Michigan looking to get back to dominating the trenches vs. Rutgers
Who: Rutgers vs. No. 17 Michigan
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Michigan Stadium, Michigan
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Michigan -25
Matchup to watch: Leonte Carroo vs. Jourdan Lewis
This, of course, is assuming that the Rutgers star receiver returns from the ankle injury that sidelined him last week. If he does, he’s going to have to deal with arguably the best cover corner in college football right now. Carroo is one of the few guys that’s been matchup proof when healthy, but Lewis is a different kind of challenge. He already has 15 pass breakups for a defense that’s been dominant against the pass, with the exception of last week. Rutgers usually does a good job of getting Carroo looks in space all over the field. The senior somehow still has the ability to lure defenses to sleep with the underneath routes until he connects on a deep ball. Against Lewis, that might be a little bit tougher to execute, especially if Carroo isn’t at full strength.
Thing I’m excited to see: Jabrill Peppers’ usage
The do-it-all redshirt freshman was on the field for a whopping 95 plays against Minnesota last week. If that’s not the most for a B1G player all year, it has to be close. I’ve voiced my concerns about the overuse of Peppers in the past and while Saturday night displayed his five-star talent, it also spoke to Michigan’s offensive limitations without Jake Rudock. Even though the banged up senior is expected to start under center, Jim Harbaugh is still likely going to rely on Peppers in the wildcat with Rudock and De’Veon Smith both coming off injuries. In a game that the Wolverines trailed, Harbaugh turned to Peppers because he had to. In a game that Michigan could find itself ahead big, Harbaugh shouldn’t need Peppers to have as significant of an offensive role. If he does, the nation’s 98th-ranked offense has bigger issues moving forward.
Number to remember: 21
That’s how many points per third quarter Rutgers allowed in the last three games. In case you didn’t know, that’s not good. The Scarlet Knights dug themselves a massive hole by not making the necessary halftime adjustments to give themselves a chance. If not for an improbable 25-point fourth-quarter comeback against Indiana, Kyle Flood would be under even more heat in Piscataway. Rutgers needs somebody other than Steve Longa to step up and make a play to prevent teams from keeping their foot on the gas. When they came back against Indiana, Anthony Cioffi and Isaiah Wharton flipped the field with interceptions. Those are the type of momentum-shifting plays a team needs to pull off a massive road upset.
Prediction: Michigan 35, Rutgers 14
I think last week was an important lesson for this Michigan team to learn. Somebody finally wore the Wolverine defense down at the line of scrimmage, and as a result, it had to claw its way to a victory. Michigan has to win that battle to look like the team that destroyed Maryland and Northwestern. It did when it mattered most last week. I’m guessing the Wolverines put together a much better performance up front against a weaker Rutgers line. They get back to their blowout style and roll to their first comfortable win in a month.