Ohio State Football aims to beat rival Michigan on Saturday

The Ohio State football team plays its closest rival, Michigan at Ohio Stadium on Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium as the Buckeyes attempt to punch a ticket to the Big Ten championship game while exacting revenge on the Wolverines.

Ohio State went nearly a decade undefeated by Michigan from 2012-2019. After not playing “The Game” in Michigan in 2020 due to a COVID-19 outbreak, Ohio State’s dominance over Michigan last season was shattered with a 42-27 loss in snowy Ann Arbor.

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It was on the Buckeyes’ minds most of the offseason, and as soon as Ohio State sent Maryland last week, it went to “the team up north.”

Here are three keys to No. 2 Ohio State versus No. 3 Michigan on Saturday:

Ohio State must keep emotions in check against Wolverines

Emotions run high as the Buckeyes attempt to avenge a loss in The Game for the first time in a decade. They’ve hit their archrival on target over the past year and the intense focus on Michigan could give them a boost on Saturday. But they also need to maintain their composure, a level of composure they didn’t always show last season, when they took ten penalties a season, including five false starts to throw back drives.

Ohio State vs. Michigan: Head coaching records since 2000

Start fast against Michigan Football

Few teams have better ball control than Michigan, which ranks third in the Football Bowl Subdivision for possession due to a run-heavy style of play. This approach could be tested if the Buckeyes take an early lead, a scenario that would pressure quarterback JJ McCarthy to push the ball down the field to keep up with Ohio State rather than Blake Corum or theirs to hand over to other running backs. Can the Wolverines win with McCarthy’s arm? This style suits Ryan Day and co better.

Protect CJ Stroud

Stroud had to make a lot of forced throws in last season’s Michigan loss and was under pressure on nearly half of his drop backs, according to Pro Football Focus. It kept the Buckeyes from rallying in the second half. Though Aidan Hutchinson is no longer a regular part of the defensive line, the Wolverines’ pass rush remains among the best in the nation. Their 31 sacks are tied for 19th in the FBS. Ohio State’s offensive line needs to leave Stroud with a cleaner bag.

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Important duel between Ohio State and Michigan

Ohio State Rush Defense vs. Michigan Rush Offense

The battle in the trenches will be a referendum on the first season of Jim Knowles’ rebuild. Knowles’ December hiring was hastened by the Michigan loss, which saw the Buckeyes slashed at the line of scrimmage and lost 297 yards on the ground. There were signs of progress this fall, most notably improved rush defense and the ability to come off the field third. But Michigan, bringing its smash-mouth-rushing style to the high-stakes duel, is the ultimate barometer of the turnaround. Look for the game swinging based on this matchup.

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Key statistics for horse chestnuts

20: Consecutive games in which the winner between Ohio State and Michigan was the team that passed the other.

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Reach out to him at [email protected] or on Twitter @joeyrkaufmann.

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