Friday, September 28, 2007

Michigan @ Northwestern Preview

Michigan hits the road for the first time this year as the Wolverines travel to Evanston to take on the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday. Game time is slated for 12:00 PM EST. You can listen to WCBN’s first ever road broadcast at and then clicking on the sports stream. The Big 10 Network will televise the game for those of you who are fortunate enough to actually get the BTN. On to the preview…

While both teams are unranked with 2-2 records, Michigan and Northwestern couldn’t come into this game any differently. After winning its first two games of the season against Northeastern and Nevada, Northwestern went on to lose to Duke and then get blown out last Saturday by Ohio State. Michigan on the other hand, suffered two bad losses to start the season before turning things around by shutting out Notre Dame and then upsetting #10 ranked Penn State.

Michigan Offense vs Northwestern Defense:

At Monday’s press conference, Lloyd Carr hinted that there was a possibility of Chad Henne returning to the starting lineup against Northwestern. Henne has been medically cleared, so now it just depends on when he feels ready to go. That being said, I expect Mallet to get the start against Northwestern with Henne being available if Mallet struggles. This is a good opportunity to get Mallet some game experience while also allowing Henne to get back to 100% before putting him back out on the field. Whichever quarterback starts, look for them to have success against a Wildcat secondary that ranks 10th in the Big 10 in Pass Defense and last with only two interceptions on the season.

Mike Hart enters the game 138 yards short of Anthony Thomas’s career rushing yardage record. While it would be nice to see him break this record at home next week, I don’t see the Northwestern defense holding Hart to his season low in rushing yardage. Ironically enough, Northwestern gives up 138.8 rushing yards per game. Hart is the nation’s leading rusher by over 100 yards with 655 yards on the year, an average of 164 per game. Tim McAvoy will most likely get the start at right guard with the injuries to Jeremy Ciulla and Alex Mitchell so look for even more of Mike Hart runs to the left side of the field. This also increases the odds from 97% to 99.9% that the first Michigan play of the game will be Mike Hart to the left.

Defensively for the Wildcats, it is possible that cornerback, Sherrick McManis might miss Saturday’s game with the concussion that he suffered last week against Ohio State. The entire secondary suffered against Ohio State giving up four touchdown passes on the day including two from over 40 yards. Maybe we’ll finally get to see Mario Manningham haul in a deep ball tomorrow.

Northwestern has struggled putting pressure on quarterbacks this year, ranking 10th in the Big 10 with just 4 sacks. For some perspective there, Brandon Graham has recorded 5 sacks just in the past two weeks. The Michigan offensive line should be able to give Mallet or Henne plenty of time, so watch for a breakout game, especially from Mallet who really caught fire in the second half of the Penn State game.

Edge: Michigan

Michigan Defense vs Northwestern Offense:

Northwestern will be much improved in this category with the return of RB, Tyrell Sutton from a sprained ankle, assuming he is 100%. Sutton was expected to play against Ohio State, but after the pre-game warm-ups he was unable to go. He should be back and healthy which would really give that Northwestern offense a spark it desperately needs. Sutton was averaging 4.5 yards per carry before his injury and has run for 1,000 yards in each of his previous two seasons.

Junior quarterback C.J. Bacher is in his third year as the Wildcat starter and runs a spread offense that we all know has troubled this Michigan defense. Bacher is not as mobile as either Dennis Dixon or Armanti Edwards who both gave Michigan all kinds of headaches with both their arms and legs. Bacher is still capable of scrambling if he’s forced out of the pocket so the Wolverines do need to be prepared for that possible rushing threat. On the year Bacher has thrown for 958 yards and run for another 136 (not counting his sacks). Ohio State was able to contain him last weekend, so hopefully Ron English and the Wolverine defense will pay close attention to those tapes.

The Michigan defense has been much improved in the past two weeks which may be correlated to not having to face a spread offense from Notre Dame nor Penn State. The secondary has played much better, led by Jamar Adams who broke up five passes last week, en route to the co-Big 10 defensive player of the week award. Morgan Trent is quietly having himself a great season as Michigan’s #1 cornerback. Donovan Warren continues to improve and did a good job last week where he shut down Derrick Williams. As mentioned previously, Brandon Graham has five sacks in his last two games and against a Northwestern offensive line that is dead last in the big 10 averaging three sacks against per game.

Edge: Slight edge for Northwestern...Michigan has yet to prove that they can stop a spread offense

Special Teams:

Amado Villarreal won the kicking job for Northwestern and is a perfect 4-4 for field goals with a long of 46 yards. He is also a perfect 10-10 on PAT’s. Punter Stefan Demos is averaging 36.8 yards per punt on the season. McManis was their lead kickoff returner, so if he is out look for Stephan Simmons, Simmons has only returned three kicks on the year, but one of those he took 99 yards for a touchdown. Michigan’s coverage has struggled at times this year, so he might get the chance for another big return.

Michigan also had a kicking competition before the season; however their winner is not having the same success as Villarreal. Jason Gingell is 3-7 on the year after missing his only attempt last week, a 29 yarder late in the second quarter. Gingell made his first two kicks of the year, but since then is only one of his last five. Zoltan Mesko has been the bright spot on special teams, averaging 42.3 yards per punt. Of his 19 punts, only 6 have been returnable.

Edge: Northwestern


Northwestern comes into this game off two straight bad losses against a Duke team that hadn’t won in its last 22 games and then a 58-7 demolition at the hands of Ohio State. They get Tyrell Sutton back which should provide a spark to their offense.

Michigan comes in riding high off a blowout win over Notre Dame and then a solid upset victory over Penn State. Michigan hasn’t been able to stop a spread offense all year. Michigan’s last two victories seem to have turned their season around and now have them looking towards a possible Big 10 Championship at the end of the year. With the two upset losses to start the season, we don’t have to worry about the players and coaches won’t overlooking Northwestern.

Edge: Michigan


Michigan continues to roll, winning this game 38-3. Chad Henne’s return is delayed another week and Ryan Mallet should find success against the depleted Wildcat secondary. Look for Mario Manningham to have his breakout game of the year. Mike Hart will pace the Wolverine offense yet again and by the end of the day, he should be Michigan’s career rushing leader.

Player of the game: Mike Hart: 150 yards, 2 TDs

Remember, you can listen to the game LIVE at by clicking on the link for the Sports Stream.


Anonymous said...
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Brian said...

I listened to your first road broadcast b/c I don't get the B10 (Jim Delaney) Network. I thought you guys did a good job and wanted to let you know. Thanks and GO BLUE!!!

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