Preview: Michigan vs. Rutgers

Preview: Michigan vs. Rutgers

September 24, 2021
Rutgers WR Bo Melton (Ben Solomon/Rutgers Athletics)

Michigan is the #1 rushing team in the country, averaging 350 yards per game on 7.15 yards per carry (#4). The two most relevant players are Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins, who are almost identical in attempts this year: 48 and 49, respectively. Corum is the more explosive one (8.5 yards/carry, 7 touchdowns) while Haskins (5.7 yards/carry, 4 touchdowns) is the Steady Eddie. The unsung heroes of that rushing offense, of course, are the offensive linemen, who are blasting people up front. That group is led by center Andrew Vastardis. Rutgers is #49 in rushing defense (113 yards allowed/game) and #46 in yards allowed per carry (3.39). Those numbers are bolstered by the quality of opponent so far, which has included Temple, Syracuse, and Delaware.
Advantage: Michigan

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Michigan is #112 in passing yards (164.3 yards/game), but the passing efficiency overall has been very good (#13 overall). Starter Cade McNamara is completing 64.9% of his passes and has yet to throw an interception in his college career. Last week he hit leading receiver Cornelius Johnson for an 87-yard touchdown, the third-longest passing play in school history; Johnson is averaging 27+ yards per catch on 6 receptions so far this year. Another emerging target is Daylen Baldwin (4 catches, 92 yards, 1 TD), a transfer receiver from Jacksonville State. Up front, Michigan’s line has allowed just 1 sack this season. Rutgers is #15 in pass defense (145.7 yards allowed/game) and #6 in passer rating defense. They have allowed just 1 touchdown while making 3 interceptions; however, 2 of those interceptions came from starting cornerback Max Melton, who was suspended earlier this week for a paintball gun incident. He took 1 of those interceptions to the house for a 46-yard touchdown. The Scarlet Knights are #5 in sacks with 4.67 per game.
Advantage: Rutgers

Michigan is #47 in rushing defense (112.3 yards allowed/game) and #45 in yards allowed per carry (3.37). Teams have been able to gain yards in chunks at times, but the team has not allowed any huge plays yet in the running game. Senior inside linebacker Josh Ross leads the team by far with 23 tackles, followed by three defensive backs (Daxton Hill, Vincent Gray, R.J. Moten). That’s normally an indication that the front isn’t doing its job, but Hill often plays near the line of scrimmage as a nickel and Moten frequently plays as an in-the-box safety. Rutgers is #80 in rushing offense (144.3 yards/game) and even worse (#111) in efficiency with 3.31 yards per carry. Oddly, they’re tied for #14 in rushing touchdowns with 10, but that’s largely because they’re really bad at passing the ball. Starting running back Isaih Pacheco (5’11”, 215) averages just 3.38 yards per attempt, and quarterback Noah Vedral (6’1″, 200) is a decent runner for a QB, at least enough to move the chains. In short yardage and goal line situations, Rutgers uses 6’2″, 235 lb. quarterback-ish type figure Johnny Langan, who is slow and not elusive, but has managed to snare 2 touchdowns on 2.88 yards per carry.
Advantage: Michigan

Michigan is #29 in passing defense (176.7 yards allowed/game) and #31 in passing efficiency defense. Cornerback Gemon Green made the team’s first interception last week. In general, the defensive backs have been positioned well so far but just haven’t made a ton of plays. Hopefully they improve in that area as the season goes along. Outside linebacker Aidan Hutchinson leads the team with 4.5 sacks, which is tied for #1 in the country. Meanwhile, Rutgers is generally not so good at the passing thing. They’re #92 in the country with 206.7 yards/game through the air and #52 in passing efficiency, but that’s largely based on throwing short screens and letting athletes make plays, not by throwing the ball downfield. Vedral is completing 71% of his passes for 7.5 yards/attempt, with 4 touchdowns and 0 picks so far this year. It’s a similar team to last year, where they throw the ball laterally a ton. Leading receiver Bo Melton (5’11”, 195) has 20 catches for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns, and the second guy is Aron Cruickshank (5’10”, 170), who is on his second consecutive year of averaging fewer than 8.0 yards per catch (he’s currently at 7.2). Rutgers is tied for #30 in sacks allowed per game (1.3), but it would be much worse if they dropped back to pass instead of throwing so many quick screens.
Advantage: Michigan


  • Rutgers players who were offered by Michigan: DT Ryan Keeler, DE Aaron Lewis, WR Bo Melton, OT Raiqwon O’Neal, RB Al-Shadee Salaam, LB Drew Singleton
  • Two Rutgers players began their careers at Michigan: DE Aaron Lewis, LB Drew Singleton


  • Michigan beat Rutgers by a score of 48-42 in triple overtime in 2020
  • After a slow start, QB Joe Milton was replaced by Cade McNamara, who completed 27/36 passes for 260 yards and 4 touchdowns
  • RB Hassan Haskins ran 23 times for 111 yards and the game-winning touchdown
  • WR Cornelius Johnson caught 5 passes for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Giles Jackson had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown


  • Michigan 34, Rutgers 13

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