It’s only happened three times since 2000, so forecasting a Michigan win over Ohio State has become unnecessary. It’s like forecasting snow in the dessert — it rarely happens, and there’s really no way to know when it will. So there’s no need to even think about it.

Well, this year might be different for the No. 6 Wolverines, who head into their season-finale showdown with No. 4 Ohio State as a legitimate College Football Playoff contender. Five points — just 5 points — have kept Michigan from an unblemished record, and the team has looked pretty good since falling 37-33 to Michigan State in East Lansing. UM appears as ready as it can be coming off last week’s 59-18 thrashing of Maryland.

According to ESPN’s FPI, the Wolverines (10-1, 7-1) are No. 4 overall and have a 30 percent chance of making the 4-team Playoff. Ohio State has better odds, of course, but the universe doesn’t seem to be totally in favor of the Buckeyes this season. Michigan might just get one of those elusive wins over Ohio State (10-1, 8-0), which has won 21 straight against ranked Big Ten opponents.

Nobody is going out of their way to predict a Wolverines victory. However, there are certain signs pointing toward this year’s installment of The Game being competitive and entertaining.

Red Zone efficiency

As demonstrated this past Saturday against Michigan State, Ohio State doesn’t really have to worry about the red zone. The Buckeyes can strike from anywhere, so getting inside the opposition’s 20-yard line doesn’t really mean too much to them.

However, Michigan doesn’t have that luxury. Yes, the Wolverines have had several 40-yard-plus TDs this season, and they’ve scored on special teams too, but they still have to maintain an efficient red zone offense. They simply cannot leave any points on the field against the No. 1-ranked offense in the country.

Ranked No. 11 overall, Michigan’s red zone offense has been superb throughout the entire season. In 53 attempts, UM has scored 49 times — 22 rushing touchdowns, 9 passing TDs and 18 field goals. While inside the other guys’ 20-yard line, Michigan scores 92.5 percent of the time.

Keeping it close and mistake-free will be the goal Saturday for Michigan, which hasn’t beaten Ohio State since 2011. We all know how the past 2 meetings turned out, so there’s no sense in pouring salt on the Wolverines’ wounds. Being smart with the ball, managing the clock and scoring when opportunities arise — that’s the recipe for Michigan.

Stop Stroud

CJ Stroud is most certainly one of the top Heisman candidates. After demolishing Michigan State with 432 yards and 6 passing TDs, the Buckeyes QB is in the hunt for stiff-arm glory. Beating Michigan would only strengthen his chances of becoming OSU’s 7th Heisman winner and first since QB Troy Smith in 2006.

Stroud has never started against Michigan, so the Wolverines may have a tactical advantage in that regard — maybe. Right now, they just better hope that their secondary holds up against the Buckeyes’ trio of WRs: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.

If Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson and LB David Ojabo continue their QB-pressuring spree, it could force Stroud to fall out of rhythm and force throws. Keep in mind that Michigan can also create turnovers in the backfield, so a sack coupled with a scoop-and-score could end up being a deciding factor — or at least a speed bump for Stroud, who is very dangerous when in cruise control.

Buckeyes aren’t invincible

They’re really good. Really, really good.

But they’re not perfect.

The Buckeyes had trouble vs. Penn State and Nebraska in back-to-back weeks in late October/early November. They’ve straightened up since then, but there isn’t a perfect team in college football. Ohio State, contrary to popular belief, can be beaten by a Big Ten team.

Nebraska has played everyone tough this year, and the Huskers gave OSU a run for its money this season. If not for giving up 17 points in the second quarter, the Huskers probably would have scored their biggest win in years. It would have been a silver lining in an otherwise disappointing season. Remember, Michigan barely beat Nebraska, 32-29. The fact that Ohio State had trouble with Nebraska shows that it isn’t invincible.

Despite losing 33-24, Penn State did what very few teams have done to Ohio State — and that’s create a tempo war. The Nittany Lions were pretty even in time of possession, but they ran 81 plays compared to OSU’s 68. PSU threw the ball for 361 yards and had 27 first downs (19 via the pass).

Michigan State didn’t want to get in a shootout with Ohio State, and neither should Michigan — that’s a bad idea. But if the Wolverines can find a way to control the tempo, they just might pull out a win Saturday in Ann Arbor.

Michigan can’t act as if it’s simply going through the motions. That has been the case in years past, when the Wolverines seemingly have entered the game vs. Ohio State knowing they weren’t going to win. This year’s team seems different. The attitude and mental fortitude of the Wolverines make them difficult to ignore. Perhaps they’re the team that nobody wants to make it to the College Football Playoff.

Ohio State wants that spot. The national media wants OSU in that spot.

Saturday, it’ll be Michigan’s job to change the narrative and claim what it believes to be its destiny.