Michigan vs. Northwestern: Preview and Prediction for Big Ten Clash

Tyler BrookeSenior Analyst IINovember 16, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 09:  Devin Gardner #98 of the Michigan Wolverines hands the ball off to Fitzgerald Toussaint #28 of the Michigan Wolverines in the first quarter against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Michigan Stadium on November 9, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines and Northwestern Wildcats will be going head-to-head in an important Big Ten clash Saturday, and both teams are really hoping for a win.

Heading into Saturday, Michigan and Northwestern are at the bottom of the Big Ten Legends division.  While teams like Iowa and Minnesota have usually been at the bottom in previous seasons, the landscape has changed quite a bit in 2013.

Below is a preview of both teams and what they've done this season, followed by a prediction for Saturday's big conference game.


Michigan Wolverines


ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 05: Quarterback Devin Gardner #98 of the Michigan Wolverines runs into the tunnel after the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan Stadium on October 5, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan defeated Minnesota 42-13.
Leon Halip/Getty Images

They may have looked like a legitimate contender in the Big Ten at the beginning of the season, but the Wolverines have had a rough run recently.

Over the past four games, Michigan has gone 1-3, with its one win coming against the Indiana Hoosiers, scoring 63 points in the process.  They have a 6-3 overall record, but they're also just 2-3 in the conference, with near losses to Akron and Connecticut.

Devin Gardner has had a very inconsistent run, recording four or five touchdowns in some games and then scoring none or one in others.  Overall, his season has been decent, recording over 2,600 total yards and 23 total touchdowns.  However, his 11 interceptions have really hurt this team, and the offense as a whole has to be smarter with the ball.

Defensively, this team isn't as good as they would like to be.  They've allowed 350.4 total yards and 25.9 points per game, and their opponents average 5.0 yards per play.

The expectations were high this season, but now the Wolverines are just trying to grab a couple of wins before their game against Ohio State.


Northwestern Wildcats

At one point they were ranked as high as No. 16 in the AP poll, but the Wildcats have completely fallen out of the rankings as of late.

After a 10-3 season in which Northwestern won the Gator Bowl, it is currently only 4-5 without a single win in the Big Ten.  They started the season with four solid wins, but everything went downhill after falling 40-30 to Ohio State, as they've lost every game since.  To make matters worse, they're coming off of a tough loss after a game-ending Hail Mary by Nebraska.

The combined rushing efforts of Treyvon Green and Kain Colter have been impressive, with the running back and quarterback doing a lot of things on the ground.  The two have carried the ball 94 times each, combining for 1,021 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The big issue for the Wildcats has been their defense, which has not played well.  Northwestern is allowing 417.8 yards and 26 points per game this season, and the lack of offense recently has kept the Wildcats from winning games.



LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 2: Running back Treyvon Green #22 of the Northwestern Wildcats storms through the Nebraska Cornhuskers defense during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 2, 2013 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Neither of these teams has played well recently, but I think it's time for the Wildcats to end their losing streak and get their first win of the Big Ten season.

Green, who is averaging 6.5 yards per carry, will need to get more than a few carries, as he's heading into this one after running for 149 yards and three touchdowns two weeks ago in their last game against Nebraska.

Gardner has a nasty habit of turning the ball over at bad times, and since the Wildcats have 18 total interceptions this season, I think that they will be able to frustrate Michigan's starting quarterback.

Northwestern is clearly disappointed with how this season has gone, but they have a chance to make up for it Saturday.

Prediction: Northwestern 30, Michigan 28