The Five Keys To The Game

Former U-M staffer Mark Ouimet says, "This is a huge game for both programs. Not only is the Big Ten Championship at stake, but serious bowl positioning as well. With this much at stake, this will be a field position game, a 'chess game'. And so, here are the five keys to winning."

Ouimet:

Not only is this the first time sonce 1980 that ab outright Big Ten titla is in the balance for both teams. But for OSU, a win probably ensures them a spot in the National Championship game. And a loss by OSU means the Citrus Bowl -- a huge difference. A win by Michigan means the Rose Bowl -- and they now don't have to worry about possibly playing TCU there. A loss by Michigan -- again it's the Citrus or elsewhere. Again, a big difference. So with this much at stake, this will be a field position game, a 'chess game'. Neither team will want to make mistakes. And therefore, the five keys to winning today's game are, in order of importance:

1. Turnovers. If Michigan gets through the game with equal or fewer turnovers than the Buckeyes, they should win. Put another way, Michigan has the weapons to win this game as long as they don't self-destruct by turning the ball over.

2. Time of of Possession. The team that wins time of possession should win the game -- unless there is a big discrepency in turnovers. For Michigan, they can win the time of possession battle by continuing their excellent third down conversion rate (49%).

3. Special teams. Ya probably gotta concede this one to the Bucks, but if Michigan can make a couple field goals and does not have their special teams self-destruct by turning the ball over or allowing long returns .... that may well be good enough.

4. Rushing yards. This one goes hand in hand with Time of Possession. Michigan could lose this to OSU and still win if the Wolverines don't turn the ball over. But if Michigan does win the rushing yardage it should mean victory (baring a turnover-and/or-special teams-disaster).

5. Sacks. A sack-barrage by OSU could negate Midchigan's pass-offense-advantage. Conversely, a good day in the sack department by Michigan should mean a Wolverine victory

Michigan needs to 'not-lose' four of these win, because the Special Teams advantage belongs to OSU's and it's a big one, especially if Michigan's special teams commits a a turnover.

I'll make two predictions.

First, OSU will not keep Michigan off the scoreboard, so the Buckeyes have to find a way to score. Look for them to use everything they can think of, including trick plays. As I said yesterday, they will be 'locked and loaded'. And with the great OSU defense, Buckeye offensive drives resulting in 3 points is fine with them. Both teams have good defenses, so actually points are points in this game for both sides ... meaning both will be happy with drives resulting in field goals.

My second prediction: there will be a point in the game where Michigan will go for it on 4th down. The Wolverines have confidence in their offense, and it'll be such a field position game. So watch for a time when Michigan is, say, at the OSU 33 yard line ... instead of going for a 50 yard field goal they'll go for it ... they might even line up for the field goal and fake it.

My game prediction. The Home Field is the difference. Michigan wins, 24-17.

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