Can the defense solve its issues?
This is the big question, isn’t it? Ohio State thought it had corrected the problems that has caused its defense to be victimized so often by big plays. Maryland proved that false. Michigan uses a pro-style offense, which isn’t as reliant on the misdirection that causes Ohio State so many problems. But the Wolverines run effectively, and Shea Patterson gives Michigan the competent quarterback play — with a little flair — that it has lacked recently. Ohio State’s back seven must play its best game.
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Who wins on third down?
Michigan has converted 50 percent of its third downs, best in the Big Ten and ninth nationally. Ohio State is close behind with a 48 percent conversion rate. For all of their defensive problems, the Buckeyes are good on third down, allowing opponents to convert only 30 percent. Michigan’s opponents are successful only 31 percent of the time. Whichever team can win this competition will have the upper hand.
Can Schiano do what Brown has done?
Defensive coordinator Don Brown might be the key to the Wolverines’ success. This is the third program he has directed that has led the country in total defense. His ability to exploit an offense’s weaknesses is remarkable. On the other hand, Greg Schiano’s reputation as a defensive mastermind has taken a hit. He and his fellow defensive coaches haven’t pushed the right buttons. The pressure is on them to rectify that in the biggest game of the year.
Can Haskins improvise?
The Michigan game last year was Dwayne Haskins Jr.’s coming-out party. He replaced the injured J.T. Barrett and rallied the Buckeyes to victory. Michigan now has video to study his strengths and weaknesses. The Wolverines know that if they allow Haskins to stand in the pocket, he will pick them apart. So look for them do everything they can to make him uncomfortable. Can Haskins adapt and make plays with his feet as well as his arm? He showed he could last week. Michigan’s defense is a big step up, though.