cool J’s “A Time for War” is blaring inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Coaches are putting in even longer hours.

Urban Meyer is 6-0 against Michigan, but the Buckeyes will be an underdog in the game against their rivals for the first time in his Ohio State tenure. Michigan is a 4-point favorite, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.

“We don’t talk about those things,” Meyer said on Monday. “We have a saying around here that the most prepared team will win the game. It’s not who’s favored or who’s not.

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“I didn’t know that and I don’t imagine our team really does, I guess. If they are, they’re looking at the wrong stuff. They have to be working on how they win their individual battles against a good team.”

Both Ohio State and Michigan have 10-1 records, but they feel like quite different 10-1s. After their season-opening loss to Notre Dame, the Wolverines have improved throughout the year, even if Saturday’s 31-20 victory over Indiana was a bit of a hiccup.

They have the nation’s top-ranked defense. Their offense that features a strong running game and what they believe has been the missing piece the last few years -- a play-making quarterback in Shea Patterson. Michigan is confident is confident it is ready to reverse the Ohio State dominance in this rivalry.

As for the Buckeyes, their season-long defensive problems were on full display in Ohio State’s 52-51 overtime victory over Maryland. Meyer was blunt about the deficiencies while saying that the attention has to be on preparing for Michigan.

“Uncomfortable and direct,” Meyer said when asked to characterize his discussions with defensive coaches. “We have a saying around here: Win the moment. The moment is to get ready for this next one and not to worry about what happened against Oregon State or even last week. That’s hard to do.

“Your question is legit and very uncomfortable to discuss. But our players deserve our best and that’s to focus on today and that’s what’s coming next.”

What gives Ohio State hope is that its offense is again clicking. Dwayne Haskins Jr. was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for the fifth time this season, tying the record set by Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith during his 2006 Heisman Trophy season. Haskins had his coming-out party last year in rallying the Buckeyes over Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Ohio State’s running game, stagnant for much of the year, gained 283 yards against Maryland, 203 by J.K. Dobbins.

Meyer said that several players who missed the Maryland game or were injured in it are expected to play. That includes running back Mike Weber (quadriceps contusion), left tackle Thayer Munford (leg) and linebacker Baron Browning (undisclosed).


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