Michigan's young offensive line must give Devin Gardner time to throw, and protection is absolutely vital. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Protect the ball: How can Michigan afford to turn over the ball against a defense that has scored five times? Process that a few times when you consider the 17 Wolverines turnovers. Michigan has managed to dig itself out of turnover holes ó it came back from a halftime deficit at Penn State before losing in four overtimes ó but Michigan State wonít give Michigan that luxury.
Protect Gardner: While Michigan works to protect the ball, it should also be concerned with protecting QB Devin Gardner. The Spartans have 18 sacks, and the Wolverines have allowed 12. Michiganís offensive line, young in the interior and particularly at left guard (freshman Kyle Bosch starts), must give Gardner time, and protection is absolutely vital.
Pressure Cook-er: Connor Cook, a third-year sophomore, has started the last seven games for Michigan State. While he and the offense have been improving, it will be Michiganís objective to rattle him. Brady Hoke has said he likes how Michiganís pass rush has improved and reminded that a lack of sacks doesnít mean the Wolverines arenít pressuring. Pressure is one thing, but knocking Cook down and getting him to start over-thinking will be key for Michigan.
Special special teams: Michigan had a field goal blocked in each of its last two games. Last yearís game came down to Brendan Gibbonsí field goal. And Matt Wile has had some low moments as a punter and, certainly, some highs. What about the return game? With Drew Dileoís status unclear, Dennis Norfleet must step up.
Fast lead: If Michigan has a chance to get an early lead, it wonít do much in quieting the Spartan Stadium crowd, but it will provide breathing room. Michigan canít waste possessions or get stubborn with play-calling.