Rutgers faces a tall task heading into the Big House on Homecoming against a Michigan team out for blood after an embarrassing loss to Penn State last weekend. The Wolverines are favored by 23.5 points as of Friday morning in what is actually a battle for fourth place in the Big Ten East. Our staff got together to give thoughts on how this game may play out. None of us see a repeat of last season’s 78-0 debacle, but how optimistic are we about this game? Let’s kick it off.
Aaron Breitman: I'm excited to see how Rutgers fares defensively and on special teams in this game, because those two units are greatly improved. As for the offense, it's fair to question whether they'll be able to muster any points in this game. They were able to score two touchdowns against a Washington defense currently ranked #2 in S&P+, but they punted 12 times and went three and out nine times against Purdue, who last time I checked don't have as strong a defense as Michigan. Coming into this game, Rutgers has nothing to lose and I hope they come out and play that way. They'll need to play with poise and be mistake free to have a chance to make this a game. I think Rutgers will play relatively well early on and ultimately get worn down by Michigan’s talent and depth in the second half. I think fans of the home team who are knowledgeable and fair will come away realizing Rutgers is getting better, although there is still a long way to go. But after last season’s embarrassment against Michigan, any period of competitive play in this game is progress. I think we will see some. Michigan 27 Rutgers 7
TJ Jurkiewicz: TWO. IN. A. ROW! Wow. The Scarlet Knights are on a Big Ten winning streak! I’m starting to get excited about watching Rutgers games again but now comes the tall order of going into the Big House against a reeling Michigan Wolverines squad. Michigan trounced us in Piscataway last year 78-0 and you have to believe we will be fired up to extract at least some sort of revenge in this game. The Wolverines are reeling a bit after having their season goals flushed down the toilet and getting absolutely embarrassed by Penn State last week in Happy Valley. I think Rutgers comes out in this game and keeps it respectable which would be a big step up from how we usually look against the big boys. The number looks about right to me as I could see Michigan pulling away very late to win by more than 24 but I think a safe bet is taking under 44 here. I just don’t see how the Rutgers offense that I’ve watched this season can put up enough points on the road in this spot. Michigan 31 Rutgers 7
Dave White: Michigan is struggling this year. Their offense isn't moving the ball and they're a pretty young team. Rutgers, however, is rolling and we are starting to see the seeds of the Ash rebuild slowly starting to pay off. Sure, Rutgers needs to recruit more offensive talent and more defensive depth, but they are starting to know what it feels like to win. But is that enough against a team, in one of the best venues in the conference, who drubbed them 78-0 last year? Probably not. Michigan's rebuilding year doesn't match up with Rutgers rebuilding--the Maize and Blue are restocking and resetting. So, will things be as bad as last year? I think that's very unlikely. This is a defensive match-up and I think Michigan still has more. It won't be close, but it won't be 2016 ugly. Michigan 35 Rutgers 0
David Anderson: Michigan has a good defense, probably a great defense. I think Rutgers will be hard pressed to score unless Jerry Kill comes up with something we haven’t seen before. The Knights offense just feels to be getting worse rather than better, though Raheem Blackshear is so explosive he could wreak havoc. Will the staff save his wrinkles for the Maryland game? Rutgers offense proved me right last week, but the defense proved me wrong. The game plan seemingly out of nowhere was great but that won’t work against Michigan. The Wolverines are a run first, run second team and eventually will wear down the Knights. Michigan 35, Rutgers 10
Pete Winter: Who would have guessed that Michigan and Rutgers would be tied in the Big Ten East standings entering this game? The Wolverines have struggled in the month of October, losing two out of three games and barely slipping past Indiana in overtime. Rutgers, on the other hand, has put together their first Big Ten winning streak. It wasn’t pretty against Purdue last week, but the Knights found a way to come out on top. That being said, I think Michigan is ready to turn the corner on their Homecoming weekend. Their Quarterback play has been shaky at best, and I think John O’Korn will struggle again on Saturday, but the running game should wear down the Scarlet Knight defense. Rutgers keeps it close for a half, but Michigan eventually pulls away. Michigan 37 Rutgers 10
Jim Hoffman: I read all the stuff this week on how we are tied for 4th place in the Big Ten East, how we have similar conference records, and I just shake my head. Our two wins were against the demonstrably two worst programs in the Big Ten, and have been for a long while. Michigan, meanwhile, has lost to Michigan State and Penn State. Michigan’s annual game with the Spartans is one of those that you throw out the record book when they play, because records become meaningless in those type of rivalries. Penn State is #2 in the country. Not quite the same magnitude of opponents.
Michigan has a strong defense, and our offense is questionable at best. Their offense is stronger than ours, and stronger than Illinois and Purdue as well. So, expect them to be able to score, as well as stop us from doing so. Will it be as bad as last year’s 78-0 debacle? Holy cow, I sure hope not, and I don’t expect it to be as bad. However, while this is a game that is not un-winnable, it is close to it. Michigan 42 Rutgers 3
Mike Voza: I am looking forward to this match up to get a real good measuring stick of the Scarlet Knight progress and improvement from last season to the present as well as from game one of this year. We all know what happened against the Wolverines last season so at worst Rutgers should be closer and more competitive even if the game is in "The Big House". More importantly I am interested to see if the previous 2 victories against lesser teams from the west division can be validated.
The Michigan offensive can be very conservative and at times out right bad. Many will say the same about the Rutgers offense. Both defenses have been pretty good this season. This should keep the game relatively close and probably played between the 30 yard lines, heck may between the 40's. Special Teams will be very important this week with field position and made/missed field goals being highly important. Fall weather has arrived in the Great Lakes Region with a slight chance for a little drizzle in the early morning hours, game time temperatures in the low 40's and winds up to 25 mph.
This is your classic formula for a very low scoring game that lends itself to a major upset. Vegas says more than a three touchdown difference. I can see a old school slug-fest that goes back and forth with many twists and turns. I see the Knights being very competitive and will have a chance to win the game but I am stopping short of picking an upset that would make the season for many programs in the country. Michigan 16 Rutgers 13, Oh so close.
Bob Cancro: If anyone has seen Mike Voza’s meds, please return them. He clearly is in need of them.
Khaki pants. I like them and wear them often. So does Jim Harbaugh. And there the similarity ends. But I digress.
Michigan is not Ohio State. Nor is it Penn State. We aren’t Penn State either. Like others here, I’m interested in seeing what kind of progress we’ve made. This Rutgers team is light years ahead of last year, but at least a couple thousand miles behind Big Blue. This ain’t your Brady Hoke’s Michigan squad, but they aren’t being confused with Bo Schembechler’s either.
RU will play decently and be respectable until the talent difference kicks in, maybe at the half. I really don’t see (I hope) a repeat of the humongous blowout of last year. I think defense will be pretty good and offense will struggle, especially if Gio is dinged up. If we cover the spread I’d be very happy as well as pretty surprised. Michigan 34 Rutgers 6
Cara Sanfilippo: I’ve thought a lot about this matchup, especially given as Bob mentioned all of our articles about our similar records. Listen, I am glad anyone gives Rutgers a nod, but I would be hard pressed to say we could pull an upset, or really close game with Michigan. I really dislike Jim Harbaugh, almost as much as I dislike James Franklin and Penn State even though one of my closest friends went there. I forgive her. I watched that game last week trying to determine who I wanted to lose more, and came out with the answer that I wished they both could lose. I digress (slightly), but given that Penn State humiliated the egotistical Harbaugh last week, he is going to be out to give Rutgers a whooping and prove his worth. He is going to (1) go for style points, and (2) try to embarrass us as much as possible and run up the score however he can. Ugh, now I’m just firing myself up more. I agree Rutgers has gained confidence, and has nothing to lose by opening up the playbook. I hope Kill agrees with that strategy, and we can try to get some points on the board. I hope Gio and Grant are healthy and we can see them be the explosive players we have seen them to be at times. I think defense will hold it closer than Jim predicts, and that Anderson and Davidovicz will help us to hold the Wolverines to a deeper field position than last’s year’s atrociousness. Their kicker Quinn Nordin is great, has a long of 55 yards, and has made 2⁄3 attempts at 50+ yards. That will help the Wolverines immensely even if defense is able to hold them to a field goal attempt. While I wish more than anything in the world that we could pull and upset in The Big House, and belittle Harbaugh down to the little man that he is, I cannot do that with sound mind. Even if we are unpredictable at first on offense and score some points, I think the Michigan defense will adjust and some three and outs will eventually tire out our much-improved defense by keeping them on the field too long. Michigan 37, Rutgers 17
Patrick Mella: I searched for some possible way I could see this game being competitive but the more factors I added up that aren’t in Rutgers favor, the more I think this is a horrible match up for Rutgers. I’m hoping the momentum they have from the last two weeks will allow them to cover the spread but it’s not looking good. The fact that Rutgers struggled to run the ball last week versus Purdue to me is a bad sign of things to come this week. Michigan is third in the Big Ten in rush defense, an area that Rutgers’ entire offense is centered around. If they’re unable to run the ball effectively, winning not just this week but for the rest of the season becomes a very difficult task. Michigan’s pass defense is number one in the Big Ten, something Rutgers won’t look to test anyways but it is a reflection of how good overall this defense is. On offense Michigan is shaky at quarterback but like Rutgers they rely on their rushing game to put up points. Rutgers struggled last week allowing Purdue to rush for 271 yards. I think Michigan will look to wear out the defense, especially if Rutgers’ offense struggles putting together lengthy drives. My hopes are that Rutgers can get a quick score and take out the crowd early but It’s tough task for this team against a very good defense.
Overall, this is just a bad match up for Rutgers not only because it’s on the road but they’re also facing a Michigan team that got embarrassed last week by Penn State. Don’t expect any mercy from them this week. This all leads me to believe this game won’t be pretty. I truly believe there are games left on this schedule to be had for Rutgers but this week is not one of them. Michigan 52 Rutgers 7
David Brown: After the 78-0 blowout in 2016, I thought Michigan will be a reign of terror for the next decade. However, Michigan has shown some vulnerability in the last few games. They lost to Michigan State, went to OT with Indiana, and lost to Penn State in what was an old fashioned butt whooping. This team isn’t as powerful like in 2016, when Jabrill Peppers was dismantling Rutgers every time he had the football. The Wolverines have a plethora of injuries, including their starting QB Wilton Speight. The backup quarterback John O’Korn hasn’t played well since he was put into the lineup. He is the same QB who played at Houston that threw for 24/30 364 and 5 TD’s in 2013 when Rutgers loss 45-14. Nonetheless, times does change and O’Korn isn’t playing like his Houston Cougar days.
I expect a similar type of game that Michigan had against Michigan State. It will be sloppy, gritty, and turnovers. Rutgers is a 23.5 point underdog and it’s homecoming for Michigan. The expectation for victory is a foregone conclusion for the fans and team in Ann Arbor. However, I think this game will be closer than what Las Vegas and experts predicted. I see this game competitive in the first half. Rutgers winning back to back games was a huge deal. It created great morale and some positivity for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers will play like that have nothing to lose and will surprise the Wolverines for the majority of the game. However, I do think Michigan will bounce back from that embarrassing loss in Happy Valley and win the game. Rutgers will play respectable though. Michigan 30 Rutgers 16
As a group, our average pick was Michigan 34, Rutgers 9. Are we being too negative or just realistic? How do you think this game will play out? Let us know in the comment section.