At 7-4, the Michigan Wolverines enter Saturday's annual matchup with undefeated, third-ranked rival Ohio State as two touchdown underdogs, according to Vegas Insider. The Wolverines are looking for only their second win against the Buckeyes since 2004 and what would undoubtedly be a season-saving signature victory.
Though the Buckeyes rank ahead of the Wolverines statistically in nearly every offensive and defensive category, the Wolverines' chances at an upset start with these three keys:
1. Win the ground game
Though it's much easier said than done considering Michigan's recent offensive struggles, outrushing Ohio State would give the Wolverines the best advantage statistically to upset the Buckeyes on Saturday.
The team with more rushing yards has won each of the last 10 games between Michigan and Ohio State, dating back to 2003. The Wolverines have rushed for only 130 total yards in four games this month, while the Buckeyes have rushed for 1,097 yards in three November games.
2. Neutralize Ohio State's quarterbacks on the ground
One of the nation's leading quarterback combinations, Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton, has accounted for 212.2 passing yards and 99.7 rushing yards per game during the Buckeyes' perfect 11-0 season. Though the Buckeyes rank 75th overall in total passing yards, Miller's and Guiton's efficiency running the ball has kept opposing defenses on their heels all season long.
There aren't many weaknesses in the Buckeyes' high-powered offensive attack, but Michigan's secondary of Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor, Thomas Gordon and Jarrod Wilson is one of the team's defensive strengths. The unit matches up favorably to leading Buckeye receivers Philly Brown (5'11"), Devin Smith (6'1"), Evan Spencer (6'2") and Chris Fields (6'1").
3. Get Gallon involved early and often
Though Michigan's poor rushing attack has been the primary reason for the Wolverines' offensive struggles, the absence of wide receiver Jeremy Gallon in losses has also been alarming.
In Michigan's seven wins this season, Gallon averaged almost seven catches for 121.6 yards per game and had six total touchdowns. In Michigan's last two wins over Indiana and Northwestern, Gallon combined for 24 receptions for 484 yards and two touchdowns.
When the Wolverines lost, Gallon hauled less than six receptions for 64.5 yards per game and scored only two touchdowns. Though Devin Funchess' numbers have picked up in recent weeks, Gallon remains Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner's most important target and will need to be heavily involved in the Wolverines passing attack for Michigan to have a shot at the upset.