Michigan vs. Ohio State: Joel Klatt’s ‘Keys to The Game’

Saturday’s Big Ten showdown between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan will be the 117th edition of The Game.

With both teams entering the contest undefeated, there are plenty of historical elements surrounding the matchup, as well as massive postseason implications. The winner will claim a spot in next week’s Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis and remain on track to earn a College Football Playoff bid.

But even without the enhanced stakes, this is a rivalry between two teams that have dominated their conference over the past half-century, combining to win 43 Big Ten titles since 1973. Moreover, 25 of the past 50 matchups between these rivals have been decided by single-digit points.

This year’s version of The Game has all the making of another instant classic, as it is the first time the Buckeyes and Wolverines have met as unbeaten teams since 2006.

FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt broke down his keys to the game on a recent episode of his podcast, “The Joel Klatt Show.”

Three keys to Michigan beating Ohio State:

Michigan Wolverines need to do these three things to beat Ohio State

Joel Klatt breaks down the three things that the Michigan Wolverines need to do to beat the Ohio State Buckeyes.

1. Outrush Ohio State

“They’ve got to run the ball. Not just because that’s what their DNA is, but because that’s how you beat Ohio State. The last two times we’ve seen Ohio State get beat, it was primarily because the opposition was able to control the terms of the game with their rushing attack. You’ve got to limit the number of snaps C.J. Stroud gets, and you do that with a quality rushing attack. That takes shape with a great offensive line.”

2. Limit explosive plays

“Tackling well and eliminating explosive plays is generally going to bring the yards per play for Ohio State’s offense under 7.5. If you can hold them under 7.5 yards per play, you’ve got a chance.”

3. Force them to kick field goals in the red zone

“The teams that beat Ohio State usually hold them to a 66% touchdown percentage or lower. There was only one team last year that was able to do all three of these things and still lost to Ohio State: Nebraska.

Three keys to Ohio State beating Michigan:

How Ohio State’s defense needs to play to pull out a win over Michigan

How Ohio State's defense needs to play to pull out a win over Michigan

Joel Klatt breaks down what the Ohio State Buckeyes’ defense needs to do to be successful against the Michigan Wolverines.

1. Defense needs to step up

“Ohio State got absolutely crushed physically last year, and it’s a lot of the same guys. This is going to be personal for the Ohio State defense, especially for their front seven. These guys are going to have to play really well because this is absolutely the best offensive front they have faced, and this is the biggest test they have faced.”

2. Be physical

“They’ve got to answer the bell of playing physical against Michigan because right now, Michigan’s players and roster are very confident they can go out there and out-physical the Buckeyes. There are only a handful of Michigan players that have actually lost to Ohio State. There are even fewer that have actually played in the ‘Shoe. They don’t have much scar tissue.”

3. Execute in the red zone

“The games that they struggle are always the games they have to settle for field goals in the red zone. It’s one of the reasons they struggled against Penn State and it’s one of the reasons they lost last season to Oregon and to Michigan in this matchup.”

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Each week, FOX Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt dives into his Top 10 teams, answers questions and discusses the biggest storylines in college football on his podcast. Download “The Joel Klatt Show” here.

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