Eyes on the Enemy: Northwestern

Football

 


Michigan is on to its fourth straight week of cupcake games and I?m starting to run out of ways to say that the Wolverines re going to steamroll their opposition.

This time, the victim will be Northwestern, who comes into the game off of consecutive losses to Duke and Akron.

If that reminds you of Nebraska entering last week after losses to Colorado and Troy, the similarities don?t stop there. Both teams actually out-gained their opponents in the two preceding losses but dropped close games.


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The Wildcats? issue in their losses has been two-fold: they have committed too many turnovers and been unable to force any. Over the past two weeks, quarterbacks Clayton Thorson and TJ Green have passed for 687 combined yards but been undermined by four interceptions.

Like Nebraska, their bigger issue is an inability to defend, especially against the pass.

And like Nebraska, that paves the road for Shea Patterson to dominate and the Michigan offense to dominate.

The only real difference is that Saturday?s matchup will come on the road ? the Wolverines? first game since a season-opening defeat at Notre Dame. But Ryan Field is not Notre Dame stadium and maize and blue will almost certainly overshadow purple in the stands, creating one of the least intimidating road environments in the conference.

If you need any proof of that, Northwestern?s two losses both came at home, with their fans unable to will the team to victory despite early leads in both.

On top of everything that has gone wrong for the Wildcats thus far, their worst news of the season came Monday afternoon, when star running back Jeremy Larkin was forced to abruptly retire.

He was diagnosed with cervical stenosis, which could have catastrophic consequences if he had continued to play football.

Off the field, it?s a tragic ending to a promising career for the sophomore.

On the field, it?s just another layer on a disastrous season for Northwestern. He led the Wildcats? rushing attack with 346 yards on 72 carries and did not have a clear backup. Now, an already sporadic offense has to put more weight on Thorson?s shoulders, heaping more pressure on the senior who has struggled with turnovers throughout his career.

Before Larkin?s injury, Northwestern appeared to have an offense that could put up a respectable fight against Michigan, even if it was susceptible to injuries.

Now, much like Nebraska, it presents a listless offense matched by a leaky defense. And like the Nebraska game, the Wolverines should stroll to victory, just at a different venue.

Once again, it will be interesting to follow Michigan?s pass protection and monitor for avoidable mistakes in the secondary.

Next week, optimism will almost certainly continue to flow around Schembechler Hall. But really, this is just part four in a five-part waiting game before Wisconsin comes to town


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