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Michigan Football: Wolverines to Watch for vs. Ohio State

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 17:  Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates a 42-17 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes with fans at Michigan Stadium on November 17, 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer INovember 23, 2012

After three straight victories, Michigan (8-3, 6-1 Big Ten) is hoping to close out the regular season in style on Saturday and to then go on and play in a big bowl game.

But formidable Ohio State (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten), complete with dual-threat sensation Braxton Miller, stands in the Wolverines' way.

Here's a look at the top five players who will have to step up for the Wolverines for them to upset their historic rivals.

 

Devin Gardner, QB

Since Denard Robinson's injury against Nebraska, Devin Gardner has stepped up admirably in his three starts since, leading Michigan to victories over Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa.

Then again, the junior hasn't faced a defense like Ohio State's unit yet. The Buckeyes have not only limited opposing quarterbacks to 6.3 yards per pass attempt this season (tied for 25th in the FBS, via CFBStats.com), but they have also allowed just 3.52 yards per carry, which is 24th in the nation.

Gardner's passing and rushing ability will be tested in Columbus.

 

Denard Robinson, QB/RB/WR

Devin Gardner has done enough to keep the starting job under center with Robinson back from injury, but Brady Hoke used Robinson wisely last week against Iowa, utilizing his skills in the backfield and in the receiving corps.

With lead running back Fitzgerald Toussaint out for the season, the Wolverines will likely use Robinson more extensively this time around. The dynamic senior rushed for 98 yards on 13 carries against the Hawkeyes last week.

 

Thomas Rawls, RB

Again, Toussaint's injury will open up some opportunities in the backfield and sophomore Thomas Rawls figures to benefit.

Rawls has rushed for 240 yards and four touchdowns on 4.6 yards per carry this season in limited duty, including scampering for 90 yards and a touchdown on nine carries against Illinois on Oct. 13.

 

Jake Ryan, ILB

If Michigan is to win in Columbus, it is going to have to limit Ohio State's running game.

Led by Miller, the Buckeyes have averaged 5.33 yards per carry this season (16th in the nation) while posting 36 rushing touchdowns (tied for fifth).

Michigan's run defense begins and ends with inside linebacker Jake Ryan. Ryan leads the team in tackles (75), tackles for loss (13) and forced fumbles (three).

The sophomore was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week when he posted 11 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble against Illinois.

 

Craig Roh, DE

Craig Roh has been an asset against the run and the pass this season for the Wolverines.

The senior defensive end not only leads the team with four sacks, but he's also second among linemen with 32 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss.

Although Michigan lost to Nebraska on Oct. 27, Roh stepped up in that game, posting five tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack.

 

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