Preview: Michigan vs. Northwestern

Preview: Michigan vs. Northwestern

October 22, 2021
Ryan Hilinski (image via SI)

Michigan is #6 in rush offense (246.5 yards/game) with two of the more interesting backs in the Big Ten: bruiser Hassan Haskins (492 yards, 8 TD) and lightning-in-a-bottle Blake Corum (610 yards, 8 TD). They have 97 and 101 rushing attempts, respectively, so Michigan is bound to use either one at any given time. The Wolverines are mostly a downhill rushing team, but they can hit the edges, like Corum did with a 31-yard touchdown scamper on a BASH play against Nebraska two weeks ago. Michigan had some issues with the health of their offensive guards (five played against the Cornhuskers), so it may be interesting to see who’s ready to go on the offensive line this week. Northwestern is #118 in rushing defense (206.2 yards allowed/game) and they’re giving up 5.4 yards per attempt, which is #119. The Wildcats have experience up front, but not much talent. Junior defensive end Adetomiwa Adebawore (6’2″, 265) is the best of the bunch with 22 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. The leading overall tackler is senior SAM linebacker Chris Bergin (5’11”, 223 lbs.) with 63 tackles, followed by sophomore safety Brandon Joseph (6’1″, 192) with 40 tackles. One of the best rushing offenses against one of the worst rushing defenses? I expect Michigan to stick to the ground for much of this one.
Advantage: Michigan

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Michigan is #103 in passing offense (194 yards/game) and #42 in passing efficiency. Starting quarterback Cade McNamara has thrown 5 touchdowns, and the first interception of his college career was thrown last game against Nebraska. Michigan has been mixing in backup J.J. McCarthy (2 TD, 0 INT), but mostly as a runner. Cornelius Johnson (14 catches, 282 yards, 3 TD) leads Michigan in receiving, and up-and-comer Roman Wilson (9 catches, 145 yards) missed last week’s game, so the #2 target appears to be Daylen Baldwin (12 catches, 219 yards, 2 TD). Michigan is #2 in the country in sacks allowed with just 2 so far. Northwestern is #63 in sacks (14 so far), led by senior defensive tackle Jeremy Meiser (6’3″, 290) with 4. Overall, they’re #42 in pass defense (205 yards allowed/game) and #47 in passing efficiency defense. Junior cornerback A.J. Hampton (5’11”, 180) leads the squad with 8 pass breakups, while three guys have 1 interception each.
Advantage: Michigan

Michigan is #33 in rush defense (119.3 yards allowed/game) and in yards per carry allowed (3.48). The defensive line has improved significantly over last year, and defensive tackles like Chris Hinton, Jr. and Mazi Smith have stepped things up this year. Jordan Whittley did not play much last game against an uptempo Nebraska, but this may be a better game for the 348-pound Whittley to get involved. Northwestern is #54 in rushing offense (171.3 yards/game) and #66 in yards per carry (4.27). Sophomore running back Evan Hull (5’11”, 210) is averaging 5.92 yards per carry, but his only two games of 100+ yards came against Indiana State and Ohio. Against Nebraska and Rutgers the past two weeks, he had 32 carries for 84 yards. Zero of Northwestern’s starting offensive linemen tops 297 pounds. Quarterback Ryan Hilinski (6’3″, 225) is not a threat to run at all. If Michigan isn’t facing a running quarterback, I think they will eat up Northwestern’s run game.
Advantage: Michigan

Michigan is #22 in pass defense (190.7 yards allowed/game) and #48 in passer efficiency defense. Outside linebacker Aidan Hutchinson has dropped all the way to #14 in sacks (5.5) and Michigan is #63 overall at getting to the quarterback. The Wolverines have done a good job of eliminating big plays in the passing game, even if they’re not creating a bunch of turnovers. Northwestern is #95 in passing offense (203.3 yards/game) and #95 in passing efficiency. Hilinski has taken over the starting QB job from Hunter Johnson and is completing 57% of his passes for 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions so far. Senior receiver Stephon Robinson, Jr. (5’10”, 180) and junior Malik Washington (5’9″, 192) have each scored 2 touchdowns while averaging 15.1 and 14.1 yards per catch overall. The Wildcats are #59 in sacks allowed per game. Hutchinson should have a great day, and Hilinski can’t run away like a guy like Adrian Martinez can do.
Advantage: Michigan


  • Northwestern players recruited by Michigan include: QB Hunter Johnson, DT Trevor Kent, OG Josh Priebe, TE Trey Pugh, OT Caleb Tiernan
  • Players from the State of Michigan include: LB Chris Bergin (Detroit Country Day), LB Owen Bergin (Detroit Country Day), RB Marcus Cisco (Byron Center), CB Rod Heard (Farmington Hills Harrison), OG Josh Priebe (Edwardsburg), QB Brendan Sullivan (Davison), OT Josh Thompson (Fenton), OT Caleb Tiernan (Detroit Country Day), RB Anthony Tyus III (Portage Northern), QB Jason Whittaker (Rockford)


  • On September 29, 2018, Michigan beat Northwestern by a score of 20-17
  • Karan Higdon ran 30 times for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Kwity Paye (2), Josh Uche (2), Michael Dwumfour (1), and Chase Winovich (1) each had sacks
  • Northwestern scored the first 17 points of the game, and Michigan scored 20 unanswered to win


  • Michigan 38, Northwestern 14

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