If Michigan football is going to beat Ohio State on Saturday, it’s essential for the Wolverines to win in the trenches.
It is Ohio State week for Michigan football and the Buckeyes will unquestionably be toughest test of the season for the Wolverines.
The Buckeyes have the Heisman frontrunner and a former five-star in quarterback C.J. Stroud. Five-star true freshman TreVeyon Henderson nearly has 1,100 yards rushing despite not beginning the season as the starter.
Wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba were five-stars along with tight end Jeremy Ruckert. The other receiver in their top three is Michigan killer and projected first-rounder Chris Olave.
While the Buckeyes are loaded at the skill positions, Michigan football’s success on Saturday will come down to how well it fares in the trenches.
Ohio State has recruited well on the offensive line as well. Starters Nicholas Petit-Friere, Paris Johnson Jr., and Luke Wylper were top 100 or so recruits (Wypler was 108 in the composite). Thayer Munford was a four-star and Dawand Jones was a developmental three-star.
Petit-Friere, Johnson Jr. (RG), Munford (LG), and Jones are capable of playing offensive tackle. Together, they make the best offensive line in the country according to PFF.
Despite being the least heralded prospect, Jones has been the Buckeyes’ highest-graded performer with a grade of 85.4. Stroud has only been sacked nine times and the Buckeyes have surrendered 13 sacks as a whole this season.
However, Michigan has the defensive line talent to match. Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo are the best edge duo in the country. However, Saturday’s games could be more about the interior guys. Chris Hinton and Mazi Smith have been solid this season, former five and four-stars themselves, but Michigan needs them to be stars on Saturday.
We have seen Ohio State neutralize Michigan’s pass rush with quick passes in the past. Additionally, no quarterback likes getting interior pressure pushed back in their face.
Michigan and Ohio State games also tend to come down to who runs the ball better. While we all know about Ohio State’s dominance over Michigan this millennium, the team that ran has the ball better has won each of the last 20 meetings.
To that end, Michigan’s running game might be its best defense.
Michigan football has to run the ball
Michigan has a potent rushing attack that ranks 14th in rushing yards per game. Hassan Haskins is over 1,000 yards and along with Blake Corum, Michigan has had one of the best running back duos in the country.
Getting Corum back this week will be huge for the Wolverines if he is 100%. However, Donovan Edwards proved he is ready to be an important contributor as well, even if that comes more in the passing game.
Michigan State provided a good example for what Michigan should not do.
The Spartans deferred the coin toss and put Ohio State’s offense on the field immediately. The Buckeyes quickly marched down the field and made it 7-0.
When Michigan State got the ball, it opted to pass instead of feeding Kenneth Walker III, despite the fact that he had three carries for 24 yards in the first quarter. Quick possessions, a fumble by Jordon Simmons, and a turnover on downs turned a 7-0 lead into 21-0 by the end of the first quarter and 49-0 at halftime. It was a game over in a hurry. Walker III finished with six rushing attempts compared to 36 passing attempts for Payton Thorne.
Michigan football has a better defense than Michigan State, but the Buckeyes are going to move the ball.
Michigan is not to going to win a track meet. U-M needs to keep them from getting their hands on by relying on its running and offensive line.
By the way, Michigan has an offensive line it can rely on as well. Michigan’s offensive line was named a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award given to the top offensive line in the country. Excluding sacks, Michigan ball carriers have lost 15 yards all season.
Michigan must rely on its offensive line and running game on Saturday. That will allow the Wolverines to dominate time of possession and keep the Buckeyes’ offense off the field. It is how Oregon beat Ohio State. The Ducks ran for 269 yards against OSU and limited them in the red zone. Michigan must do the same on Saturday.