Three keys to winning football in Michigan

Michigan football is trying to do something it hasn’t done since 2000, beating Ohio State in Columbus.

The Wolverines and Buckeyes enter The Game unbeaten and rank in the top five for the first time since 2006. Michigan is still riding the wave of beating Ohio State last season in Ann Arbor, 42-27. Corn and Blue were more physically dominant in the trenches last season and Michigan was able to claim the win.

Both teams will start out a bit battered on Saturday due to the possibility that key players will not be able to arm themselves. But both Michigan and Ohio State have been preparing for this moment all season, and the winner will travel to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship.

Here are three things I believe Michigan must do to beat Ohio State for the second year in a row.

Don’t try to change the offensive identity

Photo: Isaiah Loch

My gut tells me that Blake Corum will play, or at least try to play, against Ohio State on Saturday. But Michigan has been extremely coy about what’s going on with its Heisman caliber running back.

Corum’s backup, Donovan Edwards, has not played in the last two games. But there’s optimism he can play against the Buckeyes. To what extent is still unknown.

With Corum and Edwards playing devil’s advocate here, with Corum and Edwards unavailable to play on Saturday and Michigan having CJ Stokes, Isaiah Gash and Tavierre Dunlap to shoulder the burden, the Wolverines will ask JJ McCarthy, to win the game. We still haven’t really seen Michigan ask him to do that.

Obviously, if Corum and/or Edwards can play and be healthy as close as possible, things bode well for Michigan. But as the old saying goes, “next man’s turn,” and corn and blue may be counting on a true freshman and a walk-on to beat Ohio State.

Regardless of who is playing on Saturday, Michigan is designed to run the ball and shuffle the pass. The Wolverines can’t afford to get in a shootout with Ohio State because that’s the Buckeyes’ A+ game. The corn and the blue must establish the run, get it going and control possession time. If McCarthy gets hot and connects with downfield receivers, then that’s house money playing and things would look even better for the Wolverines.

Need to put pressure on CJ Stroud

27 November 2021. Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Wolverines

Ohio State’s offensive line has done a fine job this season, not allowing the opposition to get close to CJ Stroud. The Buckeyes’ Heisman contender has been sacked nine times all season, and Pro Football Focus ranked Ohio State as the 14th-best pass blocking team in the country with a score of 81.2.

Let’s go back to 2021 when Michigan defeated Ohio State in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines’ D-line physically dominated the Buckeyes’ O-line. Michigan sacked Stroud four times in the game and he was credited with eight pressures against Stroud. While he threw nearly 400 yards at Michigan last season, Michigan’s defensive line did enough to put Stroud out of his game for a couple of drives.

In the first 11 games this season, Stroud has an overall score of 82.9, according to the PFF. When kept clean with no pressure, his passing score is an excellent 91.6 and he completes 70% of his shots. But when he’s under pressure, he makes 43% of his passes and his passing grade drops to 35.1.

Michigan has 31 sacks this season and ranks second in the Big Ten. The Wolverines were expected to bring Mike Morris back against Ohio State on Saturday and he leads the team with 7.5 sacks in the 10 games he has played.

If Michigan is to have any advantage against Ohio State’s offense, the Wolverines’ defense needs to wreak havoc against Stroud on Saturday.

Scoring touchdowns is a bonus

Photo by: Isaiah Hole

Michigan is the eighth-rate red-zone offense in the country, reaching the red-zone 93.2% of the time. But the Wolverines are also ranked 59th in the country, scoring touchdowns 64.4% of the time they are in the red zone.

The Wolverines have attempted more field goals (30) than anyone in the country. Alabama is the second attempt of 25. Michigan averages two field goals in each game, and in a game against a high-profile offense like Ohio State, touchdowns are paramount.

The good news for Michigan is that Ohio State is the 117th defensive red zone. The Buckeyes allow points 90.9% of the time and Ohio State allows touchdowns in the red zone 59% of the time.

Michigan has had periods this season where it was either really bad or really good in the red. On Saturday, the Wolverines need to be creative at playcalling and execution needs to be at an all-time high.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire

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