The Michigan Wolverines are making a trip to Ohio Stadium Saturday morning and not just to take in the spring game. UM takes on the Buckeyes lacrosse team at 11 a.m ET in the 2014 version of the "Showdown in the Shoe". If you are not attending the game, you can watch it live on the Big Ten Network prior to the spring game. One ticket will get fans into the Shoe for both the lacrosse game and the spring game and in 2010, a record 31,078 fans witnessed the Buckeyes defeat Air Force before enjoying the spring football game. Michigan has yet to play in Columbus since they have been a varsity program but the Buckeyes defeated Michigan in the prior two meetings in the "Battle of the Big House", including last year's 17-8 thrashing in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines come into the game sporting a 4-8 overall record (1-2 ECAC) and have lost four straight. The Buckeyes should have no problem scoring on the porous Michigan defense, as they have allowed 22, 15 (3x), and 14 goals in five of their losses and have scored double digits goals only twice in their past seven games. One good thing for the Wolverines is that they did defeat Bellarmine, meaning they clinched an ECAC playoff spot, their first in program history.
After starting the season 1-5, the Buckeyes' schedule has softened up and they have won three out of their last four games (4-6, 1-0 ECAC). The Buckeyes scored double digits in all three of those victories and scored a season high 15 goals against Delaware last weekend.
The Buckeye defense will have to key on freshman attackman Ian King, who leads the team in goals and points with 24 goals (on 76 shots) and one assist on the season. David McCormack is another attackman to look out for as he has double digit goals (11) on the season. The Wolverines struggle to move the ball and create away from it, as Ohio State's Jesse King had more assists last week (seven) than any attackman on the Michigan team has had this whole season.
Midfielders Kyle Jackson and Thomas Paras are second on the team in points with Jackson registering 17-5-22 totals on the season and Paras registering 12-10-22 on the score sheet.
Ohio State has a scoring advantage with Jesse King, Carter Brown (15-10-25), Turner Evans (9-14-23) and Reegan Comeault (11-8-19). King is second in the conference in points with 19-20-39 and is coming off of an eight-point outburst against Delaware.
I would give Michigan the advantage in the face-off spot, with Michigan's Brad Lott winning 56 percent of his face-off attempts while Ohio State's Jake Withers is winning 50 percent of his opportunities. As always, possession will be key and it is something that the Buckeyes have struggled with all season. Getting possession and advancing into the attacking zone will put pressure on the Michigan defense, which could then open up the flood gates.
The Buckeyes defense is only letting up 8.70 goals per game, while the Wolverines are letting up 12.58 goals per contest. Even though Michigan is struggling defensively, they are the second in the ECAC man-down, killing 68 percent of man advantage opportunities. The Buckeyes have struggled man-up all season, and their woes could continue Saturday.
The Buckeyes are starting to score and I think they will be able to score double digits on Michigan's defense. Hopefully fans will get to the Shoe early enough to catch the game as it should be a good one, with the Buckeye offense pulling away in the third or fourth quarter.