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Michigan is #73 in rushing offense with 155 yards/game and they are tied for #55 with 4.54 yards/carry. Sophomore De'Veon Smith (366 yards, 4.8 yards/carry, 5 touchdowns) is still second on the team behind the injured Derrick Green, but redshirt junior Justice Hayes (169 yards, 4.1 yards/carry) and redshirt sophomore Drake Johnson (163 yards, 7.8 yards/carry) are gaining ground in both yardage and snaps. The offensive line opened some gaping holes last week, but it was against Indiana. Meanwhile, the Northwestern Wildcats are middle of the pack at #66 in rushing defense, giving up 166 yards/game, and #58 in rushing average defense (4.06 yards/carry). They have given up 221+ yards in four games this year, all of them losses; interestingly, they held run-heavy Minnesota to 121 yards and 3.1 yards/carry a couple weeks ago in a close loss. Their leading tackler once again is redshirt senior Chi Chi Ariguzo (6'3", 235 lbs.) while the two corners and a safety occupy the next three slots on the leader board. Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Greg Kuhar (6'3", 300 lbs.) is the leading tackler on the defensive line with 27 total. Junior defensive end Dean Lowry (6'6", 265 lbs.) and Ariguzo lead in tackles for loss with 5.0 and 4.0, respectively. Overall, the Wildcats are tied for #98 nationally with 44 takedowns behind the line. Michigan's offensive line seems to be improving incrementally, so I would expect this to be a pretty mediocre performance from both teams' units.
Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.
Pass Offense vs. Northwestern Pass Defense
Despite throwing for more than 200 yards for the first time this season against Indiana, Michigan is still #112 in passing this year with 175 yards/game through the air. Michigan is tied with those Hoosiers at #112 in passer efficiency. It has been ugly. Senior quarterback Devin Gardner has matched his 2011 total of 11 interceptions in just nine games, and while he has completed 63% of his passes, he has thrown only 8 touchdowns. The receivers are unable to get separation, and the offensive line doesn't give Gardner much time to allow deep routes to develop. Michigan is tied for 78th in giving up sacks (19 so far). Junior Devin Funchess leads the team with 572 yards and 4 touchdowns, but he averages under 12 yards/catch and still looks slowed by an early-season ankle injury. Northwestern is #55 in giving up 222 yards/game through the air, and they are #44 in passer efficiency rating defense. They are tied for 38th with 9 interceptions on the season, led by redshirt freshman safety Godwin Igwebuike (6'0", 190 lbs.) with 3 and redshirt junior corner Nick VanHoose (6'0", 190 lbs.) with 2. VanHoose has 9 pass breakups, and Lowry - the 6'6" defensive end - has knocked down 5 passes. The Wildcats struggle to get to the passer, as they are tied for 93rd with 14 sacks, led by Lowry (3.5) and redshirt sophomore Ifeadi Odenigbo (6'3", 235 lbs.) with 3; the latter, however, has failed to make a tackle in the last four games and has ceded time due to inconsistency. At this point I can't give Michigan's passing game the edge on anyone.
Rush Defense vs. Northwestern Rush Offense
Michigan is #16 in the country, giving up just 116 yards/game on the ground. They give up just 3.15 yards/carry, which is 13th nationally. The leading tackler is middle linebacker Jake Ryan, who was named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Week last week; he now has 79 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss on the season. Second on the team is weakside linebacker Joe Bolden with 72 before a significant dropoff to safety Jarrod Wilson. Defensive end Frank Clark is second on the team with 11 tackles for loss. Northwestern is experienced up front with two redshirt juniors and three seniors starting on the line, including fifth year senior center Brandon Vitabile (6'3", 310 lbs.), who is on the Rimington Trophy watch list and was honorable mention all-conference last year. However, the Wildcats are #107 in rushing with just under 125 yards/game, and they average a paltry 3.23 yards/carry, which is 115th. True freshman running back Justin Jackson (5'11", 180 lbs.), a player I wanted Michigan to recruit, has taken the bulk of the workload from senior Treyvon Green (5'10", 215 lbs.). Jackson has 726 yards and 5 touchdowns while averaging 4.6 yards/carry; meanwhile, Green averages 3.4 yards/carry and has yet to score.
Pass Defense vs. Northwestern Pass Offense
Michigan is #17 in pass defense, allowing 189 yards/game, but they are #80 in passer efficiency defense. Teams that have it together through the air have hurt them, but the Wolverines have handled lesser passing offenses pretty well. Michigan has managed just 3 interceptions this season, 1 of which came from a defensive tackle. Even their pass breakup totals have been poor - Michigan has just 17 pass breakups (#121 nationally) on the year, while opponents have knocked down 39 of Devin Gardner's throws. Michigan is tied for #43 nationally with 21 sacks, led by senior ends Brennen Beyer (4.5) and Frank Clark (3.0). Northwestern's offensive line is tied for #103, as they have given up 23 sacks of fifth year senior quarterback Trevor Siemian (6'3", 210 lbs.), a pure pocket passer. They are #90 with 205 yards/game through the air, and they are #121 in passer efficiency rating. Siemian has completed 56% of his passes for 4 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on 5.5 yards/attempt. The leading receiver is fifth year senior Kyle Prater (6'5", 225 lbs.), who averages 9.9 yards/catch, and he is followed by H-back-type junior Dan Vitale (6'2", 225 lbs.), who has 26 catches for 282 yards and 1 score. It is not an intimidating group of receivers.
- Players recruited by Michigan include superback Garrett Dickerson, OG Tommy Doles, DT Greg Kuhar, DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, OT Eric Olson, WR Kyle Prater, WR Miles Shuler, and CB Parrker Westphal
- Players from the state of Michigan include Grand Rapids Christian OG Tommy Doles, Grand Blanc WR Tony Jones, DeWitt OT Paul Jorgensen
- James Ross III made 13 tackles and 1 tackle for loss
- Trevor Siemian went 19/28 for 153 yards and 1 interception
- Northwestern safety Traveon Henry made 13 tackles and 2 tackles for loss
- Drew Dileo slid into his holder position to set up for Brendan Gibbons's game-tying 44-yard field goal at the end of regulation
- Michigan won 27-19 in triple-overtime on a 5-yard Devin Gardner touchdown run
- Raymon Taylor makes his first interception of the season
- Michigan utilizes tight end Jake Butt for some big catches
- Michigan's defense shuts down Northwestern
- Despite being 0-3 on the road this year: Michigan 17, Northwestern 14