A new week brings a new matchup, which brings a new opportunity for Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines. This week, Michigan travels to New Jersey for a contest with the Scarlet Knights. Let’s take a look at Rutgers:
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Overall Record: 2-3 (0-2 Big Ten)
Head Coach: Chris Ash, first season at Rutgers
Key Wins: N/A
Key Losses: Washington, Iowa, Ohio State
Key Players: Chris Laviano(QB), Robert Martin (RB)
Score vs. Michigan Last Season: 49-16, Michigan
What We Know
From Bad, To Worse
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights earned their third loss of the season this past Saturday, as the Ohio State Buckeyes kicked them around to the tune of a 58-0 victory. Rutgers held tight—for ten minutes. Ohio State was able to get on the board with 4:19 left in the first quarter, and they didn’t look back. The Buckeyes racked up 30 points in the first half, and added 21 more in the third quarter, and then a final touchdown in the fourth quarter. This game got out of hand fast…really fast. I think Michigan could have to same effect on the Scarlet Knights this weekend, if they get off to a fast start.
Defense Wins Championships (or Loses Them)
The Rutgers defense has struggled thus far in 2016. Totaling 2,119 total yards allowed through 5 games, which is good enough for last place amongst Big Ten teams in total defense. The Scarlet Knights also rank last in rush defense (1137 yards, 9 touchdowns) and scoring defense (32.4 points per game). Rutgers is led on defense by junior defensive back, Kiy Hester, who has tallied 36 total tackles (5 tackles for loss), and 3 pass breakups.
Michigan will need to get out to a hot start against the Scarlet Knights on Saturday, as Rutgers has been outscored by opponents in the first quarter, 65-14.
Rutgers likes to lean on the rushing game, as junior running back Robert Martin leads the Scarlet Knights in both rushing attempts and yardage. The Scarlet Knights rank one spot behind Michigan (sixth) in Big Ten rush offense. They average just under 200 yards per game on the ground, but if Michigan can get out to an early lead, it will force Rutgers to throw the ball. A category in which they rank last.
This weekend, Michigan needs play solid defensively, all while exploiting the opposing defense
What We Will Learn
As the Wolverines travel to New Jersey this weekend, I’ll be looking for two things:
How Good Can The Offensive Line Be?
The Wolverines lost a key part of their offense last Saturday, as starting left tackle Grant Newsome injured his knee and will miss the remainder of the season. The loss is a HUGE blow for a unit, who finally began to gel and find some rhythm. However, the the season must go on, meaning it’s “Next man up!”
Junior lineman Juwann Bushell-Beatty is the next in line, and finished the game at left tackle for the Wolverines. Coach Harbaugh spoke to the media Tuesday, and from the sounds of it, Bushell-Beatty will be called upon this week (and the remainder of the season) to fill the void left by Newsome. This will be a homecoming game for Bushell-Beatty (and a handful of other Wolverines), as he returns home to New Jersey for his first career collegiate start.
This game could look a lot like the Penn State game, if the Wolverines can execute. Rutgers is giving up the most rushing yards (227.4 yards per game), and the third most rushing touchdowns in the Big Ten this season. On the flip side, Michigan comes in with 1,049 rushing yards (third most in the Big Ten), and the most rushing touchdowns (16) in the Big Ten this season. I look for Michigan to pound the ball between the tackles and wear down the defensive front early in the game. Michigan has a plethora of running back talent this year, and I look for the entire crew to get plenty of work in this one, especially if the Wolverines get up big early.
Can The Defense Prevent a “Trap Game?”
We see it all the time in college sports. A team, coming off a big game (win or lose), travels out of state to play a night game, struggles, and sometimes even loses. I think the defense will be a huge factor in making sure this game doesn’t stay close for long. Rutgers’ offense ranks dead last in the Big Ten this season. The Scarlet Knights average just three yards per game, and have only scored 11 touchdowns on the season. Rutgers also ranks 11th in the Big Ten this season in turnover differential. The Scarlet Knights have forced five turnovers, but have returned the favor six times. Last weekend, Michigan proved its defense is elite, but still can’t afford to take anyone lightly if they want to contend for a Big Ten Championship.
Look for Jourdan Lewis, Jabrill Peppers and the rest of the Wolverine defense have a big game this weekend. I have a feeling that they saw what the Buckeyes did to Rutgers last weekend, and want to match that effort this Saturday.
I look forward to another week of Big Ten play, and a great game out of the Wolverines, as they play their first road game of 2016, on Saturday evening. Go Blue!