Rutgers faces their third top 5 opponent of the season tomorrow night at home against #4 Michigan. After getting demoralized last weekend against #2 Ohio State, it is going to be interesting to see how this team responds. The crowd should be fired up and the atmosphere should be electric. However, nothing will suck the life out of the home field like a poor start to the game. Rutgers needs to build some early momentum to have any shot in making this a close game. Let’s take a look at what to expect and hope for in tomorrow’s game.
#4 Michigan At Rutgers
Location: High Point Solutions Stadium
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: WFAN 101.9 FM/ 660 AM
Line: Michigan -30
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Michigan: Starting left tackle Grant Newsome suffered a season ending injury against Wisconsin.
Rutgers: Starting safety Kiy Hester and starting left tackle Tariq Cole are questionable for tomorrow’s game. Linebacker Greg Jones is doubtful, but Saquan Hampton is looking like he will play for the first time since the opening game against Washington, which is key with Hester listed as questionable.
The Tale of the Tape
Other than Michigan holding a kicking competition this week to determine who will start against Rutgers, there aren’t a lot of question marks regarding the Wolverines. Losing Newsome certainly is a factor, but he is replaced by fellow Jersey native Juwann Bushell-Beatty, who played against Wisconsin.
Michigan has the top rated defense in S&P+ in the country and allow just over 12 points a game. They have 20 sacks and will put a tremendous amount of pressure on the offensive line of Rutgers. For Chris Laviano to have any chance of being effective, the line must have a strong game protecting their quarterback. Establishing the run with Robert Martin is key as well, and he ran for 81 yards on 10 carries, including a 54 yard run against Michigan last season.
Wilton Speight has been solid as a first year starter at quarterback for Michigan and has been highly accurate in the second half of games this season. Cornerback Jabrill Peppers is one of the most versatile players in college football and will look to make an impact on special teams, as well possibly appearing on offense, aside from his defensive responsibilities.
How Rutgers wins
Rutgers will need to play as close to a perfect game as possible. Michigan needs to start slow in their first road game of the season. The RU defense will need to turn in a retro 2012-esque performance, putting constant pressure on Speight and forcing several turnovers. They will need to score early and keep the crowd in a frenzy, which I expect the home faithful to be at kickoff. Martin needs to equal his rushing performance against New Mexico, Jawuan Harris needs to come of age with a monster game, and Chris Laviano needs to put it all together once and for all. So yeah, everything right needs to happen.
How Michigan wins
The defense thwarts Rutgers, forcing multiple short drives and dominating field position and time of possession. Speight has plenty of time to operate and carves up the Rutgers defense, getting the ball consistently to his playmakers. Tight End Jake Butt dominates the soft middle of the Rutgers defense, who gets worn down again due to the lack of efficiency from the offense. It’s Ohio State all over again.
I'm cautiously optimistic that the Rutgers defense will put up a respectable performance and keep the score somewhat close in the first half. It's the first home game at night of the season and first ever "Stripeout" this weekend, so the crowd should be fired up. If Martin can bust a long run or two early, hopefully they can get a few points on the board to gain some confidence. Either way, Michigan has an elite defense and far too much talent for Rutgers to compete for 60 minutes. I fear Harbaugh will look to embarrass Rutgers in front of so many New Jersey recruits and run up the score as much as possible. I think both scenarios work out to some degree and Michigan wins it going away 42-10.