The Boilermakers’ margin for error Saturday night will be narrow.

Purdue, a 16.5-point underdog to undefeated Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game, will find itself facing deficits in many of the positional and individual matchups against the Wolverines. But that doesn’t mean the Boilermakers can’t win the game. Rather, they’ll need to locate, then exploit, a few matchups where they think they might be able to gain an advantage.

But where?

No. 2 Michigan has won 24 of its last 26 games over the past 2 years, mainly on the back of a stout defense that this season is 2nd in the country in yards allowed (262.2 per game) and 3rd in points allowed (12.7), plus an offense that has the nation’s 5th-best rushing attack (244.5 yards per game) and an efficient passing game capable of big plays.

Jeff Brohm is spending this week searching for a response. Let’s take a look at 3 matchups the Boilermakers should focus on:

Devin Mockobee vs. the Michigan D

The Michigan front 7 is the best the Boilermakers will have seen all season, as the group is disruptive at the line of scrimmage, can fight off blocks and efficiently tackles. They’re big and deep and physical and fast.

But the Boilermakers have a weapon who might be able to counterpunch in redshirt freshman — and walk-on — Devin Mockobee. The slippery 6-foot, 195-pound back has a knack for finding even the smallest openings, then darting into and through them. If Purdue can get Mockobee going early and establish a running game, the Boilermakers might be able to effectively execute their play-action passing game. It also might help to keep the Wolverines’ pass rush, one of the best in the country, at bay. It’s a lot to ask, but there is reason to think the Boilermakers could be successful.

Mockobee had a solid outing vs. Illinois a few weeks ago, rushing for 106 yards (with a 28-yarder) and a touchdown vs. an Illini rushing defense that ranks 8th in the country (98.4 yards per game). Purdue accumulated 142 ground yards in the win in Champaign, including a couple nice runs from quarterback Aidan O’Connell.

It’s not as if teams can’t run at all vs. Michigan. Two weeks ago, Illinois running back Chase Brown had 140 yards and 2 TDs vs. the Wolverines, as the Fighting Illini very nearly upset UM.

Charlie Jones vs. DJ Turner

O’Connell is going to continue to target wide receiver Charlie Jones, as he’s done with great success all season.

But Jones, a Biletnikoff semifinalist who has 97 receptions for 1,199 yards and 12 touchdowns, will face a tough matchup vs. Michigan cornerback DJ Turner. In the last 2 seasons, Turner has 17 pass breakups and 3 interceptions. He’s one of the fastest Wolverines, thought to be able to run a sub-4.3 in the 40-yard dash. That speed and quickness helps him stick with receivers in one-on-one matchups.

But in Turner’s battle with Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. last week, the Buckeyes star caught 7 balls for 120 yards with a 42-yard touchdown.

Still, Jones will be challenged. O’Connell and the Boilermakers must get Jones the ball in open space when possible, perhaps by trying to get Turner rubbed off coverage on crossing routes. And Jones will need to win 50/50 balls, which he’s had a knack for doing this season.

Purdue’s protection vs. the Wolverines

Nothing else will matter for the Boilermakers if they get whipped at the line of scrimmage.

Can Purdue produce a win there? Probably not, but it better at least play neutral, keeping the vaunted Wolverines pass rush slowed down as much as possible. It won’t be easy; Michigan has 32 sacks this season, the 26th-best per-game rate in the country and 2nd-best in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers have played well on the offensive line this season — they’ve allowed 20 sacks, No. 6 in the conference — but injuries are adding up. Purdue has been without its top 2 right tackles for weeks, as Cam Craig was forced to retire due to injuries and Daniel Johnson saw his season come to an end after injuring a knee. And Purdue lost center Gus Hartwig to a leg injury as well, during the Northwestern game a week ago.

Michigan’s pressure comes from all over the place, as 12 Wolverines have at least a full sack, led by senior edge rusher Mike Morris’ 7.5.

With Mockobee’s emergence in the 2nd half of the season, Purdue’s had a consistent running game, which has helped hold back opponents’ pass rush. And Purdue has been able to find Mockobee, and other backs, in the screen game, another blitz-buster. When O’Connell is dialed in, and he’ll need to be Saturday night in Indianapolis, he gets rid of the ball quickly, on-time and accurately. Purdue will need all of those things to move the ball against UM.