All Ohio State-Michigan games are big.
Even one that pits a conference champ in Ohio State against a downtrodden Michigan program.
If Rich Rodriguez is to save his job at Michigan, a win on Saturday would go a long way in helping the cause.
Ohio State has had Michigan's number for the better part of a decade and it proved to be one of the main reasons Lloyd Carr was pushed out in Ann Arbor. Michigan sought a coach who would change this and Rodriguez still has a chance to do that.
It starts Saturday.
A win in the season finale would give hope for next year and provide a spark in the university that might help save Rodriguez's job, for now.
Instead of looking at five elements this week, let's take at three things Michigan MUST do to pull out a victory over the Buckeyes.
1. Contain Terrell Pryor
This one is obvious.
Michigan's defense has been soft all season and it must pull out its best performance of the season against the Buckeyes. The final home game for seniors, including Stevie Brown and Brandon Graham, always helps, but a lot of effort needs to come from the young secondary.
Pryor can make plays happen with his arm, his legs and most recently, his mind. He's been much better not turning the ball over meaning Michigan must try and get him on his behind before the secondary gets burned for long touchdowns.
Pressuring the quarterback is essential. Stopping the run to force Pryor to throw the ball is essential. And of course, the secondary playing good coverage down field is essential.
A victory at the Big House hinges on Michigan stopping Pryor. Everyone saw what happened when Daryll Clark torched the Wolverines earlier this season.
2. Run first, Pass second, No Turnovers
Turnovers always play a big role, no doubt and Michigan needs to be near perfect in this game.
Nothing is ever sure this year, but Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown are the closest thing right now on offense. The freshmen have coughed up the ball at times, so Michigan needs to give the ball to its seniors and sure-handed running backs.
Should the run game get shut down (and it easily could as the Buckeyes are the best against the run in the Big Ten), Forcier is going to have to throw and that probably doesn't bode well for the Maize and Blue.
Either way, Michigan needs to play mistake free and make sure that Ohio State's defense doesn't help out its offense by getting on the board early.
3. Finish the game
The Wolverines actually haven't been too bad in the first half this season.
They have outscored opponents 226 to 150 in the first half this year. However, Michigan has scored just 41 points in the third quarter in 11 games. They need to find a way to keep the momentum going into the second half of the game on Saturday.
One of the ways to do this is to ensure that the defense doesn't tire out early. Run the ball and keep the defense fresh on the sideline.
It's the final game for many on Michigan and they obviously want to go out with a win.
Finish the game. It's that simple.
Prediction: Michigan hangs tough for most of the game, but Ohio State pulls away for a two-touchdown win. Pryor is solid, if not spectacular in his debut at the Big House and Michigan seniors go out with a sour taste in their mouth. Michigan finishes 2009 with its second straight losing season.
Ohio State 33, Michigan 20
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