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What Michigan can learn from Penn State on defending Ohio State

It all starts with creating pressure.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 Michigan at Penn State Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The day that Michigan football fans have been waiting for all season has finally arrived, as the Wolverines host the Ohio State Buckeyes this weekend, with The Game happening at noon on Fox.

This is a game that the Wolverines have struggled in during Coach Jim Harbaugh’s tenure, as since Harbaugh took over the Michigan football team in 2015, the Wolverines have lost this game every year, with four of the five losses coming by multiple scores.

In order for Michigan to beat their rival this time around, they need to play a near perfect game defensively.

Last week, the Buckeyes looked unstoppable against a good Michigan State team, with C.J. Stroud completing 91 percent of his passes for 432 yards and six touchdowns.

Stroud is a great football player who will play in the NFL soon, but part of the reason why he was able to carve up the Spartans like a Thanksgiving turkey last week was because Stroud had lots of time to throw in the pocket.

Michigan State was unable to create much of a reliable pass rush against the Buckeyes. In order for Michigan to not suffer the same fate, they will need to give Stroud a lot less time to pick apart the secondary.

As Joel Klatt broke down earlier this week, Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo will need to have big days and bring pressure off the edge in order to make to create chaos for the Buckeyes.

Penn State played Ohio State pretty close in their game last month, as they were able to sack Stroud four times and make life for the Buckeye offense a little harder.

Senior left guard Thayer Munford told the Columbus Dispatch after that game that Ohio State’s offensive line struggles were partially due to nerves and partially due to the stunts Penn State’s defensive line was running.

“I feel like this was just first-game jitters, like the first actual real game jitters against an equal-talent program (since Oregon),” he said. “Everybody was more jittery, wanting to want to go out and just hit somebody. But we have to calm ourselves down so we actually know what we’ve got to do.”

Michigan will need to create a similar type of pressure, as mixing up the blitzes and running unpredictable stunts increasing the Wolverines’ chances of winning the game.

Creating that pressure will help Michigan’s secondary, who has the tough task of guarding Ohio State’s talented wide receiving core.

Harbaugh said on the “Inside Michigan Football” radio show that slowing down guys like Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be the main defensive focus for the Wolverines.

“They’re really good getting separation, maintaining separation, creating more separation, catching the football,” Harbaugh said. “Really good and really fantastic.”

Ohio State’s skill players are really good about making plays on the edges of the defense and along the sideline. Creating pressure and mixing up their coverage schemes may be able to limit those athletes from winning the game for the Buckeyes.

The Game has not worked out well for Coach Harbaugh in his Michigan tenure, but if they can create pressure and force Stroud into turning over the ball, they have a much better chance of taking down the Buckeyes and heading to the Big Ten championship.