Five reasons Michigan could give Ohio State some problems in The Game Saturday

Saturday is a day full of great college football matchups, but, by far, the marquis game across the country will be No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Michigan. There are a lot of trophies and confetti on the line with two undefeated teams duking it out for conference supremacy, and we’ll be here to bring you all the coverage leading up to, during and after the game.

There are injury concerns on both sidelines, but make no mistake, the Wolverines will provide a formidable challenge for the Buckeyes with the winner having earned the right to be called a champion.

Michigan will be the most skilled, physical, and confident team Ohio State has played all year, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all for this one to come down to the fourth quarter. In fact, it’s probably expected.

Here are five reasons the Wolverines could give the Buckeyes some problems on Saturday afternoon.

Michigan's offensive line

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) and offensive lineman Olusegun Oluwatimi (55) warm-up ahead of the Maryland game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.

Why it Matters

Michigan’s offensive line won the Joe Moore Award for being the best unit in college football last year, and it might be even better this season. The Ohio State defensive line is one of the best in the country, but it will have to grind away, rotate bodies and hope to get stalemates or win a few battles in key situations.

The Wolverines will look to pound the ball and move the defense off its spot to dictate the pace of this one. They have the personnel, and how well Ohio State can hold up in the trenches will go a long way in winning this one, just like the failure to do so last year in Ann Arbor spelled doom.

Quarterback J.J. McCarthy's mobility

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy runs the ball against Michigan State during the first half on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Ann Arbor. USA TODAY Sports

Why it Matters

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy might have struggled to throw the ball down the field with accuracy this year, but he has another arrow in his quiver, his legs. For all the barbs Ohio State fans like to fling his way, McCarthy is an athletic quarterback that can keep plays alive, get outside the pocket and create some frustrations for the defense.

Knowing all of that, I’m not sure the Michigan coaching staff has turned him loose on run packages this year — saving some of it for the Ohio State game. Don’t be surprised if the game plan for the Wolverines has McCarthy involved in the running game much more with a banged-up running back room.

He’ll have to make some plays through the air at some key moments in the game, but might be more of a nuisance moving the chains with his legs.

The Michigan defense

Nov. 19, 2022; Ann Arbor; Michigan Wolverines defensive back Will Johnson (2) and defensive back Rod Moore (19) jump for a pass against Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Casey Washington (14) in the second half at Michigan Stadium. Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Why it Matters

Michigan lost some star power off last year’s dominant defense, but would you be surprised if I told you this year’s unit is actually statistically better than 2021? It’s true.

The Wolverines are a physical bunch on D that leads the nation in yards given up per game and is ranked No. 2 in scoring defense in the entire country. The Wolverines call themselves the “no-name defense,” but don’t let that fool you. There are some really good players that have the skill and coaching to put the wraps on opposing offenses.

Michigan hasn’t faced an offense anywhere near Ohio State’s, but it should be able to slow the Buckeyes’ attack more than any other team the OSU has faced.

Michigan's new mindset

Why it Matters

There was a noticeable flip last year from Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan program. Signs and reminders of the game against Ohio State went up in the weight room and beyond to remind players about the rivalry all year. The Wolverines seemed to finally embrace The Game as a way of life much like Ohio State had done ever since Jim Tressel slipped the sweater vest over his head on the OSU sidelines.

And it paid off big time.

Michigan now eats, sleeps, and breathes Ohio State, consuming the rivalry all days of the year. And with the win last season, there is confidence in continuing the momentum beyond a once-in-a-decade victory. The worst thing that could have ever happened in Ann Arbor is that the program flipped this switch. Now, both dance partners are coming into this thing with the same emotion and desire.

The pressure on Ohio State

Why it Matters

It’s quite possible Ohio State might be too charged up for this one. Many of the players and coaches have made mention about the motivation last year’s loss had on the program in the offseason. The team will be emotional and engaged from the early going, but I fear the Buckeyes might be too much on edge to where they play tight.

C.J. Stroud especially has to be careful about having too much adrenaline and having passes sail high early. You can bet Ohio State doesn’t want to lose two straight games in this series, and it’s not a stretch to say the Buckeyes will feel the pinch should this thing be a tight one throughout.

Let’s hope that’s not the case.

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Story originally appeared on Buckeye Wire