Friday, October 9, 2015

Lazy Man's Michigan Preview: Northwestern

The #M00N threatens to return this week when the top two scoring defenses line up for a good ‘ol fashioned B1G slugfest.

(13) Northwestern Wildcats (5-0, 1-0 B1G) @ (18) Michigan Wolverines (4-1, 1-0 B1G)
Michigan Stadium Saturday, 10/10 3:30 ET, BTN

Northwestern has the top scoring defense is the nation allowing only 35 total points through 5 games (7 ppg). Their strength starts with a solid secondary and very good linebackers.  

Offensively, Michigan will need to get push upfront and I believe Michigan’s offensive line can win the battle against the Wildcat’s front seven. Running back De’Veon Smith must consistently penetrate the second level early and if they can establish that we will likely see Drake Johnson run past a worn-down defense in the second half.

Jake Rudock also needs a better game than he had against Maryland if the Wolverines are to succeed. Locking onto receivers and making late throws will feed right into the Wildcat’s strengths.  

Look for Michigan to take advantage of space in the flats and work their tight end, Jake Butt, into the gaps of this Cover 3 Zone defense.

Hey look it’s a Freshman Quarterback!

Northwestern’s quarterback, Clayton Thorson, is, well, a freshman and hasn’t really set the world on fire so far this season. As a matter of fact, the Wildcat’s coaching staff has done a nice job keeping the game off his shoulders by calling short passes and putting the majority of work on running back, Justin Jackson.

I don’t think that going to work against the Wolverine front seven.

Michigan will key on Jackson and force Thorson to beat them with his arm. And he’ll have to throw downfield to beat Michigan’s press coverage.

According to S&P rankings, Northwestern’s offense is between UNLV and Maryland. So we can expect, what, 3 points?

Special Teams
Punter Blake O’Neill is going to be key in this game. The way these two defenses dominate, field position will play a big role.

Special Teams coach John Baxter has been magnificent thus far and this game will make him really earn his paycheck.

As I said in the open, this is going to be a defense-dominated game. I think Michigan has the advantage on both sides of the ball but Michigan’s defense is special. It’s even more special against a one-dimensional offense like Northwestern’s.

I do have some concerns about Michigan’s offense. If the Northwestern defense is as good as it has looked, the offense could struggle all afternoon. However, if the offensive line wins the battle upfront, Michigan will have success on the ground and not have to rely on Rudock to win the game.

I think the Wolverines win the field position battle and get a break or two on offense to bring this one home.

Michigan 16 - 3

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