Northwestern Wildcats Week 6 Preview

Overview:

  • Northwestern has not had an easy time running the ball this year, although they are ranked 58th in rushing yards per game. Their top back Mike Trumpy is out for the season and their leading rusher QB Kain Colter will not see the field as much with Dan Persa’s return.
  • Persa was sharp in his return last week going 10-14 with 4 Tds.
  • Persa’s return may be the shot in the arm the Northwestern Passing offense needs, even with last week’s performance NW ranks at only 48th in the nation in passing yards.
  • Northwestern started off the season with what seemed to be a good win against Boston College (who turned out to be WAY over-rated) but have lost 2 straight to Army and Illinois.
  • A lot of the wildcats troubles come from their defense(77th nationally) who have had a lot of trouble stopping the pass(BC 375 and Ill 391 Yards) and stopping the run(EIU 320 and Army 381 rushing yards).

Key Match-ups:

The Michigan Defense Vs. A Recovering Dan Persa – Although not 100% yet, Persa is a threat whenever he has the ball. Looking at his first week back against Illinois this polished passer had no rust to shake off with a solid 10-14 with 123 yards and 4 TDs. But this is a new brand of Michigan defense and they will not have as difficult time stopping this offense as some think. For one, the rushing game has taken a big hit no matter how you look at it with NW’s 2 top rusher not playing much Saturday(if at all) it will really make NW’s offense one dimensional. And don’t look for Persa to fill the shoes in the running game as I’m sure that the coaches will want to protect his still healing Achilles. With the Wildcats forced to throw, look for Michigan to bring the heat, in one game the NW offensive line has already let Persa get sacked 4 times and look for Michigan to keep the pressure going. Persa will have a long day trying to throw the ball and while WR Jeremy Ebert has come on the last 2 games with 5 TDs, the 6-0  receiver has not been consistent enough to give the Wolverines secondary too much trouble. With the situation the way it is for NW, Michigan’s defense will be able to contain Persa and continue to sniff out turnovers.

The Michigan Offense Vs. Themselves – Look for this copout matchup to be used a few times for the rest of the season. Why? Because this offense is incredible and has all the tools to put points on any team in the country, the only thing that can stop them is the mistakes they make themselves. Playing against a team like NW, if your team is a good passing team like Illinois, they put up big numbers passing; if your team runs well like Army they will be able to trample the wildcats. It is because NW has not proved to stop either (passing or running), I expect Michigan to do what they do best run the ball with Fitz, Smith, and of course Drob. But NW will anticipate this forcing an already weak defense to load the box which will give Laces and the WRs open opportunities to continue advancing in the passing game.  Because of this I do expect both aspects of the offense to continue to improve.

Final Thoughts:

The Wolverines first road game and against a gritty Northwestern team; is this the first real challenge? In some ways it will be a gut check for this high flying Wolverines team but when you look at the body of work for the Maize and Blue so far this may not be as hard a challenge as many anticipate. With the NW wildcats forced into a pass happy offense, Michigan’s defense will be able to focus on Persa and limit the damage he can cause. On the other side of the ball Drob and the Wolverines will continue to put up big numbers against a Defense that has had trouble all season against the run and the pass. Look for Michigan to cruise to another easy victory Saturday night.

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