Rutgers is in for yet another steep challenge as they welcome the #4 Michigan Wolverines to Piscataway on Saturday. Let’s see what these Wolverines are all about.
Ranking: #4 (AP) | #4 (Coaches)
Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh (15-3)
2016 Record: 5-0 (2-0)
Current Streak: W6
SB Nation Site: Maize N Brew
One Big Thing
In the newest AP Poll, Washington is ranked #5. This means Michigan will be the third top-5 team Rutgers has faced in the past 6 weeks. I’m not a statistics guy but I’d like to know the last time a team a team played 3 top-5 teams all in the first half of the season. Coming off a 58-0 loss to #2 Ohio State, it will be interesting to see how the Scarlet Knights respond against the 4th-ranked Wolverines.
Opponent Depth Chart
There is no depth chart for Michigan because Jim Harbaugh is anal.
Stable of running backs
Michigan is a power running team and will hit Rutgers with four different backs.De’Veon Smith is the leading rusher in terma of yards but the touchdowns are split about even between those four backs. However, there is another element in fullback Khalid Hill. He leads the team with 5 rushing touchdowns this year on only 11 carries. This means every other time he carries the ball, it is a touchdown. They will also show a wildcat set with Jabrill Peppers playing “QB” running the read option. Quarterback WIlton Speight is a game manager but does not make mistakes and has yet to run the ball once this year.
TE Jake Butt
Go ahead and laugh at his name, but he is no joke. Butt is easily one of the best tight ends in the country and is the perfect weapon for WIlton Speight. The senior from Ohio has the ability to take over a game if needed. Simply put, Michigan has been so dominant that they haven’t had to throw the ball too much. Look for Michigan to get him the ball early and establish a passing game early that the Rutgers defense will have to respect.
Key Defensive Players
CB Jourdan Lewis
Desmond King is the best cover corner in the B1G, but Lewis is a close seconds. Lewis’ effectiveness is demonstrated by his lack of stats. He only has 6 tackles because very rarely does a receiver in his area make a catch. He also only has one interception since quarterbacks tend to avoid him. His one interception, though, was absolutely unbelievable.
LB Jabrill Peppers
You can’t write about Michigan and not talk about Peppers. I’ll be honest, I don’t like him and I think he gets too much hype. Granted, I spent my first two years of high school watching him carry Paramus Catholic 100% by himself past my St Peter’s Prep Marauders. I will give him credit where it is due, he is an elite linebacker. Through only 5 games, and 3 blowouts nonetheless, he already has 9.5 TFLs. However, he is not a Heisman contender and it is sickening when people compare him to Charles Woodson. He is a dominant defender, but does not have a receiving yard this year, has yet to crack 30 yards rushing, has only returned one kick for a score in his career, and has yet to even intercept a pass. Rutgers running back Justin Goodwin has more career interceptions. True freshman KJ Gray has more interceptions in just 4 career games. Getting back on track, he is a problem on defense. Rutgers has to game plan around him because he is so explosive and is stronger than the offensive line will expect him to be. His time from linebacker to the backfield has got to be the fastest in the country so Rutgers will need to run quicker developing plays and not near him. Or, they could run the ball right at him and force him to make plays, although I don’t think we’d win that one.
Why they are better than Rutgers
Michigan has always been recruiting at a higher level than Rutgers and there will be similar talent gap like what we saw against Ohio State. They are also better coached at the moment and are coming off a big win against then #8 Wisconsin. They have a good offense and an incredible defense. Additionally, like all good teams Rutgers faces, they are very good on special teams. Their only weakness is some uncertainty at placekicker.
A few more notes
- Starting LT and Lawrenceville Prep graduate Grant Newsome is out for the year with a knee injury. He will be replaced by Paramus Catholic product Juwann Bushell-Beatty
- Jabrill Peppers, who scored an offensive TD last year against Rutgers, has been sticking to defense and returning. It will be interesting to see if Harbuaugh unleashes him
- There are 9 New Jersey natives on the roster
- The Michigan linebackers/special teams coach is not very well liked among Rutgers fans
Stay tuned for even more game content, including roundtable predictions from the OTB staff as well as an official game preview later this week!