Michigan-Ohio St. Preview

Devin Gardner has flourished in three straight starts at
quarterback for Michigan.

Denard Robinson is healthy enough to play, but can’t seem to do
more than lightly lob a short pass.

So, is there any chance Robinson will go back to being the
team’s QB on Saturday at Ohio State?

“I guess he could,” Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said with a
straight face. “I don’t know. It’s an option.”

Yeah, right.

Let The Game – and the gamesmanship – begin.

Even if it’s obvious, Hoke must think acknowledging the fact
that Gardner will stay at QB while Robinson lines up as a running
back or receiver would give the rival Buckeyes a bit of information
to help them prepare for Saturday’s game.

No. 4 Ohio State (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) will host the 20th-ranked
Wolverines (8-3, 6-1) in its finale with a shot to win the
Associated Press national title.

The Buckeyes, though, can’t play for the conference championship
because they’re ineligible to play in the postseason as part of the
sanctions stemming from a memorabilia-for-cash scandal under
ex-coach Jim Tressel.

After Ohio State beat Wisconsin 21-14 in overtime last Saturday
to seal the Leaders Division title, coach Urban Meyer said they’re
not the program’s rival.

“The next one is,” Meyer said. “So when we use that ‘R’ word,
we’re talking about this week.”

When Hoke talks about the Buckeyes this week, he won’t say Ohio
State once – dropping the second word in the school’s name in what
he insists is not intended to insult the storied program he grew up
rooting against despite growing up near Dayton, Ohio.

“There’s a lot of respect on both sides for both programs,” he
said after a 42-17 win over Iowa.

Hoke will lead college football’s winningest program in a game
at the Horseshoe for the first time against Meyer, who hasn’t been
a head coach in what is referred to as The Game.

“It’s going to be fun,” Hoke said.

Indeed.

And, it’ll be interesting – or fun – to see how Michigan
offensive coordinator Al Borges uses Gardner and Robinson after
playing both extensively against the Hawkeyes.

Hoke said the coaching staff has been discussing ways to use
them both on the field for 18 months – since he replaced fired
coach Rich Rodriguez – and talk turned to action when Robinson was
cleared to play after missing two-plus games with nerve damage in
his right elbow.

“After the Northwestern game that night, (Borges) had nine plays
ready and then we put six more in,” Hoke said.

Gardner gave Robinson the ball on a toss sweep to the right on
Michigan’s first play and threw it to him to the left on the next
snap.

Robinson also got a handoff and made an option pitch to
Fitzgerald Toussaint, whose left leg appeared to break on the
unique play, and Robinson was just a decoy on another play in which
Gardner threw one of his three touchdown passes.

Gardner knew the Wolverines would make crafty plays work against
Iowa because they did against their own defense even when teammates
thought they knew what was coming.

“I felt like if they knew from one practice to the next that it
was coming and still couldn’t stop it, then the other team would
definitely not be able to stop it,” Gardner said.

Robinson took some snaps at QB, but didn’t throw once against
the Hawkeyes.

Can he pass?

“Yes, but not as well as he’d like to,” Hoke said.

That, once again, might just be another thing Michigan is going
to let Robinson do against the Buckeyes, who might not expect him
to attempt passes downfield.

Ohio State linebacker Zach Boren probably understands The Game
and the gamesmanship that goes along with it as well as anyone on
the field Saturday.

His dad, Mike, played for Michigan and so did his brother,
Justin, before famously – or infamously – transferring to Ohio
State and taking a shot at the then Rodriguez-led Wolverines by
saying family values had eroded within the program.

“That’s the biggest rivalry in sports,” Zach Boren said. “Now we
can turn our attention to them. We’ll be ready. This team keeps on
getting better and better each week.”

Boren and the Buckeyes will be looking for revenge after
Michigan finally snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series
last season. The Wolverines won 40-34, with Robinson throwing for
167 yards and three touchdowns and running for 170 yards and two
more scores.

Braxton Miller didn’t exactly struggle for Ohio State, throwing
for 235 yards and running for 100 while totaling three TDs.

Michigan’s shot at playing in the Big Ten title game was dashed
Friday when Nebraska defeated Iowa to win the Legends Division.
Although the Wolverines, losers of five straight in Columbus, can’t
win the conference championship, this matchup is more than enough
incentive on its own.

“I think this is just a pure, intense rivalry,” Meyer said. “It
doesn’t matter who’s undefeated, who’s fighting for what, who’s
playing for what.”