Going into Saturday night’s game in Illinois there are still some question marks regarding Brady Hoke’s Wolverine team. Michigan has been playing really well at times, yet inconsistency and growing pains continue to arise in Coach Hoke’s inaugural season.
This being the Wolverine’s first road game and all, it ought to show us exactly where “our” team is in its’ rawest form. Ryan field will be rocking with a sea of purple ready for a showdown, once again under the lights!
Northwestern comes into Saturday night’s contest playing the best football since coach Pat Fitzgerald himself played. With Heisman hopeful senior quarterback Dan Persa expected to be back again leading the offense, the Wildcats will for sure be hungry and looking to prove themselves as equals amongst the elite teams in the Big Ten conference.
Under Persa last season the Wildcats finished 63rd in scoring offense (58th rushing, 48th passing) and total offense. The cats deploy a pass-happy spread attack utilizing Persa and wideouts Jeremy Ebert and Demetrius Fields. Defensively Northwestern was shaky ranking 92nd in defending against the run and 95th stopping the pass, yet somehow shined in the backfield ranking 77th in scoring defense.
The cats will look to contain the run of the Wolverines and force Denard Robinson to make some questionable pass calls forcing turnovers and creating scoring opportunities. But that is way easier said then done.
For the Maize and Blue, the key will be shutting down Persa.
Persa is to the Wildcats what the heart is to the human body. So preventing Persa from using his talents might effectively kill the Wildcats offensive hopes and dreams.
I would expect that Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will have some new blitz packages using Herron, Ryan and Kovacs ready to keep the senior Persa immobile and inaccurate.
Offensively, the Michigan running game will be and will need to be key Saturday night. Vincent Smith — coming off his record setting performance last week against Minnesota – should expect another big day.
Also Fitzgerald Toussaint should get some good work and will be called upon to prove he is the back the Michigan coaching staff thinks he is.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges has already stated publicly that he will be reaching deep into his playbook to deploy some formations that will utilize Denard Robinson and Michigan backup Devin Gardner in various formations designed to confuse the Wildcat defense.
This style of attack was highly effective for the Wolverines last week against Minnesota, and I expect much more of the same success Saturday night. If the Michigan offense can strike the perfect blend of finesse, smash-mouth and razzle-dazzle I believe there would not be a team in the nation that would be capable of stopping it.
The first road game of the year should be a dramatic one with many lead changes expected and big plays on both sides completed. But in the end, once again, I expect our Wolverines leave Evanston with a victory…the teams 6th straight of the year.
Prediction: Michigan – 38 Northwestern – 17
Season record: 5-0