Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away but the Michigan football team is thankful for coming out of Minnesota with a victory. It was ugly, but as they say in sports, a win is a win. Hopefully it was just an off day for the defense so we don’t have to see them give up that many yards again. I imagine coach Jim Harbaugh lit a fire under the team this week in practice and we should see a different Michigan team take the field Saturday. A team that is determined to show the nation that they are a contender in the Big Ten Conference, and a team that is eager to prove continued progression from a year ago. Here is your Last Look at everything you need to know before Michigan takes on Rutgers.
What: #16 Michigan Wolverines (6-2, 3-1) vs Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-5, 1-4)
When: Saturday November 7, 2015 at 3:30 PM
Where: The Big House, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Channel: Big Ten Network
Last year marked the first time that these two teams played each other, so Rutgers leads the series 1-0. Rutgers blocked a field goal at the end of the game giving them a 26-24 victory at home. This will be the Scarlet Knights first trip to Ann Arbor and its intimidating 110,000 plus fan packed stadium.
Michigan needed a last second goal line stop to beat Minnesota 29-26 to secure bowl eligibility. They played a very inconsistent game on both sides of the ball but when it mattered most, the defense came up with the huge stop.
Rutgers was handed its second straight blow out loss when Wisconsin beat them 48-10. They were held to 168 total yards with no offensive touchdown.
Michigan Players to Watch
One man was on the field last week for 90 plays and his name is Jabrill Peppers. The Rutgers coaching staff has to be thinking, “How can we stop this guy?” He is good at every position you put him at. Peppers not only played defense, returned punts and kickoffs, but he scored his first offensive touchdown. We saw him line up at running back, wide receiver, and as quarterback, in what some are calling the Wild Wolverine. No matter where he lines up on the field or which ever side of the ball he plays, Peppers will be the most dangerous man out there.
Running back Drake Johnson is due to have a big game this week versus a very weak defensive front. The Scarlet Knights gave up over 200 yards last week to Wisconsin so the Wolverines should be able to do the same. Johnson is one of the most exciting guys to watch in the backfield. He is healthy and should be able to take on a bigger role in the offense. I expect to see him get more carries and find the end zone this week. He is a strong, shifty runner so the Rutgers defense will have to wrap him up, if they hope to slow him down.
Rutgers Players to Watch
The only player worth mentioning for the Scarlet Knights will more than likely see limited playing time this weekend, if any at all. Leonte Carroo leads the conference in touchdown receptions with nine so his production will be greatly missed. He is questionable with an ankle injury. If Carroo cannot go, quarterback Chris Laviano better get some quick chemistry with someone else because Rutgers will need to put a lot of points on the board to win.
For the defense, linebacker Steve Longa leads the team in tackles. He will be very active trying to stop Michigan’s running attack. The Wolverine coaches will know where he is and make sure the O-line keeps him in check as well.
The X-Factor this week will be someone who will not see the field this Saturday, or for that matter, not even spend time on the sideline. He will be a one time x-factor this season and the x-factor is……ME! Yes, you read correctly, I will be in the stands to cheer on the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday. Michigan has never lost a game when I attend The Big House. In fact, they are 8-0 when I’m present.
Seriously though, the biggest threat that Michigan faces this week will be turnovers. If they can take care of the ball, not cough up a fumble or throw an interception, Michigan should have its way with Rutgers.
Expectations will be high from the coaches and the fans this week after a loss three weeks ago and a near one last week. We all want to see the Wolverines come out on fire and show a fierce intensity from the very start. Look for them to establish a strong running game, get Peppers involved in everything but selling food, and the defense to lock down Rutgers running backs. This game will be all but over in the third quarter and we should see quarterback Wilton Speight come out and get some playing time to wrap things up. Michigan wins big 34-10.