Today two of college footballs top five defensive teams will collide at the Big House when Michigan hosts Northwestern. Dont expect a high scoring shootout on this one, with both defenses coming off shutout wins last week. Michigan is slowly moving up the rankings and a win over #13 Northwestern should put them in the top 15 for sure. Each week they are getting better and better, and they will need to be atop of their game in this one. Here is your Last Look of everything you need to know before kickoff.
What: #18 Michigan ( 4-1, 1-0 ) vs #13 Northwestern ( 5-0, 1-0 )
Where: The Big House Ann Arbor, Michigan
When: October 10, 2015 at 3:30 PM
Channel: Big Ten Network
Michigan holds the lead in this series 56-15-2 and has won the last four years in a row. Last year Michigan squeaked out a 10-9 victory when the Wildcats could not get the two point conversion with three seconds to play. It has been a crazy series these past few years so who knows what will occur this year.
Michigan beat Maryland 28-0 in its second straight shutout of the year. The defense dominated the game and the offense finally found a rhythm in the second half.
Northwestern beat Minnesota 27-0 in its first Big Ten shutout since 1995. They forced two turnovers and the defense scored on a fumble return. They are growing confidence each week as its defense it playing on a elite level.
Players to Watch for Michigan:
All we have heard this week concerning this game is about how good Michigan’s defense is and how they will be challenged this week. My first player to watch is defensive player Royce Jenkins-Stone and not for what he has done on the field so far. I want to watch him because he is filling in for Mario Ojemudia, who suffered a season ending Achilles injury last week. Jenkins-Stone is the next man up, so the team is expecting him to come in and perform at a high level.
Both teams are a run based offensive team, and with these great defenses, it’s going to be up to the quarterbacks to play a mistake free game. Signal caller Jake Rudock will be the man that the Wildcats prepare for the most. They will want to learn his tendencies and watch his film to see all of his mistakes. Rudock needs to come out and throw smart passes and know it’s alright to throw it away if nobody is open. Turnovers in this game could end the Michigan’s four game winning streak. Maybe, just maybe, we could see Rudock connect on a deep ball too.
Players to Watch for Northwestern:
The Wildcats do not have much for weaknesses on its defense so choosing one of them is difficult. The Michigan coaching staff will just prepare for them as a whole. Know each one of them by name and what they are capable of doing to the offense. The secondary is full of athletic guys with tremendous play making ability. The team leader in tackles is linebacker Anthony Walker, with 44 tackles and 8.5 for loss.
Running Back Justin Jackson is the conference’s third leading rusher with an average of 127.2 yards a game. Defensive coordinator DJ Durkin will have his guys ready for Jackson because he is the biggest offensive threat the Wildcats have. Last week he had 120 yards and has only failed to reach the century mark once this season.
Will the quarterbacks make mistakes? Will the defenses shut down each other’s run game? These are extremely important aspects of this game but I believe the X-Factor today will be the special teams unit. There might not be a lot of scoring opportunities, so Michigan kicker Kenny Allen must be spot on with any field goal attempt. They cannot afford to leave points on the field. Punter Blake O’Neil can be a difference maker by turning field position in the Wolverines favor. He has had some terrific punts inside the ten yard line, so if he can pin the Wildcats back, that will be a huge advantage. Also each week we want to see Jabrill Peppers run a punt return back, this could be the perfect week to do that. He has shown some great moves and speed so far in the return game. If specials teams can produce some points that will take some pressure off the offense.
I am torn in this tough defensive showdown. Both teams are bringing top 5 defenses and are coming off shutout wins last week. I see Michigan pulling ahead in the fourth quarter with a power run game that just wears down the front seven of the Wildcats. Michigan wins 17-13! Look for them to win the turnover battle with Rudock only having one error. Either De’veon Smith or Drake Johnson will eclipse the 100 yard mark.
I want to see the Wolverine offensive line get mean and nasty, pushing guys around all game. They will need to create big holes for the backs to run through and give Rudock great pass protection. This is a game where turnovers will decide the game, so take care of the ball Michigan!