Ohio State Football: Biggest Keys to Buckeyes Beating Michigan

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2012

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 26: Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks for running room next to Ryan Van Bergen #53 of the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan won the game 40-34. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Ohio State Buckeyes aren't going to a bowl this season, so the matchup against archrival Michigan will undoubtedly be the biggest game of the year. 

As if the pride of beating Michigan weren't enough of an award, the Buckeyes have plenty at stake in this game. With a win, the Buckeyes would secure an undefeated season and officially eliminate the Wolverines from contention in the Legends division.

The Buckeyes are the home favorite, but that doesn't mean they can be complacent—the Wolverines are a good team that has only lost to good competition.

Here will be the biggest keys for an Ohio State victory in The Game. 


Get Braxton Miller in Space

There's no doubt that Braxton Miller is a special athlete. 

His numbers on the ground rival most team's running backs. His ability to create plays with his legs is fun to watch and he's a great fit for a lot of the spread option schemes that Urban Meyer loves to run. 

However, when he's forced to sit in the pocket and make more traditional throws, he's a sub par quarterback.

When facing defenses that have bottled up Miller as a runner, he's struggled to make plays in the passing game. In the Buckeyes' overtime win against Wisconsin last week, Miller was held to 48 yards rushing and only managed 97 yards on 10-of-18 passing.

Miller hasn't improved much as a passer from his freshman season, so the Buckeyes must find a way to get him in space and hurt the Wolverines with his running before they can test the secondary deep.


Keep tabs on Denard Robinson

Fans of Denard Robinson may not want to admit it, but Michigan's offense has looked much better with Devin Gardner at quarterback.

Gardner took over for an injured Robinson against Minnesota and has looked great in those three weeks. Without Robinson, the Michigan offense looked good. However, Brady Hoke may have showed a new wrinkle that could make this game really interesting—he played Robinson all over the field.

There's still a chance that Hoke goes with Robinson as the full-time quarterback, but that would be a mistake. It's much more likely that they stick with Gardner and move Robinson all over the field.

If they continue to use that approach, the Buckeyes will absolutely have to identify where Robinson is at all times. Even when he's not at quarterback, his speed and shiftiness make him a threat in the open field.


Win the Turnover Battle

As with any close game, turnovers will play a huge role. 

If the Buckeyes win the turnover battle, they win the game. 

As impressive as Gardner has been at managing the offense after playing wide receiver for most of the season, he's still thrown an interception in all three games he's played at quarterback. 

In close calls against Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue, the Buckeyes lost the turnover battle. Taking on a team in Michigan that will be just as fired up as them, the Buckeyes can't afford to turn the ball over on offense and needs to force turnovers of their own on defense. 


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