RUSH OFFENSE vs. NORTHWESTERN RUSH DEFENSE
Michigan is #36 overall (212 yards/game) at running the ball, even after a dominant game last week that saw them run for 285 yards. Karan Higdon has been a difference-maker in his last two games played (25 carries, 292 yards, 2 TD), but he missed the SMU game with an undisclosed injury. The Wolverines will probably be looking to junior Tru Wilson (23 carries, 150 yards, 1 TD) as the primary backup, and it will be interesting to see whether sophomore O’Maury Samuels (9 carries, 49 yards) or freshman Christian Turner (10 carries, 55 yards) steps in next, with junior Chris Evans likely out with a hamstring injury. Up front the offensive line has continued to improve, and left tackle Jon Runyan, Jr. played his best game last week. Northwestern is #42 in rushing defense (130 yards allowed/game) and #59 in yards allowed per carry (3.89). Redshirt sophomore MIKE Paddy Fisher (6’4″, 241 lbs.) leads the team with 28 tackles, followed by sophomore WILL Blake Gallagher (6’1″, 227) with 26 and fifth year senior Nate Hall (6’2″, 231) has 21. The Wildcats are #95 in tackles for loss, led by redshirt junior defensive end Joe Gaziano (6’4″, 275) with 4. Senior defensive tackle Jordan Thompson (6’3″, 292) is second with 3. Northwestern runs a 4-3 or 4-2-5 defense.
Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.
PASS OFFENSE vs. NORTHWESTERN PASS DEFENSE
Michigan is #86 in passing offense (209 yards/game), but the Wolverines are #26 in passer efficiency and tied for #46 in yards per attempt. The play action passing game has been rolling pretty well, so the run game is important. Quarterback Shea Patterson is completing 70.1% of his passes with 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. No clear #1 receiver has been established yet, but the closest thing right now is Donovan Peoples-Jones with 15 catches for 169 yards and 4 touchdowns. Two guys – redshirt junior tight end Zach Gentry and senior wide receiver Grant Perry – have 10 catches, and sophomore wideout Nico Collins is averaging 20.1 yards/catch. The Wolverines are #60 in sacks allowed (1.75 per game). Northwestern is #98 in sacks (1.67 per game), with Gaziano and Thompson having 2 each. The Wildcats are #95 in passing defense (250.3 yards allowed/game) and #101 in passer efficiency rating defense. All three of their opponents have completed over 60% of their passes, and Akron averaged 9.9 yards per attempt. They’re tied for #48 with 6 passes defended per game, and they have managed 3 interceptions. Senior cornerback Montre Hartage (6’0″, 190) is in his third year of starting and leads the way with 4 pass breakups and 1 interception.
RUSH DEFENSE vs. NORTHWESTERN RUSH OFFENSE
Michigan is #15 in rushing defense (101 yards allowed/game), and they sit at #11 with 2.73 yards allowed per carry. They shut down Nebraska’s running game last week to the tune of 1.3 yards per carry. Middle linebacker Devin Bush leads the team with 32 tackles, and defensive end Chase Winovich is second with 23. Winovich leads the squad with 7.5 tackles for loss, and Bush is #2 with 5. Nationally, Michigan is #6 overall with 37 tackles for loss. Northwestern is tied at #13 for tackles for loss allowed (14). They’re #114 in rushing offense (117 yards/game) and #121 in yards per carry (3.19), and that was before starting running back Jeremy Larkin retired because of a spine condition. The team’s leading available rusher is junior John Moten IV (6’0″, 209), who has 12 carries for 21 yards on the year, and the other backup running backs have a combined . . . 2 carries. Northwestern’s offensive line was in the bottom half of the country last year in most Football Outsiders categories, and despite returning a few starters, several of them are banged up. Michigan should feast on the running game.
PASS DEFENSE vs. NORTHWESTERN PASS OFFENSE
The Wolverines are tied for #3 in passing defense (139 yards allowed/game) and their passer efficiency rating defense is #14. They’re allowing just over 52% completions with 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Cornerback Lavert Hill leads the squad with 4 pass breakups, but fifth year senior Brandon Watson has been playing lights-out and teams aren’t testing David Long. Michigan is tied for #34 with 10 sacks, led by Bush (2.5), Winovich (2), and Rashan Gary (2). Gary has missed time with a nagging shoulder injury, and may still be affected by it this week. Northwestern is #20 in passing offense (307 yards/game), but they’re #110 in passing efficiency with 6.1 yards/attempt, 3 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. Starting quarterback Clayton Thorson (6’4″, 226) is completing 61.2% of his passes for 3 touchdowns and 3 picks. He is still coming back from a torn ACL he suffered in last year’s bowl game. Leading receiver Flynn Nagel (5’11”, 195) has 20 catches for 226 yards and 0 touchdown; of the guys with 10+ catches, nobody averages over 12.3 yards/catch. The retired Jeremy Larkin is #2 in catches with 19, so they’re losing a good chunk of receiving volume. The Wildcats are #46 in sacks allowed.
- Northwestern players recruited by Michigan include: DE Earnest Brown IV, WR Jalen Brown, OG Tommy Doles, QB Hunter Johnson, DE Trevor Kent
- Northwestern players from the state of Michigan include: LB Chris Bergin, S Joe Bergin, OG Tommy Doles, C Cam Kolwich, QB Jason Whittaker
- Northwestern defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz played football at Michigan and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Bo Schembechler. Hankwitz 14 catches for 171 yards and 1 touchdown in his career for the Wolverines.
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED…
- On October 10, 2015, Michigan beat Northwestern, 38-0
- Jehu Chesson had a 96-yard kickoff return for a TD
- Jourdan Lewis had a 37-yard interception return for a TD
- Northwestern didn’t score any points
- Michigan 38, Northwestern 14
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