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Northwestern vs. Michigan: Keys to Victory for the Wolverines

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Michigan faces a tough challenge, but has the Big House crowd on its side on Homecoming weekend.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday's matchup between #13 Northwestern (5-0) and #18 Michigan (4-1) features two of the top five defenses in all of college football on Homecoming weekend at the Big House.

But, you already knew that. So what do the Wolverines have to do to walk out of the stadium with a victory?

Let's take a look:

Rudock Needs to Play a Clean Game

In any game where the defenses on each side are elite, it comes down to the offense that makes the least amount of mistakes that wins the football game. As the leader of Michigan's offense, it will be on Jake Rudock to shake off his turnover woes and show his experience. He has that advantage over redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson of the Wildcats.

Do not expect either team to air it out by any means, but Rudock will spread the ball around his wide receivers, tight ends and fullbacks. He has done a solid job doing this all season, and we expect that to be the same with Saturday's gameplan.

Keep Clayton Thorson in the Pocket

Thorson is not a great thrower, but he is a capable one. What makes him dangerous, however, is that he has the ability to make plays with his feet. In that regard, he is similar to BYU's Tanner Mangum, though he was a better passer.

Michigan's secondary has been stellar all season long and I'm not sure the Wildcats have the skill players, outside of running back Justin Jackson, to burn the Wolverines in the passing game. If they can rattle Thorson, they will be in great shape.

Don't Be the Defense that Blinks First

Both of these defenses are legitimate. Through five weeks, there is enough of a sample size to suggest both will come to play on Saturday afternoon.

I'm not sure the Wolverines are built to come back from too deep of a hole on offense, so it will be on their defense to keep the Wildcats in check, and the same applies for Northwestern defending Michigan's offense.

Keeping this in mind, the advantage goes to the Wolverines with the game being played on their own field and what appears to be good playing conditions heading into the game.

Michigan faces a tough challenge, but has the Big House crowd on its side on Homecoming weekend and that should be enough for them to get a big win going into next week's showdown with Michigan State.

What are your keys to the game? Sound off in the comments below!