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Countdown to Kickoff: Michigan at Northwestern

John Kayser Hokeamaniac.com Feature WriterRight now the Wolverines are down in the dumps after losing two straight games and being eliminated from Big Ten championship contention. Hoke and company will still do their best of course in Illinois when they face Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats. So with that said, here’s my countdown to kickoff of things I’ll be looking for in today’s game against Northwestern.

5. Control the Environment
Northwestern, although also reeling at 0-5 in the Big Ten, always plays hard at home. It’s no secret that Hoke and the Maize and Blue have struggled in road contests too. This is the perfect opportunity for Michigan to prove it can go on the road and win. They’ve done it before here in 2011 thanks to a big second have offensive performance and defensive domination. On the other side of the field the Wildcats were hyped as one of the best teams in the conference after their hot start this year. But after wining their first four games, they’ve lost everyone since.

It will be important to take whatever crowd shows up out of the game and for Michigan to play under control.

4. Offensive Production
Everyone knows about the rushing woes the Maize and Blue have had the past two weeks. For Michigan to win they must run the ball effectively. That goes without saying. Heck, they must run the ball for positive yards at least if nothing else. Michigan should look to take advantage of some Wildcats injuries have  thier once promising season.  Gardner has made steady improvements for the Michigan and must continue to do so. Offensive coordinator Al Borges must call his best game of the year, once again and deliver an offensive strategy that is unpredictable and effective.

3. The Line. The Line. The Line
The backs have had nowhere to run, Devin Gardner has been sacked 14 times in the last 2 games. Too say the offensive line isn’t meshing is an understatement. Michigan must get some push and protection from the big hoss-cats up front or it could mean an unraveling.. Again! The offensive play calling must be less predictable and give the run game a chance to be successful. And when the Wolverines do call the right run play for the right defense, Fitz Toussaint or Derrick Green must make the Wildcats pay with positive yard runs.

2. Eliminate Mistakes
With any hard fought game the winner usually is the team with the least mistakes, this contest will be no different. Between sacks, fumbles, and interceptions the Michigan offense hasn’t been able to catch a break all year it seems. This weekend the Wolverines need to make all the mistakes they are going to make in the first series or two, then play mistake free for the rest of the day. Can Michigan play mistake free ball? Yes, but it wont be easy! Michigan faithful are praying as we speak that all the stars align so to speak.

Gardner has proven he can play again without throwing an interception. He also has proven he can throw many in a single game. A lot will depend on him and his ball protection.

1. Create Momentum
Michigan has had a momentum problem since Coach Carr was here. They come out firing, build a lead, then slack off until the game is tied back up. This cycle has been a consistent and vicious one in Ann Arbor. The Wildcats have struggled with momentum too this year. With this game being at Ryan Field, that gives Northwestern a clear advantage. If the boys in Blue can kill the home field advantage and capture the momentum at the right times they will be victorious.

All and all this will be an amazing game as many have been this season…For good or bad.

Prediction:
Michigan – 27
Northwestern – 23

John Kayser

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Hokeamaniac.com - May the Hoke be with you! © January 11th, 2011
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