The day we’ve been waiting for all year long has finally arrived: the wait for The Game is almost over.
Here are some keys to victory for the Wolverines.
Capitalize in the red zone
There haven’t been many weaknesses for the Wolverines this season but if I had to pick their biggest one, it’s they settle for field goals too often in the red zone.
Compared to the rest of college football, the Wolverines are by no means bad in the red zone; they score 93.2% of the time in the red zone, a mark that’s good for eighth in the country. But much too often this season, Michigan has turned to Jake Moody within the 20-yard line.
Moody has been very reliable but in a game this important against a team this good, they have to come away with seven points in the red zone.
Make C.J. Stroud uncomfortable
The biggest obstacle in Michigan’s way of winning this one is C.J. Stroud. As our Dan Plocher explained earlier this week, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in college football and can make teams pay with the deep ball.
A huge reason why the Wolverines were able to beat the Buckeyes last year was the pass rush: they were able to rack up four sacks, four quarterback hurries and eight tackles for loss.
Michigan fans shouldn’t expect a day that dominant again, with Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo now in the NFL. However, Michigan can’t let Stroud get comfortable, as guys like Mike Morris, Mazi Smith and Eyabi Okie need to force Stroud to make decisions under pressure.
While the Wolverines try to generate pressure, they need to get creative in the back seven. This is as good a time as any for Jesse Minter to sprinkle in some secondary blitzes, zone schemes, or any other tricks he’s got up his sleeve to make life harder for Stroud.
Dominate time of possession
The best way to beat a quarterback as talented as Stroud is to keep him on the sideline.
I feel like a broken record at this point, but Michigan has won games this year by dominating up front, rushing for large chunks of yards and dominating time of possession.
Michigan averages 35 minutes per game of possessing the ball. It has had possession for 386 total game minutes, a mark that’s third in all of college football.
Blake Corum may not be 100% healthy, but Michigan will need to rely on its Heisman candidate in a game of this magnitude. If he starts to wear down, get creative with Donovan Edwards, run sweeps with Roman Wilson, and maybe even whip up some designed runs for J.J. McCarthy.
If the Wolverines can score touchdowns off red zone possessions, pressure Stroud and chew up the clock, they can definitely win in Columbus.