#11 Michigan Wolverines vs. Northwestern Wildcats: Brutally Honest Game Preview


If you ever needed any more evidence that Greg Robinson was in fact THE WORST Defensive Coordinator in college football history, look no further than what the Michigan Wolverines defense has done this year. They’ve only given up 10 whole points in their last three games, and the unit is more opportunistic and turnover-forcing (more on that here)

Sure, this unit has their two best DBs which they missed last year, but they also graduated their best defender from 2010. Personally, I knew Robinson was fired the minute I saw Illini RB Mikel Leshoure burn UM not once, but twice with the exact same wheel route in the 67-65 game. The exact same play the Illini burned Purdue the very week before.

Is the Mich defense that much better? Yes. Are they really that good? NO!

The visit to the Northwestern Wildcats will be big blue’s first time away from the big house in 2011, and their schedule has been soft. Are they a good team? Yes. Are they a top ten team in the nation? NO!

northwestern mascot

Northwestern Wildcats (2-2, 0-1) Analysis:

NU suffered a proverbial kick to Marvin McBucknuts at the hands of Illinois last Saturday. Go here and here for more on that. Then adding injury to insult and previous injury, NU’s RB1 and leading rusher from last season Mike Trumpy is now out for the year with a knee injury. He’s a great prospect, but he can just never stay healthy, as he missed a couple games (including the bowl game) last year with a hand injury.

QB Dan Persa, playing in his first game in almost a year since tearing an Achilles tendon, looked dominant at times when he was in there, but left late in the game due to a precautionary measure. He wasn’t feeling right, and the staff felt there was no need to chance it.

In the loss to their hated rival the Illini, Persa threw a career high 4 TD passes in just 14 attempts. He finished 10-14 passing for 123 yards, no interceptions. His rushing numbers were very unimpressive though 9 carries for -3 yards. Persa played his tail off and gave the Wildcats’ offense a familiar spark.

Ironically, it’s the defense, not the offense which really suffers when Persa is out of the lineup. They gave up a million points per game (or thereabouts) in the three games at the end of the season that Persa missed. In the Illinois game NU was up 28-17 with Persa in there, got out-scored 7-21 without him.

Bascially, when Danny is in there, the Cats offense takes good care of the ball and sets the defense up to be in better position. And his leadership is extremely evident.

“It’s that momentum, and when our offense is driving it gives our defense energy,” said NU DL Tyler Scott.

“When we see our offense driving, it just makes us say ‘hey our offense is doing this, so we need to go out there and stop them and get them back on the field, because they’re moving the ball and scoring touchdowns. ”

Michigan Wolverines (5-0, 1-0) Analysis:

In the 58-0 utter domination over the Golden Gophers last week, we saw UM employ two QB formations. So watch for that this week- Devin Gardner under center and Denard Robinson lined up wide.

The Wolverines have rushed for 300+ yards in the last three games (376 vs. Eastern Michigan; 320 vs. San Diego State; 363 vs. Minnesota), and dating back to 1949, it marked the first time U-M rushed for 300+ yards in three consecutive games since 1976.

NU is 89th in the nation in rushing defense and 95th in total defense. Denard was the nation’s leading rusher heading into last week. Today he commands an offense ranked first in the Big Ten, and 7th in the nation in rushing. Michigan and Northwestern are 1 and 2 in the league in turnover margin.

After allowing 35.2 points per game in 2010 (it seems more like 55 doesn’t it?), Michigan’s defense is allowing 10.2 points per game through five games in 2011, ranking tied for first in the Big Ten and tied for second in the nation in scoring defense. U-M has allowed just one touchdown in the last three games–and six on the year. They’ve forced 15 turnovers in 2011, including multiple turnovers in all five games.

Wolverines safety J0rdan Kovacs is one to watch on D. Yes, a white defensive back who’s a straight balla! Imagine that.

Prediction to be taken with an entire truckload of salt, not a grain of salt: Michigan 37, Northwestern 31 (2010-11 prediction record 26-13)

The Wildcats haven’t been under .500 as a program since 2007- well, that will change this week.

Michigan leads the all-time series with Northwestern 52-15-2. U-M is 27-4 in its last 31 meetings vs. the Wildcats. Northwestern defeated Michigan, 21-14, in the two teams’ last contest in 2008. Michigan’s last win in the series came in a 28-16 victory in Evanston in 2007.

NU has been on the road 3/4 weeks this season. Now they have a sold out home game under the lights against a highly ranked opponent. (well, an over-ranked opponent because it’s Michigan). I don’t see how the Cats pull this off.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

He’s appeared on live radio shows all across the world from Houston to New Zealand. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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