The Michigan Wolverines (6-3, 4-1) host the 24th-ranked Northwestern Wildcats (7-2, 3-2) at the Big House on Saturday, November 10.
Both teams are competing to stay alive in the Big Ten Legends division and are hoping for a loss, or multiple losses in Northwestern’s case, by the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Michigan and Northwestern are very similar teams in that they’ll pound the football and take shots deep occasionally to catch a team off-guard. They use a dual-threat running game with their quarterback and best athlete to keep defenses guessing and spread them out at the line of scrimmage.
Of the two, Michigan holds the advantage in the defensive department. They’ve been much more stout against better competition than the Wildcats have seen thus far.
Still, both teams have the explosive ability to break a game open at any moment. That alone will make this one of the more exciting afternoon games on Saturday.
When: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Watch: ESPN/ESPN 3D
Live Stream: ESPN3
Radio: Free Football Radio
Betting Line (via Covers)
Over/Under: OFF, Spread: Michigan (-11)
Even at home and with an improved defense, it’s hard to imagine the Wolverines will be able to win by more than 11 points against a very effective Wildcats attack.
Defense will be the key to this one, but the Wolverines haven’t been tested with the type of athletes that Northwestern has in its backfield.
Look for a moderately high-scoring game that ends up coming down to a late touchdown by the Wolverines to give them a critical win to keep them in Big Ten contention.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
CB Quinn Evans, Leg, Questionable
DB Nick VanHoose, Arm, Questionable
S Hunter Bates, Undisclosed, Questionable
QB Denard Robinson, Hand, Probable
S Thomas Gordon, Arm, Questionable
DT Nathan Brink, Undisclosed, Out
LB Antonio Poole, Pectoral, Out
The BCS is an afterthought for both of these schools and for most of the Big Ten. Nebraska controls their own fate in the Legends division after their win over the Wolverines. They hold tiebreakers over both of these teams, but a loss and Michigan winning out would send the Wolverines to the Big Ten Championship game.
Still, Northwestern is ranked No. 24 and Michigan is on the outside looking in. A win in this one could reverse the two teams' fortunes and help propel one or the other to a Legends division title and place in the Big Ten Championship. If that happens, the odds will be in their favor as the Leaders division leaders Ohio State and Penn State are not eligible for that game.
Northwestern Player to Watch: Venric Mark, RB
The Wildcats’ junior running back Mark has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season after an 162-yard effort in the team’s win over Iowa last weekend.
Combined with QB Kain Colter, the two have rushed for over 1,600 yards and helped the Wildcats to the nation’s 13th-best rushing attack (236.4 yards per game).
Mark has the ability to hit the line-of-scrimmage like he was shot out of cannon. His explosion is magnified due to the defense having to stay home because of the threat of Colter on the option. Look for both Colter and Mark to leave Ann Arbor, win or lose, with a significant chunk of yardage under their belt.
Michigan Player to Watch: Denard Robinson, QB
Robinson sat out last week against Minnesota to rehab a hand injury from the Wolverines’ loss to Nebraska on October 27.
Without Robinson you saw a Michigan team that struggled to find its identity against the Cornhuskers. Sure, they beat up on the Golden Gophers without him last week, but that’s to be expected.
Robinson, when on the mark, is as dangerous a dual-threat quarterback as any. If you sleep on his passing ability he will make you pay for it after pounding the ball and luring your defense up toward the line of scrimmage.
Prediction: Michigan 27, Northwestern 21
Michigan won easily against Minnesota last week even without Robinson in commission. Backup Devin Gardner was good enough in relief duty for the injured Robinson against Nebraska two weeks ago. They won’t need to worry about that, though, because the speedy QB will be back for this big Big Ten matchup.
Northwestern has shown they are no longer the doormat of the Big Ten and can stay in the race for the Legends division crown with a win here. I think they’ll get come up just short, though, because the Wolverines’ have similar ambitions and have Robinson back in the lineup.
The Wildcats struggle in the Big Ten and haven’t been very impressive during any of their wins this season. They play down to teams and play everyone close. That favors the Wolverines and their highly explosive offense and much-improved defense.
Michigan is allowing just 16.8 points per game (13th in the nation).