Northwestern vs. Michigan: Complete Game Preview

Joel GreerCorrespondent INovember 8, 2012

Northwestern vs. Michigan: Complete Game Preview

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    The main question going into Saturday's matchup with Northwestern, of course, is whether Denard Robinson will start at quarterback. Robinson has been suffering from a nerve injury in his throwing elbow and missed much of the loss at Nebraska and all of the victory at Minnesota.

    Devin Gardner's inspiring performance against the Gophers makes one wonder that maybe Robinson shouldn't rush his return.  

    "Right now, if Denard is healthy, he'll start," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said during Monday's press conference. "We just want him to be healthy."

    Since then, there's been no news coming from Hoke concerning the quarterbacks.

    Regardless of the quarterback, Michigan (6-3, 4-1) could take a giant step forward in the tight Legends Division race by getting past Northwestern (7-2, 3-2).  

    The Wildcats feature an intriguing up-tempo offense, while at the same time, display a rather anemic defense.

    Northwestern's only marquee win was over Iowa (28-17), while its only losses were to Nebraska (29-28) and Penn State (39-28).

    Like most Big Ten teams, Northwestern has had little luck against Michigan. The Wolverines have won 28 of the last 32 meetings and are listed as 10-point favorites by USA Today .   

    Let's take a look at how Michigan might fare against the spread:

Game-Day Information

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    Who: Northwestern at Michigan

    When: Saturday, 12:01 p.m. (EST)

    Where: Ann Arbor, Mich.

    Stadium: Michigan Stadium (largest crowd: 114,804, September 10, 2011 versus Notre Dame)

    TV: ESPN

    Radio: Michigan IMG Sports Network

    Last Meeting: Michigan 42, Northwestern 24 (Oct. 8, 2011)

    Series Record: Michigan 53-15-2

Northwestern's Official Depth Chart

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    Offense 

    QB 2 Kain Colter 6-0, 190 Jr. 
    13 Trevor Siemian 6-3, 210 Soph. 

    RB 5 Venric Mark 5-8, 180 Jr.
    32 Mike Trumpy 6-1, 210 Jr.

    WR(H) 14 Christian Jones 6-3, 220 Soph.
    80 Mike Jensen 6-0, 180 Jr.

    WR(X) 6 Tony Jones 6-0, 185 Soph.
    21 Kyle Prater 6-5, 215 Soph.

    WR(Y) 8 Demetrius Fields 6-0, 205 Sr.
    11 Pierre Youngblood-Ary 6-3, 185 RFr. 

    WR(Z) 17 Rashad Lawrence 6-2, 195 Jr. 
    19 Cameron Dickerson 6-3, 200, RFr. 

    SB 40 Dan Vitale 6-2, 220 Fr.
    87 Brian Smith 6-7, 285 Jr. 

    LT 70 Patrick Ward 6-7, 310 Sr. 
    81 Paul Jorgensen 6-6, 295 Soph. 

    LG 72 Brian Mulroe 6-4, 295 Sr. 
    53 Geoff Mogus 6-5, 295 RFr. 

    66 Brandon Vitabile 6-3, 300 Soph. 
    65 Hayden Baker 6-2, 290 So. 

    RG 79 Neal Dieters 6-8, 315 Sr.
    57 Matt Frazier 6-4. 290 RFr.

    RT 75 Jack Konopka 6-5, 290 So.
    74 Chuck Porcelli 6-7, 315 Sr.)


    Defense 

    DE 97 Tyler Scott 6-4, 265 Soph. 
    98 Deonte Gibson 6-3, 255 RFr. 

    DT 91 Brian Arnfelt 6-5, 300 Sr. 
    99 Chance Carter 6-3, 270 Soph. 

    DT 67 Sean McEvilly 6-5, 290 Soph. 
    92 Will Hampton 6-3, 290 Jr.

    DE 88 Quentin Williams 6-4, 260 Jr.
    94 Dean Lowry 6-6 255, Fr. 

    SLB 44 Chi Chi Ariguzo 6-3, 220 Soph. 
    55 Drew Smith 6-2, 225 RFr. 

    WLB 33 David Nwabuisi 6-1, 240 Sr. 
    45 Collin Ellis 6-2, 230 Soph.

    MLB 46 Damien Proby 6-0, 235 Jr
    50 Timmy Vernon 6-3, 225 Jr. 

    CB 23 Nick VanHoose 6-0, 185 RFr. 
    22 Demetrius Dugar 5-11, 175 Sr. .

    CB 15 Daniel Jones 5-11, 170 Soph.
    31 Quinn Evans 5-10, 180 Sr.

    24 Ibraheim Campbell 5-11, 205 RFr. 
    16 Davion Fleming 5-10, 200 Jr. 

    27 Jared Carpenter 6-0, 205 Sr. . 
    10 Traveon Henry 6-1, 225 RFr. 

     
    Specialists 

    PK 37 Jeff Budzien 5-11, 165, Jr. 
    34 Steve Flaherty 6-1, 180 Sr. 

    49 Brandon Williams 6-2, 185 Jr. 
    31 Chris Gradone 6-2, 190 RFr. 

    KR 5 Venric Mark 5-8, 185, Jr. 

    PR 5 Venric Mark 5-8, 185, Jr

Michigan's Official Depth Chart

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    Offense

    WR 21 Roy Roundtree (6-0, 180, 5th Sr.)
    12 Devin Gardner (6-4, 203, Jr./Jr.) 
    83 Jerald Robinson (6-1, 215, Jr./So.)
    82 Amara Darboh (6-2, 220, Fr./Fr.)

    LT 77 Taylor Lewan (6-8, 309, Sr./Jr.)
    78 Erik Magnuson (6-6, 285, Fr./Fr.)

    LG 52 Ricky Barnum (6-3, 296, 5th Sr.)
    56 Joey Burzynski (6-1, 295, Jr./So.)
    67 Kyle Kalis (6-5, 294, Fr./Fr.)

    C 57 Elliott Mealer (6-5, 308, 5th Sr.)
    60 Jack Miller (6-4, 288, So./Fr.)

    RG 65 Patrick Omameh (6-4, 305, 5th Sr.)
    56 Joey Burzynski (6-1, 295, Jr./So.)

    RT 75 Michael Schofield (6-7, 300, Sr./Jr.)
    69 Erik Gunderson (6-8, 303, Sr./Jr.)
    71 Ben Braden (6-6, 308, Fr./Fr.)

    TE 81 Mike Kwiatkowski (6-5, 262, 5th Sr.) 
    19  Devin Funchess (6-4, 229, Fr./Fr.)
    84 A.J. Williams (6-6, 283, Fr./Fr.) 
    87 Brandon Moore (6-5, 268, 5th Sr.)

    WR 10 Jeremy Gallon (5-8, 187, Sr./Jr.)
    9 Drew Dileo (5-10, 180, Jr./Jr.)
    17 Jeremy Jackson (6-3, 204, Jr./Jr.)

    QB 16 Denard Robinson (6-0, 197, Sr./Sr.)
    8 Russell Bellomy (6-3, 202, So./Fr.)
    12 Devin Gardner (6-4, 203, Jr./Jr.)

    FB 33 Stephen Hopkins (6-0, 240, Jr./Jr.)
    36 Joe Kerridge (6-0, 244, So./Fr.)
    31 Paul Gyarmati (6-1, 234, 5th Sr.)

    RB 28 Fitzgerald Toussaint (5-10, 202, Sr./Jr.)
    38 Thomas Rawls (5-10, 218, So./So.) 
    2 Vincent Smith (5-6, 175, Sr./Sr.)
    5 Justice Hayes (5-10, 183, So./Fr.)

     

    Defense

    DE 57 Frank Clark (6-2, 262, So./So.)
    97 Brennen Beyer (6-3, 252, So./So.)
    53 Mario Ojemudia (6-2, 231, Fr./Fr.)

    DT 73 Will Campbell (6-5, 308, Sr./Sr.)
    55 Jibreel Black (6-2, 279, Jr./Jr.)

    NT 76 Quinton Washington (6-4, 300, Sr./Jr.)
    56 Ondre Pipkins (6-3, 340, Fr./Fr.)
    54 Richard Ash (6-3, 300, Jr./So.)

    DE 88 Craig Roh (6-5, 281, Sr./Sr.)
    92 Keith Heitzman (6-3, 270, So./Fr.)

    SLB 47 Jake Ryan (6-3, 242, Jr./So.)
    4 Cam Gordon (6-3, 236, Sr./Jr.)

    MLB 25 Kenny Demens (6-1, 242, 5th Sr.)
    35 Joe Bolden (6-3, 223, Fr./Fr.)
    27 Mike Jones (6-2, 226, Sr./Jr.)

    WLB 48 Desmond Morgan (6-1, 227, So./So.)
    15 James Ross III (6-1, 225, Fr./Fr.)
    7 Brandin Hawthorne (6-0, 220, Sr./Sr.)

    LCB 6 Raymon Taylor (5-10, 182, So./So.)
    5 Courtney Avery (5-11, 173, Jr./Jr.)
    13 Terry Richardson (5-9, 162, Fr./Fr.)

    SS 32 Jordan Kovacs (6-0, 202, Sr./Jr.)
    3 Marvin Robinson (6-2, 200, So./So.)
    23 Floyd Simmons (6-0, 200, 5th Sr.)

    FS 30 Thomas Gordon (5-11, 207, Sr./Jr.)
    22 Jarrod Wilson (6-2, 194, Fr./Fr.)
    14 Josh Furman (6-2, 203, Jr./So.)

    RCB 8 J.T. Floyd (6-0, 183, 5th Sr.)
    6 Raymon Taylor (5-10, 182, So./So.)
    24 Delonte Hollowell (5-9, 176, So./So.)

     

    Specialists

    PK 34 Brendan Gibbons (6-1, 230, Sr./Jr.)
    45 Matt Wile (6-2, 214, So./So.)

    P 43 Will Hagerup (6-4, 227, Jr./Jr.)
    45 Matt Wile (6-2, 214, So./So.)

    LS 54 Jareth Glanda (6-3, 260, Sr./Jr.)
    94 Curt Graman (6-5, 205, Sr./Jr.)

    KO 45 Matt Wile (6-2, 214, So./So.)
    46 Seth Broekhuizen (6-1, 205, Sr./Jr.)

    PR 10 Jeremy Gallon (5-8, 187, Sr./Jr.)
    26 Dennis Norfleet (5-7, 161, Fr./Fr.)

    KR 26 Dennis Norfleet (5-7, 161, Fr./Fr.)
    2 Vincent Smith (5-6, 175, Sr./Sr.)
    14 Josh Furman (6-2, 203, Jr./So.)

What's at Stake

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    Nebraska can win the Legends Division by simply winning its last three games (Penn St., Minnesota, at Iowa). 

    Michigan can win the division if it wins its last three games (Northwestern, Iowa, at Ohio St.), AND Nebraska loses at least one of its final three. 

    Northwestern must win its final three games (at Michigan, at Michigan St., Illinois), AND Nebraska must lose two of its final three games.  

     

    Legends Division

    Conference

     

    Overall

     

    Record

     

     

     

    Record

     

    Nebraska

    4-1

     

     

     

    7-2

     

    Michigan

    4-1

     

     

     

    6-3

     

    Northwestern

    3-2

     

     

     

    7-2

     

    Iowa

    2-3

     

     

     

    4-5

     

    Michigan State

    2-4

     

     

     

    5-5

     

    Minnesota

    1-4

     

     

     

    5-4

     

How Northwestern Got Here

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    Due to a lingering injury to quarterback Dan Persa, Northwestern suffered through a disappointing 2011 campaign (6-7, 3-5). 

    The 2012 season began on a much brighter note. 

    Two quarterbacks fought for the starting job while a tiny running back burst on the scene in a 42-41 season-opening win at Syracuse. 

    As this season heads down the stretch, it appears that Kain Colter has finally beaten out Trevor Siemian for the starting QB slot. 

    Venric Mark, a 5'8", 180-lb. junior, returned his second punt of the season for a touchdown along with gaining more than 1,000 yards on the ground.

    No. 24 Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) opened the season with five-straight victories and remains a contender for the Legends Division title.  

Key Matchup: Michigan Defense vs. Northwestern Offense

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    During the second season of Brady Hoke's regime, Michigan has once again assembled a superb defensive unit.   

    Michigan ranks No. 1 in the country in pass defense (145.4 yards per game), No. 7 in total defense (288.7) and No. 13 in scoring defense (16.8).

    Northwestern, with a talented dual-threat quarterback in Kain Coulter, and a dangerous running back in Venric Mark, will present a legitimate challenge to the Wolverines.

    Coulter, who has battled with passing expert Trevor Siemian over the quarterback duties, has rushed for 622 yards and 11 touchdowns, while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes.

    Mark, a 5'10", 180-lb. junior, looks like a shoo-in for all-Big Ten honors. He's gained 1,072 yards in just nine games, while also returning two punts for touchdowns.

Northwestern Player to Watch: Venric Mark

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    It's only taken nine games to do it, but speedster Venric Mark has become Northwestern's first 1,000 yards rusher since Tyrell Sutton in 2006.

    Originally recruited as a 2-star wide receiver, the 5'8", 180-lb. junior has also been a surprise as a punt returner this season. With 4.45 speed, Mark was able to return a punt 82 yards for a touchdown in a 42-41 season opening win at Syracuse and 75 yards for a score in a 39-28 loss at Penn State.

    For the season, Mark has 1,072 rushing yards with nine touchdowns and a 6.5 yards-per-carry average.  

    Mark should be a stern test for the Wolverines, but remember that Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, LeVeon Bell, Ameer Abdullah and Donnell Kirkwood had only limited success against them.

Michigan Player to Watch: Kenny Demens

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    He doesn't get the publicity like sack masters Jordan Kovacs or Jake Ryan, but fifth-year senior Kenny Demens has quietly become one of Michigan's top defenders.

    From his middle (Mike) linebacker position, Demens led the Wolverines last season with 94 tackles and is near the top again this season with 58.

    Demens, who prepped at nearby Detroit Country Day, has started every game the last two seasons. 

    He'll have his hands full with speedy halfback Venric Mark and dual-threat quarterback Kain Colter in Northwestern's up-tempo no-huddle attack.

    Of course, this is nothing new to Demens, who's been facing a similar offense every day in practice for the last four seasons.  

Prediction

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    Since Pat Fitzgerald became the head coach in 2006, Northwestern has gone 22-11 in games decided by seven points or less.

    Fitzgerald and his staff are hoping the recent 29-28 loss to Nebraska isn't the beginning of a new trend, but he needn't worry about Saturday's game with Michigan.

    The Wolverines defense will show why it's ranked No. 1 in the nation in pass defense and No. 7 in total defense.  Like it did against Notre Dame and Michigan State, Michigan will hold Northwestern's running game in check, whether it comes from tiny scat back Venric Mark or quarterback Kain Colter.

    In fact, look for passing quarterback Trevor Siemian to enter the game midway in the third quarter in hopes of erasing a sizable deficit.

    Either Denard Robinson or Devin Gardner will easily solve Northwestern's mediocre pass defense. If Robinson starts, Michigan will have to solve Northwestern's solid rush defense. But Robinson will complete enough passes and break off a few runs to open things up. In last year's 42-24 victory, Robinson passed for 337 yards and rushed for 117.

    If Gardner starts, look for him to throw for at least 250 yards.

    In either case, Michigan will summon another 100 yards from the tailback position, as Fitz Toussaint or Thomas Rawls will finally break loose.

    Michigan 27, Northwestern 13.