The Michigan Wolverines moved to 8-0 after a dominant home win over the Michigan Spartans last weekend to regain the Paul Bunyan trophy.
As Michigan moves forward and looks ahead at Rutgers, let’s take a look at three matches to watch before Wolverines and Scarlet Knights hit the pitch this Saturday at traffic lights (7:30 PM, BTN).
Rutgers are on the offensive against the defense in Michigan
One component of Rutgers’ offensive that has been somewhat formidable this season is his hasty offensive, which averages around 151 yards per game and is ranked 66th nationally.
Playmaker Noah Vedral was late this season due to an injury and even while he was playing, the senior quarterback was unable to deliver much of the spark. Freshman Gavin Wimsatt will be competing for the second time in a row this weekend and will continue to grow, so the Scarlet Knights will need their running game to help the young playmaker.
Their runners carry the ball almost 40 times per game as the team has an average of just under four meters to lead the ground as a whole. Samuel Brown V has been their most dynamic defender so far this season, carrying the ball 86 times for 374 yards (average 4.3) for three touchdowns. Kyle Mongai is the team’s second leader, having covered 212 yards on 62 throws and found the end zone twice in a year.
Expect the third-ranked Michigan fast defense to be ready to defend the run, as the Scarlet Knights are sure to try to take advantage of ground play by trying to engulf the clock and stay away from third and long, obvious lows if they can help.
The defensive attacks of Mazi Smith and Mason Graham should make a big difference in this game. It is to be expected that Wolverines will use a lot of run-based packs and will stay big up front unless Rutgers shows that he is capable of making a few moves in the passing game.
Michigan’s rushing attack versus Rutgers defense
This is the clearest force versus force battle in this match as Michigan is entering this weekend, boasting the fifth best attack in the country with 246 yards per game (5.7 yards per lead on average). Rutgers is ranked 19th in the country for quick defense, allowing just 108 yards per game on the ground and an average of 3.30 yards to lead.
Michigan has had no problems handling the ball in any defense this season, even against teams with strong fronts and statistically solid throughout the run. Indiana has arguably done best for a while at repressing Michigan’s fierce attack, especially in the first half when Blake Corum got one big run early before the defense started holding the Wolverines back on the pitch.
Rutgers’ chance of staying this close for a long time would be to keep this game low on points and low ball possession. If their defense can slow down the rushing attack from Michigan and force the Wolverines to fish a few times early, it can make a huge difference to Rutgers’ confidence.
Linebacker Deion Jennings will be the player whose offensive Michigan line must keep an eye on. He leads a team with 66 tackles, yet is able to smash four balls within passing range. Defensive defender Christian Izien is second in the team for tackling and could be tucked into the penalty area to play against both a run-in and a passing.
When Michigan throws the ball, the Scarlet Knights do not often go to the playmaker as they only recorded 12 panniers as a team. However, defensive liner Wesley Bailey was a bright spot in this regard, scoring 3.5 this season.
Michigan Red Offensive vs. Rutgers Red Zone Defense
One of Michigan’s biggest struggles this season, especially in the last two games, has been swapping red zone trips for touchdowns.
If there’s a game to figure it out, this week might be the one to do it. The Scarlet Knights’ rank is last in defense of the country’s Red Zone, allowing 15 touchdowns in 18 journeys. The other three goats rolled into off-field goals, meaning Rutgers scores 100% of the time his defense is caught in his own 20.
The deceptive part of this statistic is that allowing teams to reach the red zone 18 times at this point in the season is not a large number. Rutgers’ defense has been very good this season, finishing 13th nationally, demonstrating that cultural coach Greg Schiano, who has returned to the program, is capable of playing tough football.
That being said, when Michigan has a chance in this game, it needs to convert even though the opportunities may be limited.
If the Wolverines offensive is satisfied with more game kicks in this game, it may not matter in terms of the scoreboard as Rutgers’ offensive may not even be able to keep up with it. But this is an important area to watch for progress and an area where Wolverines need to get better in the next few weeks.