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Kirk Herbstreit Names Deciding Factor In Michigan-Ohio State

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 23: GameDay host Kirk Herbstreit is seen during ESPN's College GameDay show at Times Square on September 23, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

No. 2 Ohio State and No. 13 Michigan are gearing up for the biggest rivalry game of the season this Saturday. After last year's blowout, it feels like this year's edition of "The Game" could be competitive thanks to the Wolverines' stellar play late in the year.

This will be Ryan Day's first opportunity to try and beat the Wolverines as the Buckeyes' head coach. And for Jim Harbaugh, he'll be trying to snap Michigan's seven-game losing streak to Ohio State on Saturday.

ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit discussed the highly anticipated Big Ten rivalry game on The College Football Podcast With Herbie and Pollack. The notable college football analyst is well aware of the game's massive connotations.

Herbstreit offered his key to the game during the latest edition of his college football podcast. He thinks the Buckeye defense will be the deciding factor.

If Michigan can solve it, they will win. But if the OSU defense is up to par, they will make it eight in a row against the Maize and Blue.

""So I think Ohio State's defense is the key to the game," Herbstreit said, via 247Sports. "Michigan and (senior quarterback) Shea Patterson, they've been running the ball, they've been stretching defenses horizontally. (Junior wide receiver) Nico Collins and these receivers, they are the ones that need more credit because they are blocking their tails off in the run game and they're making plays vertically in the pass game (with) yards after catch, when they go horizontally and then Shea Patterson's in a rhythm, where he's getting the seam shots downfield. And with these taller receivers, he does a good job of putting the ball up in the air, where these big guys can go up, climb the ladder and make a play against man coverage.

"So it's a biggest test Ohio State's defense has had all year and I'm anxious to see (junior defensive end) Chase Young, the pass rush, how Michigan counters that by rolling Shea Patterson away from him, by getting the ball out of his hands quickly, just to try to do whatever they can to counter punch how good Ohio State's pass rush and how good Chase Young has been, and I think it's going to come down to the coverage units in the back end, the corners, the safeties, the linebackers in coverage, how well they play, I think, will ultimately dictate who ends up winning this game."

Michigan's offense has been put through the wringer this season. But the Wolverines have found ways to capitalize on certain strengths. And Herbstreit recognizes the improved offensive play as of late.

Will Ohio State's defense be up for the challenge against this hard-nosed Michigan team? Can Chase Young force Patterson into critical mistakes?

Ohio State-Michigan kicks off this Saturday at noon ET on FOX.