Michigan

5 Keys to a Michigan victory over Ohio State

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The 8-3 Michigan Wolverines head into the Horseshoe to take on an 11-0 Ohio State Buckeye team for the 109th meeting between these two bitter rivals.

Despite Nebraska edging out Iowa 13-7 Friday afternoon to clinch the Legends Division and a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game, the Wolverines look to spoil Ohio State’s perfect season in Urban Meyer’s first year as head coach. And nonetheless Michigan also looks to secure a New Years Day bowl game as the team continues to improve under the direction of Brady Hoke in his second season as head coach.

There is however some mystery for Michigan heading into the game as it’s still unclear who exactly will be starting under center for the Wolverines. All indication seems to point to Devin Gardner getting the start given his success at the position the past few weeks and Denard Robinson still being unable to do much with the football aside from a short lob pass.

So with all that said lets take a look at five keys to the game for the Michigan Wolverines this afternoon against Ohio State.

Keep the same offensive game plan with Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson

By all account Michigan is using Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson the way they should’ve been using them for two years now. And given the successes of Devin Gardner the past two weeks as well as Denard Robinson’s elbow injury there should be no reason to change things up now.

Furthermore another key reason as to why Michigan needs to go with Gardner over Robinson is Gardner’s simply better through the air than Robinson which will be a huge factor in today’s game.

The former Inkster High School standout, Gardner has completed 65 percent of his passes in three starts this season and will need to continue that number to support a rushing attack that is without Fitz Toussaint who is out for the rest of the season with a leg injury.

Contain Braxton Miller and force him to throw the ball

If Michigan is going to win today in Ohio State it’s all going to start with containing dual threat quarterback Braxton Miller.

Simply put Miller is absolutely deadly on the ground racking up 1,213 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns this season. So with that in mind collapsing the pocket more than likely will not be effective.

Miller’s Achilles heel lies in his passing abilities as the sophomore quarterback has completed 56.8 percent of his passes this season for 1,850 yards, 14 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

The Michigan linebackers will need to mind their defensive assignments and be sure to take Miller down on first effort.

Rawls and Robinson need to be effective out of the backfield

With Fitz Toussaint done for the season, Thomas Rawls and now Denard Robinson need to step up their games on the ground in order to support Devin Gardner’s passing game. Robinson’s presence in the backfield and the attention he will garner should provide Rawls the opportunity to be effective in short yardage situations.

And because of Robinson and Gardner’s dual threat capability, Rawls doesn’t have to be great this afternoon, just good enough to get the respect of the Ohio State defense.

Get Denard at least 15 touches

I’m not really one to believe that Denard Robinson has ever been the end all be all to the Michigan offense and with the emergence of Devin Gardner that for sure isn’t the case now. However whether Robinsin is under center, lined up in the backfield as a running back or out wide as a slot receiver he is still very deadly and very prone to making the big plays happen.

Last Saturday against Iowa, Al Borges drew up 15 specific plays for Robinson which eventually led to a 42-17 rout of the Hawkeyes. He also finished the game with 13 carries for 98 yards and two receptions for 24 yards.

Now Ohio State will be prepared to Denard Robinson however if the Wolverines can get Denard the same amount of work as they did last week and in different sets it should be able to throw off the Buckeye defense in some sense of the matter.

Keep Ohio State in third and long situations all day long

Limiting Ohio State to third and short situations on a regular basis this afternoon simply won’t cut it for Michigan. Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde have combined for 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns on the season so any short yardage deficits for the Buckeyes this afternoon should be no problems for their rushing attack.

On third and long situations this season (6 yards or more) Miller is 22 of 52 through the air with an unimpressive 46 percent completion percentage.

Again the idea here should be to force Braxton Miller and the Ohio State Buckeyes to be Michigan through the air.

Prediction

Despite Michigan coming into this game with an 8-3 record the Wolverines have had their struggles against quality opponents this season, in fact their win over Northwestern (which came at home in overtime) as their only win against a quality opponent. Now I’m not saying Michigan won’t be competitive, Devin Gardner should continue to improve and the Michigan offense will put up some points however given Ohio State’s circumstances, Michigan’s young defensive line and the Buckeye’s vaunted ground attack Michigan will probably head out of Columbus with an 8-4 record to finish the regular season.

Ohio State 28, Michigan 17

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