KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
SERIES: Michigan 57-42-6 (last meeting, 2009, Ohio State 21-10)
RECORDS: Michigan 7-4, 3-4; Ohio State 10-1, 6-1
POLLS: Ohio State (8 AP, 7 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Ohio State 28-14
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Michigan: Avoid calamity. The Wolverines can not let a powerful Ohio State team and a rabid collection of fans in Ohio Stadium find a reason to amp up their excitement level. Michigan would enhance its chances considerably if it avoids turnovers and if it can find the defensive resolve to prevent Ohio State from building a surge of momentum.
-- For Ohio State: Stop, or at least slow, Denard Robinson. The Buckeyes have 11 games' worth of film on the Michigan quarterback, and how the Buckeyes plan to limit his impact will be a critical element. The Buckeyes also need to exploit Michigan's wobbly defense on nearly every possession to make the Wolverines play catch-up.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- The Wolverines sent a shock wave across the college football landscape when they unveiled an offense revolving around the incredible skills of QB Denard Robinson, and for the first half of the season, Robinson essentially went crazy on opposing defenses. Big Ten teams, however, have been catching up on how to slow Robinson, so Michigan's fate in this game is linked to how well it develops other options. The Wolverines' running backs and receivers need to make a major impact to give Michigan a chance to win.
Michigan's often maligned defense has been abused by a number of teams as it has worked through the Big Ten schedule, and there is no indication Michigan has come up with any magic formula to roll out against Ohio State. The key here is slowing the Buckeyes' running game so QB Terrelle Pryor will be forced out of his comfort zone. The Wolverines need an other-worldly performance from their defensive line so Pryor never has a chance to get in a rhythm.
Ohio State will find success on offense if QB Terrelle Pryor finds the end zone. Ohio State is 15-1 in games when Pryor has a rushing touchdown, and 26-1 when he throws a touchdown pass. TB Dan Herron has been running strong to keep defenses from focusing on Pryor, while WR Dane Sanzenbacher gives Pryor as sure-handed an option as there is in the conference.
The Buckeyes are third in the nation in total defense, allowing just 241 ypg, and if their defense can effectively corral Michigan QB Denard Robinson, Ohio State can maintain that ranking. Stopping Robinson from breaking big plays will be the assignment for Ohio State LBs Brian Rolle and Ross Homan.
Wolverines: No one on the Michigan roster has experienced a win over rival Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won six straight games in the series. ... Sophomore QB Denard Robinson set an NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season after gaining 121 yards on the ground against Wisconsin. Robinson has 1,538 rushing yards this season, topping the record set by Air Force's Beau Morgan with 1,494 yards in 1996. ... Michigan's last win in the rivalry series with Ohio State was in 2003 when the Wolverines were victorious by a 35-21 count in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines haven't won in Columbus since 2000, a 38-26 triumph. ... LB Kenny Demens, who moved into a starting role in midseason, will play a critical role in trying to stop Ohio State's running game. Demens had a career-high 13 tackles in the recent loss to rush-heavy Wisconsin.
Buckeyes: WR Dane Sanzenbacher leads the Buckeyes and is second in the Big Ten with nine touchdown catches. The senior has 49 receptions for 818 yards. ... QB Terrelle Pryor is 29-4 as the starter for the Buckeyes. ... Ohio State's 24-member senior class takes a 42-8 four-year record into the season finale against Michigan. The group owns a 3-0 record against Michigan and has won three Big Ten titles. ... A victory over Michigan would give Ohio State a record-tying sixth straight Big Ten championship, and likely a BCS bowl berth. ... LB Brian Rolle earned Big Ten defensive player of the week honors for his 10-tackle performance against Iowa in the Buckeyes' critical road win over the Hawkeyes. Rolle will play a crucial role in Ohio State's run. ... LB Dorian Bell, who missed a month with a concussion, returned to the field two weeks ago and has been an important part of Ohio State's improving special teams play.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Denard Robinson -- The sophomore from Florida had a pair of rushing touchdowns in the recent loss to Wisconsin, giving him 14 on the season. Robinson needs to have an impact with both his arms and his legs for Michigan to give Ohio State a game.
WR Roy Roundtree -- The Ohio native had 114 receiving yards in the Nov. 20 loss to Wisconsin, giving him four games this season with more than 100 yards. Roundtree needs to have some kind of major impact to stretch the field against the Buckeyes and give his offense some room to function.
LB Jonas Mouton -- The Wolverines are faced with tracking down athletic Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor, and Mouton will lead that search party. He leads the Big Ten with 102 total tackles.
TB Dan "Boom" Herron -- The junior is third among Big Ten running backs with 100.1 yards per conference game. If Herron is moving the chains, the Buckeyes are likely to be in control of the game throughout.
QB Terrelle Pryor -- The junior keeps winning with his arm and his legs. Pryor had a critical run for a first down on a fourth-down play late in the win at Iowa, and then threw a strike to WR Dane Sanzenbacher for 24 yards down to the 2-yard line. Pryor needs just 67 yards to become Ohio State's all-time rushing leader for quarterbacks.
CB Chimdi Chekwa -- The senior from Florida is a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation's best defensive back. Chekwa, who has three interceptions this season, will be a vital part of Ohio State's pass defense against Michigan.
WR Junior Hemingway (concussion, questionable), DT Mike Martin (ankle, probable), WR/KR Darryl Stonum (ankle, probable), DE Craig Roh (concussion, probable), RB Vincent Smith (concussion, probable)
WR Corey Brown (eye, probable), DB Donnie Evege (elbow, probable).
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