Pregame Intel: NU vs Michigan

Pregame Intel: NU vs Michigan

This one looks like it could be a dandy -<br> <br> + <b>Northwestern</b>'s Spread against <b>Michigan</b>'s fast, tough defense.<br> + <b>Michigan</b>'s NFL bound wide receiver against <b>NU</b>'s resurgent pass Defense<br> + A matchup between an experienced running back and a freshman phenom, both averaging lots of yards a game.<br> <br> Grab hold fans - this one could be really good...<br>

The Michigan media will suggest that the Wolverine's success this year could be traced to 3 seniors' desire to spend one more year wearing Blue and Gold.
WR Braylon Edwards, CornerBack Marlin Jackson and Center David Baas all had a chance to head for the NFL, but chose to remain.

is to the UM passing game what Taylor Stubblefield is to Purdue's. He's the Big 10's reception leader - averaging 14.4 yards per catch. He should go over 1,000 yards for the 3rd time with his first catch Saturday and could wind up in the Heisman hunt - he's that good.

David Baas started the season at guard, but moved over to center in game 4. The Wolverines have had a decent running game ever since - their average game rushing has jumped almost 50 yards a game from 106 to almost 183.

Then there's Marlin Jackson - the terror of the defensive backfield. He's got 31 pass breakups this year, and so far teams throw 88% of their passes away from him.

This is their last game in the Big House - their challenge is to hold down their emotions, and play their game against the Wildcats.

But the game may come down to a pair of running backs.
Tailback Mike Hart had wanted to be the guy who broke Barry Sanders' single season rushing record - forget that Sanders did that at Oklahoma State [2628 yds in 1988], he's trying to do the same in Ann Arbor against Big 10 defenses.

So far he's racked up 1,145 yards. Not bad for a small kid, originally from a small town in upstate New York, who most thought wouldn't be able to stand the pounding of the Big 10. After his first visit to Michigan he had this to say to one of his best friends at home, "Just give me three or four games, and I'll be starting."

He is.

NU's entry in this is Noah Herron, from Michigan. Originally recruited by the Wolverines, he decided that he'd rather take his chances as a running back at NU than be the fullback at UM.  All we've seen from the Michigan fans is how Noah wouldn't be near the field in Ann Arbor.

But that's the stuff that drives the NU back. If you read all his quotes, and listen to his interviews, you can sense that Saturday is payback time for all the slights from his home state.

You can tell when Herron is getting ready to go - his face changes. Watch the closeups in the huddle. Suddenly Herron has that "iceman" look, and the ypc starts to climb. He's got 1,38 yards, averaging 5.1 per carry, 115.3 per game with 11 TDs.

But maybe the running back contest comes down to NU's O-Line vs UM's O-Line, who moves the meat the best.

Last week NU fans saw guards Matt Ulrich and Ikechuku Ndukwe leading the charge through the middle. We've called that the "bulldozer," and when that gets going, its a long day for the other guy's defense. NU's averaged 167.1 yards per game, while holding the other guys to 135.3.

Carr Worried about His Defense
We've got to be better against the run. I think that's where defensive football starts and that's certainly where we want to be - Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr - Monday Press Conference

In Michigan's last game, another spread team, Michigan State ran up 368 yards. The Wolves's D finally held, but there were some moments. Michigan is ranked 17th in total defense, and 18th in run. NU has beaten the #12 [Penn State] and #30 [Purdue] defenses in recent weeks.

Another unspoken worry has to be the sheer number of receivers NU brings to the game. Other teams throw away from UM's Jackson - NU has enough weapons to make that a problem for the Michigan backfield.

In addition, Carr reportedly has been studying NU vs Ohio State looking for keys to NU's D. But the missing ingredient against OSU was Junior DE Loren Howard. He'll play Saturday.

Things to do against Michigan:
  • Get the Bulldozer [or is it road grader] going and get Noah another 175+ yard game.
  • Pressure the frosh QB.
  • Play our stingy run defense for the 3rd week.
  • Keep the UM passing game off balance with the kinds of things we did against Purdue.
Both teams are playing for bowl position and technically for a share of the Big 10 Title - but neither team has to have the game to get eligible. It should be a dandy.

The Game is on ABC Regional -  in Chicago is WLS-TV - It starts at 11 AM [Wildcat Time] and will also be on WGN [and WNUR].

We'll be chatting at the same spot

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