Michigan-Northwestern: 3 things to watch, predictions

Football


Michigan returns to Ryan Field for the first time since the infamous?famous M00N game of 2014.

The Wolverines (3-1, 1-0) are coming off a 56-10 beatdown of Nebraska in their Big Ten opener. Meanwhile, Northwestern (1-2, 1-0) is coming off a bye week following one of the program’s worst losses at home to lowly Akron.

It’s been quite the opposite past three weeks for both teams as they get ready to square off in the outskirts of Chicago in Evanston on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EST.

Here are three things to watch for in Michigan-Northwestern — along with our staff’s predictions.

Michigan will let Shea Patterson loose

I feel like this narrative is predicted every week … and while Michigan’s starting quarterback has certainly impressed, he’s yet to be unleashed.

Northwestern is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 66.3% of their passes. Patterson is completing an impressive 70.1% of his — that should translate well in Saturday’s game that the junior should be the star of offensively.

Northwestern’s rush defense

Allowing just 129 yards a game (34th nationally), the Wildcats rush defense is better than any team’s Michigan’s faced, sans Notre Dame.

While the Wolverines are averaging 212 rushing yards per game (27th nationally), it shouldn’t be as big of a game on the ground as Michigan’s had in recent weeks … which should lead to the unleashing of Patterson’s accurate arm.

Michigan’s defense

Obviously, right?

The narrative here is more about Northwestern’s offensive struggles to score. While in their last game against Akron, the Wildcats put up 34 points, the offense hasn’t been impressive. Against the only decent defense they’ve faced (Duke), the ‘Cats could only convert a single score in a 21-7 loss at home.

Put that inability to score against a Michigan defense that’s allowing the second-least amount of yards per game (240) and you’ve got a recipe for one side to dominate the other.

Oh, and Northwestern lost its leading rusher to injury, leaving its rush attack up to John Moten IV, who’s totaled 21 yards on the short season.

Michigan-Northwestern predictions

Brandon Justice: Michigan 35-10

Tanner Wooten: Michigan 38-13

Nate Wiggins: Michigan 41-17

LGHail: Michigan 45-20

Eric Coughlin: Michigan 42-23

Ant Wright: Michigan 37-17

Justin Wooten: Michigan 42-7


 

 

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