Saturday, November 10, 2012

Preview: Michigan vs. Northwestern

Good looking Northwestern girls are difficult to find, so here's Arley Elizabeth wearing purple.
Rush Offense vs. Northwestern Rush Defense
Michigan ranked #28 in the country with 201 yards/game, and Denard Robinson is the #12 rusher nationally with 118 yards/game.  It's questionable whether Robinson will play due to his elbow injury, and that means the coaches would try to keep the reins on Devin Gardner if Gardner plays.  Michigan would have to lean on running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint (391 yards, 5 touchdowns) and Thomas Rawls (217 yards, 3 touchdowns).  Neither running back has been particularly effective this season.  Meanwhile, Northwestern has the #23 rush defense in the country and gives up just 121 yards/game, but that could be a function of their weak pass defense.  Defensive end Tyler Scott leads the team in tackles for loss with 8.5, and linebacker Damien Proby leads in tackles with 86.  Michigan hasn't been able to run the ball consistently against anyone with a pulse this season, but assuming Denard Robinson is healthy, the Wolverines should be able to run over and around the Wildcats.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Northwestern Pass Defense
The Wolverines are the #105 passing offense with 178 yards/game, and Robinson alone has thrown 9 interceptions; Gardner threw 1 interception in his first action at quarterback last weekend; and redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy, who is not expected to play, has thrown 4 picks in just 21 attempts.  Add one interception from running back Vincent Smith and that adds up to 15 interceptions with just 11 total touchdowns.  However, Gardner was rather productive in the passing game last week by completing 66.7% of his passes and notching 2 touchdowns.  Northwestern has given up 272 yards/game through the air, which is 107th in the nation, and ranks #48 in pass efficiency defense.  As a team the Wildcats have picked off just 3 passes this year and they're #52 in sacks with 19.  The only consistent threat as a pass rusher is the aforementioned Scott, who has 7 quarterback takedowns.  Denard Robinson generally doesn't get sacked much because teams are afraid to sell out and let him scramble for big plays, but he also doens't pass the ball well; Gardner throws the ball better but can sometimes make poor decisions with the football and hold onto it for too long.  Neither phase is very good, but Michigan should be good here, regardless of who's playing quarterback.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. Northwestern Rush Offense
The Wildcats have a very effective running game with superback Venric Mark (120 yards/game) and everythingback Kain Colter (69 yards/game).  The team is #13 in the country and gains 238 yards/game.  Mark is just 5'8" and 175 lbs., but he's shifty and fast; he averages 6.5 yards/carry.  The Wolverines have the #44 rushing defense in the country and give up 143 yards/game, but that number has dropped considerably since the first two weeks, when Michigan played Alabama and Air Force; since then the Wolverines have given up about 110 yards/game.  However, that number will almost certainly increase because Michigan has a tendency to struggle against uptempo offenses; Mark and Colter will both likely make an explosive play or two, but Michigan's safeties do a pretty good job of tackling and taking proper angles to avoid giving up huge plays.  Jordan Kovacs, Jake Ryan, and whoever plays weakside end this week will have to play well to tamp down the rushing game. I also expect Kenny Demens to have a good day.
Advantage: Northwestern

Pass Defense vs. Northwestern Pass Offense
Northwestern is the #109 passing offense and gains 163 yards/game through the air, while they're #96 in passing efficiency.  Quarterback Trevor Siemian has thrown 4 touchdowns and 1 interception, while Colter has thrown 3 and 2, respectively.  Leading receiver Tony Jones has just 21 receptions for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns, so this is not an effective passing game.  On the flip side, Michigan has the #1 passing defense in the country and gives up just 145 yards/game through the air.  The Wolverines have picked off 7 passes, and even though they don't notch a ton of sacks (team leader Jake Ryan has just 3.5, and the team has 11 total), they swarm together to tackle on short passes; however, some receivers have been able to get open deep, and opposing quarterbacks just haven't been able to take advantage recently.  Michigan isn't as good at defending the pass as the numbers might suggest, so the mediocre quarterbacking in the Big Ten has helped them out in this category.  Neither of Northwestern's quarterbacks should scare Michigan defensive backs.
Advantage: Michigan

Roster Notes
  • Michigan recruited DT Greg Kuhar, LB Ifeadi Odenigbo, OT Eric Olson, and WR Kyle Prater
  • Players from the state of Michigan include Flint (MI) Grand Blanc WR Tony Jones, DeWitt (MI) DeWitt OT Paul Jorgensen, Freeland (MI) Midland WR Drew Moulton, and Redford (MI) Thurston LB Eric Wilson
Predictions

  • Kenny Demens and Desmond Morgan have big days
  • Michigan makes some big plays in the running game with Toussaint and Rawls
  • Craig Roh continues to improve
  • Northwestern makes a couple big plays by getting to the edge
  • Michigan 38, Northwestern 20

A Look Back . . . 

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