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Three Crucial Elements For Michigan Football To Beat Ohio State…

Michigan Football: Three Keys To A Victory Over Ohio State

While there are many topics of discussion surrounding Michigan vs. Ohio State, these three are the primary ones that the Wolverines should concentrate on during The Game.

The Game is the greatest rivalry in sports history. Ohio State, Michigan, Ohio Wolverines, Ohio Buckeyes. It doesn’t get much better than that.

On Saturday, the two bitter rivals will meet for the 119th time. Michigan has come out on top two years and a row and the Wolverines lead the all-time series 60-52-6.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh of Michigan will not be in the lineup as he serves the last game of a three-game suspension issued by the Big Ten.

But for the entire week preceding The Game, Harbaugh has had the chance to guide his team. Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore will once again be the acting head coach and it will be the biggest game of his career.

Both teams enter the weekend 11-0 and the winner will represent the Big Ten East to try and capture a Big Ten Championship against Iowa in Indianapolis.

Here are my three keys to a Michigan victory.

1. Make anyone but Marvin Harrison Jr. beat you

There is no denying Marvin Harrison Jr. is one of the best, if not the best, player in the nation. He is going to be a top-five pick in the NFL draft come April and he’s the top option on the Ohio State offense. He has 1,093 receiving yards this year and is tied for second in the country with 13 receiving touchdowns.

Harrison has 534 receiving yards, which is double the amount of the team’s second-leading receiver, TE Cade Stover. To say Kyle McCord loves throwing the ball Harrison’s way would be an understatement.

While it’s likely Harrison is going to get his yards on Saturday, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could be shut down. He averages nearly 100 yards per game, but there have been four games this season Harrison has been nearly invisible to the Buckeyes’ offense.

Indiana: two receptions for 18 yards

Notre Dame: three receptions for 32 yards

Rutgers: four receptions for 25 yards and two touchdowns

Minnesota: three receptions for 30 yards and a score

Minnesota was the only game that the Buckeyes’ offense looked fantastic and didn’t really need Harrison. In the other three games, the Ohio State offense either struggled or made magic happen at the end of the game.

Michigan must figure out how to stop Harrison from playing or at least slow him down. Make McCord beat you by throwing it Stover’s way or Egbuka. Both of them are reliable targets, but neither are Harrison.

We have to imagine when Michigan is in man-to-man, Will Johnson will have the Harrison assignment. According to PFF, Johnson allows 48% of the passes thrown his way to be caught. He has two PBUs and two interceptions this season. The sophomore will be tasked to limit Harrison’s production come Saturday.

2. Win the red zone

Keeping Ohio State’s offense from getting into the red zone would make for a perfect day, but that’s probably not realistic.

And that’s why the Wolverines need to rely on the top-ranked red zone defense in the country. Michigan leads the nation by allowing just six touchdowns scored in the red zone. 33.3% of the time teams reach the 20-yard line, they get touchdowns. While the level of competition hasn’t been superb, that’s still a remarkable stat for Michigan.

The Buckeyes’ offense hasn’t been all that great at scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Out of 47 trips in the red zone, Ohio State has scored 29 touchdowns or 61.7% of the time.

Michigan’s defense will want to continue that trend this weekend and make the Buckeyes kick field goals — we all know field goals usually don’t win The Game.

Flipping the script to the Michigan offense vs. the Ohio State defense:

Michigan scores touchdowns 75% of the time it reaches the red zone. The Wolverines have scored six points 39 out of 52 times this season. Having a player like Blake Corum has made that much easier for the Wolverines when they get down to the goal line. Players like Roman Wilson and Colston Loveland have been great red zone targets for J.J. McCarthy.

However, the Ohio State defense is really good in the red zone as well. The Buckeyes are right behind Michigan by allowing teams to score just 10 touchdowns or 45.4% of the time.

I have to think whichever offense takes schemes a better plan in that area of the field will have a significant advantage on Saturday. The Michigan offense/defense has an advantage on paper, but the Buckeyes will have some tricks up their sleeve in order to score in the red zone.

3. Impose your will in the trenches

How have the Wolverines defeated the Buckeyes in back-to-back seasons? By dominating in the trenches.

Going back to 2021, Michigan compiled 297 yards and six touchdowns on the ground against Ohio State. And last season, in 2022 in Columbus, Michigan ran for 252 yards and three touchdowns. The Wolverines’ defense allowed a meager 64 yards to Ohio State on the ground in 2021, but they did give up 143 yards in 2022 to the Buckeyes’ rushing attack.

Either way you slice it, the Michigan offensive and defensive lines were dominant and that trend has to continue on Saturday.

The Michigan run game has not been as fluid as it was the past two seasons, but the Wolverines appear to be clicking at the right time. The Wolverines rushed for 227 yards against Penn State and 150 against Maryland a week ago. The Wolverines’ offensive line is starting to get better push and running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards are starting to hit their stride breaking some runs.

The Buckeyes have the 21st-ranked run defense giving up 108.5 yards on the ground and with how things have gone the past two seasons, that will be a key to watch.

The Michigan ground game will be important again this weekend, but so will the Wolverines’ D-line against Ohio State.

Michigan has the No. 9 run defense giving up 90 yards per game and the Ohio State run game is also starting to take off with a healthy TreVeyon Henderson. During the past four games, Henderson has rushed for 162, 128, 63, and 146 yards, respectively.

Fending off Henderson will be a task in of its own, but where Michigan has a chance to win is getting pressure on Kyle McCord. Ohio State has given up 18 sacks this season and the Wolverines’ Edge rushers are really starting to come into their own. Michigan has 27 sacks on the year and the Buckeyes’ line has given up a decent amount of pressure.

RT Josh Fryer has allowed five sacks and 11 pressures, according to PFF. LT Josh Simmons has also allowed 11 pressures and C Carson Hinzman has allowed a team-high 16 pressures.

The Wolverines have a chance to really impose its will in the trenches for a third year in a row.

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