Preview: Michigan at Rutgers

Preview: Michigan at Rutgers

November 9, 2018


Michigan has worked its way up to #30 in rushing offense (218 yards/game), and they’re tied for #29 at 5.04 yards/carry. The running back group is led by Karan Higdon, who has dominated the carries in the backfield; he has 173 carries for 963 yards (5.57 YPC) and 7 touchdowns. Quarterback Shea Patterson (51 carries, 187 yards, 2 TD) is second on the team in carries, just one ahead of backup running back Chris Evans (50/251/3). Despite talk about a vastly improved offensive line, Michigan is just #64 in Line Yards and #67 in Standard Down Line Yards. It’s still a slog at times, but the threat of the QB run has opened up a few things. Rutgers is #120 in rushing defense (234 yards allowed/game), and they’re allowing 5.64 YPC (#122). Wisconsin and Illinois both ran for 300+ yards on the Scarlet Knights, and Kansas was up over 400. Senior weakside linebacker Trevor Morris (6’1″, 228 lbs.) leads the team with 81 tackles, while senior middle linebacker Deonte Roberts (6’1″, 235) is second with 71. They’re #90 in tackles for loss, led by sophomore defensive end Elorm Lumor (6’3″, 246) with 6.0. None of Rutgers’ top four defensive tackles is above 300 lbs. This should be a good matchup for Michigan.
Advantage: Michigan

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Michigan is #96 in passing offense (201 yards/game), but they’re #20 in passing efficiency and tied for #28 in yards per attempt. Patterson (67% completions, 1667 yards, 14 TD, 3 INT) has been very efficient and spreads the ball around to a variety of receivers. His top three targets (WR Nico Collins, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, TE Zach Gentry) all have 23-25 catches and 350-373 yards. Michigan is #34 in sacks allowed, too, partly because Patterson has shown nimble feet and good pocket awareness. Rutgers is tied for #112 in sacks (13), led by freshman defensive end Mike Tvernov with 4.0. Rutgers is #21 in passing defense (180 yards allowed/game) but #60 in passing efficiency defense; basically, they do so poorly against the run that teams don’t need to pass very much in order to be successful. Junior strong safety Damon Hayes (6’1″, 197) and senior free safety Saquan Hampton (6’1″, 208) lead the team with 2 interceptions each, and freshman cornerback Avery Young (6’0″, 193) has 6 pass breakups. Michigan probably won’t throw the ball all over the field because they likely won’t need to, but this should still be a positive matchup for the Wolverines.
Advantage: Michigan


Michigan is #8 in rushing defense (94 yards allowed/game) and #5 in rushing yards allowed per carry (2.81). Middle linebacker Devin Bush, Jr. holds the team lead in tackles (56), followed by free safety Tyree Kinnel (50) and then weakside end Chase Winovich (45). Winovich is #4 in the Big Ten and #28 nationally with 12 tackles for loss so far this season. Overall, Michigan is #21 with 67 tackles for loss, which is more impressive when considering they’ve faced the 5th-fewest plays in the country. Rutgers is #113 in rushing offense (124 yards/game) and #103 in yards per carry (3.76). Sophomore running back Raheem Blackshear (5’9″, 192) is fairly quick in open space, but he still only averages 4.37 YPC and has just 2 touchdowns. Rutgers is #84 in Line Yards and #89 in Standard Down Line Yards. The offensive line has one senior (6’6″, 317 lb. left tackle Tariq Cole), who’s going to have to deal with Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich, and the interior line is undersized and lacking in talent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Blackshear break a relatively big run or two, but the Wolverines should be making a fair number of plays in the backfield.
Advantage: Michigan


Michigan is #1 in passing defense (122 yards allowed/game) and #1 in passing efficiency defense. They’ve allowed 6 passing touchdowns and made 9 interceptions. The team allows just 47.5% completions and 5.0 yards/attempt, both of which are also #1 nationally. Michigan is tied at #34 in interceptions (Brandon Watson and Josh Metellus each have 3) and tied at #8 in sacks, led by backup linebacker Josh Uche with 7. Rutgers is #119 in passing offense (152 yards/game) and dead last in the country in passing efficiency. They have thrown just 4 touchdowns while also tossing 17 interceptions, and starting QB Artur Sitkowski (6’5″, 224) has thrown 15 of them. Rutgers’ starting tight end is the only receiver averaging over 10+ yards per reception . . . but he’s injured. Blackshear, slot receiver Bo Melton (5’11”, 192), and receiver Eddie Lewis (6’0″, 182) have 84 receptions and just 2 touchdowns among them. On the plus side, they’re tied for #27 in sacks allowed, which is probably partly because the quarterbacks are throwing interceptions instead of throwing the ball away or taking sacks.
Advantage: Michigan


  • Rutgers players recruited by Michigan: OT Micah Clark, S Kiy Hester, RB Jonathan Hilliman, WR Bo Melton, OT Raiqwon O’Neal, QB Artur Sitkowski
  • Rutgers players from the State of Michigan: QB Giovanni Rescigno (Warren de La Salle)
  • Rutgers offensive coordinator John McNulty was a graduate assistant at Michigan from 1991-1994


  • Michigan won 35-14 on October 28, 2017
  • Karan Higdon and Ty Isaac combined for 32 carries for 267 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Brandon Peters was 10/14 for 124 yards and 1 TD


  • Michigan 45, Rutgers 7


  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1289
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Nov 09, 2018 at 8:30 AM

    45-7 is a bit of a nail biter considering both teams, but let’s take it and head home for Indiana!

  2. Lanknows
    Comments: 4774
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Nov 09, 2018 at 12:02 PM

    I like Rutgers to cover the spread too!

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 4774
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Nov 09, 2018 at 12:06 PM

    On the topic of run game stats. Michigan is still ranked 103 in opportunity rate – “the percentage of carries (when four yards are available) that gain at least four yards, i.e. the percentage of carries in which the line does its job, so to speak”

    Very surprising to me since the OL has seemed to solidify to a point where there is consistent forward progress (with relatively few big run plays on the season).

    Also still quite mediocre (49th) in stuff rate – “percentage of carries by running backs that are stopped at or before the line of scrimmage.”

    Maybe I’m just being blinded by team success but I don’t remember many negative carries for this group. I would have guessed they’d be top 20 there.

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