Friday, November 6, 2015

Lazy Man's Michigan Preview: Rutgers

Yes, Rutgers is still a thing we have to care about. Thanks Delany!

Well the Little Brown Jug was safely returned to Ann Arbor last weekend. And while it wasn’t pretty nor was it particularly fun, ultimately the job got done. We have seen plenty of Michigan teams fold in similar situations over the past decade, so that was a nice change.

Progress indeed.

Now the Wolverines are back at home and look to regain momentum against a flailing Rutgers team.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-5, 1-4 B1G) @ (17) Michigan Wolverines (6-2, 3-1 B1G)
Michigan Stadium, Saturday 11/7, Noon ET, BTN

Last week things started out so promising for the offense. Fourteen points in first quarter and a half and it looked like they were en route to an easy victory. And then, weirdness.

This week QB Jake Rudock (yes it looks like he’ll be back in action) and crew line up against a Rutgers defense that is statistically anything but stellar. Holding an FEI+ ranking of 116th, this defense is not good using any metric.

Fully recovered from a season ending knee injury in the last game of 2014, expect to see more of RB Drake Johnson this week as the Wolverines look to get the running game back on track. And with RB De’Veon Smith still nursing an ankle injury, his return will be welcomed.

I’m curious to see if Harbaugh continues to incorporate CB Jabril Peppers into the offense game plan. Or, do they shelve the all-everything red-shirt freshman until the Penn State game? I can’t see a justification for keeping him off the field, especially if the offense starts struggling.

The past two games have seen the previously dominate defense give up a bevy of yards and points. Connor Cook was fantastic in making NFL level throws for Michigan State during the heartbreaker in Ann Arbor, and Minnesota quarterback, Mitch Leider, was granted all the gifts from the football gods last weekend.

Things don’t get much easier for the Michigan secondary this week. Surprisingly, the Rutgers’ passing game is a competent one, ranking 23rd in FEI. Thankfully, senior WR, Leonte Carroo, may not be available this game, which takes away QB Chris Laviano’s main target. I don’t expect a Gary “Super” Nova performance we were treated to last season, but if the secondary continues to miss opportunities, like they did against Minnesota, it could be a long day for the Wolverines.

Special Teams
FEI+ has a special teams ranking. Michigan is number 1 on their board.

When talking about quality special teams that may not be producing points with punt returns, kick returns or blocked kicks you will undoubtedly get into a discussion about “hidden yards”. Hidden yards are yards that do not show up in the stat sheet, but give a field position advantage to a team. Michigan is 4th in starting field position and 3rd in long field drives according to FEI special teams’ rankings.

This means they don’t start drives from inside their own twenty yard line very often which is a product of Jabril Peppers making excellent returns and intelligent fair catches. Those hidden yards are the key to the Wolverines’ success.

I mentioned it above, yet it is worthy of repeating. Rutgers is not a very good football team. This game comes a great time for a Wolverines team looking to build confidence on defense before hitting the road the next two weeks.

Look for the offense to commit to a running the ball successfully and the defense to rebound from their poor performances the last two games.

Jabril Peppers scores in two phases of the game, Drake Johnson rushes for over 100 yards and Jake Rudock doesn’t look quite right yet. A dominant defense returns. Wolverines are playing second stringers by the fourth.

Michigan 42 - 10

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