Ohio State and Michigan will do battle on Saturday in one of college football's oldest, most storied rivalries, and there are several players who will decide the outcome of the game.
The Buckeyes enter play looking to go undefeated and continue to boost their consideration for the BCS championship game. The Wolverines, on the other hand, are looking to salvage a season in which they started 5-0. Since then, they've gone 2-4.
Ohio State won last year's meeting, but Michigan won the season before. Ohio State appears to be the far superior team on paper, but there are a few Wolverines who could step up and give their team a better shot at the upset.
Overall, there are multiple players in prominent roles who figure to have an impact on the outcome.
Quarterback Devin Gardner has had an up-and-down year passing the ball for Michigan, though he's been great on the ground. He has 10 rushing touchdowns and 17 touchdowns in the air, but the fact that he's thrown 11 interceptions is a cause for concern.
Because Gardner is such a mobile quarterback, tucking the ball and running through holes at the line of scrimmage is better than forcing the ball downfield into coverage.
Ohio State boasts a strong defense, and not trying to do too much under center will be the key for Gardner. Sure, he needs to throw the ball deep to take advantage of any opportunities the Buckeyes give him, but he also needs to rein it in from time to time.
If Gardner can rack up 300 total yards and not turn the ball over, he'll give the Wolverines a good chance of sticking with the undefeated Buckeyes.
Senior running back Carlos Hyde is in the midst of a hot streak, rushing for 100 yards in six straight games. He has gained 1,064 yards with 13 touchdowns on the season, and don't be surprised if that touchdown mark increases after playing Michigan.
He has six touchdowns in the past two games, one of which was a four-touchdown performance against Illinois. Oh, yeah, and he even ran for 246 yards on 24 carries in that one.
Hyde is a bruiser, weighing 242 pounds and standing 6'0" tall. He also has the speed to burst through the second lines of defense and get into open space. If Michigan cannot take him down on first contact, it's going to be a long day for the defense.
Keeping Hyde under 100 yards may prove impossible, but keeping him out of the end zone is key. Forcing Braxton Miller to do it all himself is the best strategy for taking down Ohio State.
Starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint hasn't played a full game since October 19 against Indiana, and Michigan backup Derrick Green will need to pick up the slack if Toussaint is unable to be productive.
In Toussaint's last three games, he has carried the ball just 23 times and totaled 38 yards. Green, on the other hand, has 113 yards on 38 carries in his last three games. The true freshman will likely play an important role against Ohio State's eighth-ranked defense.
Green doesn't make an impact at all in the passing game, so he'll need to rack up the yards on the ground and set Gardner up to make plays in the air or with his legs. If Green can set up the play action for the Michigan offense, Gardner will be a huge beneficiary.
Look for Green to play a role offensively, even if Toussaint finds some success.
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