Neutralize Michigan’s defensive line

The strength of Michigan’s team is its defensive front. Maurice Hurst, Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich are the headliners on a deep unit. Ohio State’s offensive line has steadily improved, led by center Billy Price and left tackle Jamarco Jones. The Buckeyes have excelled lately at double-team blocks, with Price and a guard opening holes in the middle. If they can do that against Michigan, it will open up the offense for everything else it wants to do.

Win third down

Ohio State has excelled in this area most of the season. The Buckeyes rank fourth nationally with a 50 percent success rate on offense, and 14th on defense, allowing opponents to convert only 30 percent of the time. Michigan has struggled to convert in that situation on offense (32.7 percent) but is the best in the country on defense (24.7 percent). Ohio State has to put itself in favorable down-and-distance situations by avoiding penalties and negative plays.

Put pressure on the quarterback

The identity of Michigan’s starting quarterback probably won’t be known until Saturday, but the strategy against Brandon Peters, John O’Korn or longshot Wilton Speight will be similar. The Buckeyes need to contain Michigan’s run game, which has often excelled against weaker defenses, and make the Wolverines throw the ball. Peters has been the most effective of Michigan’s quarterbacks, but he is young and probably will be fragile if he passes concussion protocol. O’Korn has been ineffective.

Win special teams

This rivalry has often turned on special-teams plays, and both teams are capable of making them. Parris Campbell hasn’t returned kickoffs lately because of his concussion issues, but now that he’s fully healthy, he could resume those duties. Both teams are capable of blocking punts. Urban Meyer is concerned about Michigan’s ability to scheme to do that. Denzel Ward blocked a crucial punt against Penn State and has come close several other times.

Who has the edge vs. Michigan

When Buckeyes

run

Edge

OHIO STATE

The Buckeyes’ run game is peaking, but Michigan’s stout defensive front poses the toughest test of the season.

 

When Buckeyes

pass

Edge

MICHIGAN

Michigan has allowed the fewest passing yards in the country and has given up only eight touchdown passes.

 

When Wolverines

run

Edge

OHIO STATE

When Michigan has had success on offense, it has been on the ground. But OSU’s front seven should handle Michigan’s ordinary offensive line.

 

When Wolverines

pass

Edge

OHIO STATE

With Brandon Peters, Michigan’s passing game showed signs of life. If he can’t play, John O’Korn probably takes over, and he hasn’t been up to the task.

 

Special

teams

Edge

OHIO STATE

The Buckeyes have shored up their kickoff coverage and still haven’t allowed any punt return yardage. Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones has shown flashes of being a dangerous returner.