Friday, October 7, 2011

Northwestern Preview

Time: 7:00 EST
Location: at Northwestern
Weather: High of 79 and clear
Line:  Michigan -7

This will be Michigan's second night game of the year but first road game.  Michigan has enjoyed a quick 5-0 start with out having to leave to the Big House.   The last night game in Evanston that I remember was a rain soaked affair which might have been Justin Fargas best day in a Wolverine jersey. 

Northwestern is coming off a close loss at Illinois and finds themselves 2-2 with a loss to Army thrown in there as well.  There is good news on horizon for the Wildcats as their All Big Ten QB Dan Persa is coming back from an Achilles injury he suffered last season.   He played last week but started to feel pain in his foot and came out of the game in the 4th quarter. 

Last week Michigan ran over Minnesota and Denard used his arm instead of his legs.   Michigan hopes to continue it's balanced offense and accurate passing against Northwestern on Saturday.

Tale of the Tape

Michigan O vs NW D = Denard and Crew

NW Passing Game vs Michigan's secondary = NW with a healthy Persa

NW Running Game vs Michigan's D Line = Big Will, Mike Martin and Craig Roh

Intangibles = Northwestern being at home

I think both game plans are pretty clear, Northwestern will try to go Notre Dame on Michigan by moving the ball through the air.  Persa is known as a very accurate passer and very mobile when he is 100% healthy.  He is not 100% yet and will want to try to move up and down the field on the Wolverine secondary that is banged up with Woolfolk but improving with the play of Floyd, Avery and Countess.

Sing Hail to the Victors if......................
  • Denard continues to pass the ball effectively.
  • The Michigan defense keeps the Northwestern offense under 21 points
  • Fitz, Smith or Shaw get over 100 yards on the ground
  • Michigan gets pressure on Persa and gets a couple of sacks
Say Glad the Bars in Chicago are open late if........................

  • Persa is eating up Michigan's secondary
  • The Michigan defense falls for the pass and NW breaks off big runs
  • Michigan has first game road issues
  • Michigan's offense has trouble moving the ball
I expect this game to be pretty high scoring with the difference being which defense can get the most stops.  The Michigan defense has lived off of turnovers but The Wildcats have only turned it over twice so far this year.   The Army QB ran for over 100 yards on the Northwestern defense but they will stack the line to make Denard beat them through the air.   Scheelhaase almost threw for 400 yards against that strategy last week.  The key here is the NW defense can be beat and you just have to pick your poison.  If Denard isn't hitting his receivers and tight ends Michigan might be in for a long day.  This will be the best test for the Michigan D since ND.   I expect Greg Mattison to dial up some good blitz packages and I have a lot of faith in Countness covering skills.   Some quick stops on defense will give Denard more touches which will lead to points for the Wolverines. 

Michigan 31  Northwestern 21



Voice of Reason said...

I have to admit, that in the beginning of the year I was more hopeful than a true believer in how this team would fair. After watching them and breaking down their play particularly on the defensive side of the ball I can truly say that I am very impressed. These guys are very well coached and THAT is why they are playing so much better.

When you see teams move from worst to first, that senario usually reflects talent, experience and great coaching. I think this is what we're seeing now. This traveling on the road thing and playing at night shouldn't bother then because this is the same group of players under RR that was doing this for the last 2-3 years. Now they have experience under their belts and they have a stronger sense of what they're doing.

So I think they will give a great accounting of themselves Saturday night. I am close to drinking the Kool-Aid. GO BLUE!

Bob said...

I am close VOR. The past two years are still fresh in my mind. I agree with you that they are clearly better coached up this year.

RR teams never played well on the road. Off the top of my head didn't he only beat IU, Minn, and Purdue (in the Big 10) on the road in 3 years?

Part of me is waiting for this thing to fall apart the other part of me is expecting them to be in the Big Ten Championship game. I hope Sat night gives us more momentum for Indy then 2009 or 2010.

Voice of Reason said...

Bob I believe you are correct about RR's Big Ten road wins. Their performance defensively was putrid at best. The reason why I was slow to embrace this season was the same as yours, the memory of the past three years. However, good coaching and preparation is making a positive difference and you can see it on the field.

Hoke knows his teams weaknesses and they are addressing them. Doesn't mean they will win every game, it means that everyone will see more good play than not. If we lose it will likely be to a better team or one who is playing better at that time.