The Michigan football team will hit the road for the first time this season, as they enter New Jersey to face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
The last time they were in High Point Solutions stadium, the Wolverines suffered a tough loss, dropping 26-24. The outcome should be much different this time around. Michigan is going in a totally different direction now, reestablishing itself as a national powerhouse. Here is some vital things you need to know and watch for in this game:
No. 4 Michigan (5-0, 2-0) at Rutgers (2-3, 0-2)
Kickoff: 7:00 PM
Where to Watch: ESPN2
Odds: Michigan is favored by 30 points
What to Watch For
The Kicking Game
Last week, Kenny Allen missed two field goals and walk-on Ryan Tice missed another. Combined, they are 4-9 for the season. Jim Harbaugh has opened up a kicking competition this week. Both Allen and Tice have reportedly been kicking well in practice, but freshman Quinn Nordin has now available to win the job. Nordin was the top ranked kicker in last year’s class, but has not seen the field yet. Harbaugh has recently said that Quinn was “working through something,” but is practicing this week and has made all of his kicks as of Thursday.
Allen has performed all of the kicking duties (FG’s, punts, kickoffs), so it would be great to see another guy relieve one of these duties to take some pressure off of Allen. With Michigan playing at such a high level this year, the kicking game needs to improve. Michigan is fortunate last week’s misses didn’t cost them the game. I will be watching to see which kicker wins the competition this week and how he performs in the game if given the opportunity. If our predictions are correct, this is another game Michigan “could afford” to miss a kick.
Life Without Grant Newsome
Michigan beat Wisconsin, but suffered a great loss as well. Grant Newsome went down with a season-ending knee injury and now Michigan has—literally—a big hole to fill. Next man up is junior Juwann Bushell-Beatty. He is a big lineman. standing at 6’6″ and 311 pounds. Bushell-Beatty finished the game last week and will be starting at Rutgers. I’m curious to see if he can be as dominant as Newsome, now that he has had a week of first team reps in practice. Rutgers’ defensive coordinator will possibly bring some pressure early on to see if JBB can hold his own and keep his quarterback from being hit. I fully expect him to perform well because of the great job this coaching staff has done. Every man is ready to step up and assist the team in any capacity.
At the beginning of the week it looked as though Hurricane Matthew would be hitting New Jersey this weekend. There was talk of the game being relocated or starting at a different time. Now things are changing for the better, for that part of the country at least. Rain is likely at kickoff, but not nearly as bad as what we are seeing in the south. Continue to keep an eye on the storm because you never know what can change. This hurricane might have been the only equalizer Rutgers could have against Michigan. With the high winds and heavy rain from a storm like this, Michigan would be forced to keep the ball on the ground. The risk for fumbles would be higher, and that would have given Rutgers a small chance at keeping the game closer. Sorry Scarlet Knights, looks like Mother Nature will not be on your side.
Here are a couple of things that I see happening in this game. First of all, Michigan will get its first shutout of the year (49-0 is what i said in the TBHR roundtable). This Wolverine defense is the best in the nation and they face an offense that could be one of the worst. I predict 4 sacks, 2 interceptions—one run back for a pick six, and believe Rutgers will be held to less than 150 total yards.
Speight will throw for 300 yards and three scores and the running backs will gain 200 yards collectively. Michigan’s offense should not have any hiccups and should score at will (hope to see perfection in kicking game). Look for John O’Korn to get playing time in the fourth quarter because this game will be over in the third. Also, Jabrill Peppers will score his second touchdown of the year on a punt return. Rutgers will be punting a lot so he will get plenty of chances. Peppers will have at least 120 return yards on the day.
Recruiting on the Road?
Michigan will get a chance to play for some of its own targets because some of the guys visiting Rutgers are on the Wolverines’ radar. Here are a couple of guys that could be getting a better look at Michigan, according to Brice Marich.
- Drew Singleton, a 4-star outside linebacker from Paramus Catholic HS.
- Markquese Bell, a 4-star outside linebacker from Bridgeton, NJ. Bell was supposed to be in Ann Arbor last week but was a last minute cancellation.
- Tyler Friday, a 4-star defensive end from Ramsey, NJ.
- Dorian Hardy, a 4-star defensive end from Montvale, NJ.
See next week Michigan fans!