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Game #8 Preview: Rutgers At Michigan

Includes how to watch, advanced stats, and keys to the game

Purdue v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

How To Watch, Stream & Listen

Rutgers (3-4; 2-2) At Michigan (5-2; 2-2)

Where: Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Capacity 109,901)

Kick-off: Saturday, October 28th at noon ET

TV: Big Ten Network - Kevin Kugler, Matt Millen, and Elise Menaker

Stream: BTN2GO

Radio: Rutgers IMG Sports Network with Chris Carlin, Ray Lucas, and Anthony Fucilli - WCTC 1450-AM, WOR 710-AM, WENJ 97.3-FM, WNJE 920-AM

Current Spread: Michigan -23.5

Series History: Michigan leads the all-time series 2 to 1. All of the meetings have taken place since 2014, when Rutgers joined the Big Ten. Last season, Michigan won 78-0.

Common Opponents: Both teams beat Purdue. Michigan won 28-10 on the road and Rutgers won 14-12 at home)

SB Nation Michigan site: Maize N Brew

Michigan Statistical Leaders

Passing: John O’Korn - 61 for 110 pass attempts for 55.5%, 729 yards passing, 1 TD, 4 INT; Note that Wilton Speight began the season as the starter but is injured.

Rushing: Karan Higdon - 446 yards on 85 carries, 5.2 ypc, 6 TD; Ty Issac - 439 yards on 79 carries, 5.9 ypc, 2 TD; Chris Evans - 269 yards on 71 carries, 3.8 ypc, 2 TD

Receiving: Grant Perry - 21 receptions, 270 yards, 1 TD; Sean McKeon - 18 receptions, 192 yards; Tarik Black - 11 receptions, 149 yards, 1 TD; Donovan Peoples-Jones - 10 receptions, 137 yards; Zach Gentry - 8 receptions, 134 yards, 1 TD; Kekoa Crawford - 10 receptions, 125 yards, 1 TD

Defense: LB Devin Bush - 56 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 6 pass break-ups; LB Mike McCray - 45 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass break-up; DL Chase Winovich - 44 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble; DB Tyree Kinnel - 37 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 INT, 3 pass break-ups; DE Rashan Gary - 35 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumble; DB Lavert Hill - 17 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 INT, 7 pass break-ups

Kicking: PK Quinn Norden - 18 of 19 XPA; 14 of 16 FG, Long of 55 yards

Michigan Statistical Comparison Versus Rutgers

S&P+ Advanced Stats Profiles: Michigan I Rutgers

Rutgers Advanced Stats Win Probability - 22% (per Football Study Hall)

Projected Score per Football Study Hall: Michigan 28.5 Rutgers 15.1

S&P+ Offensive Ranks: Michigan 85th; Rutgers 117th

S&P+ Defensive Ranks: Michigan 14th; Rutgers 33rd

(conference ranks noted below)

Scoring Offense: Michigan 25.1 ppg (10th); Rutgers 22.6 ppg (13th)

Scoring Defense: Michigan 18.6 ppg (6th); Rutgers 23.6 ppg (10th)

Strength v. Strength:

Kickoff Coverage (Rutgers 1st; Michigan 2nd)

Michigan Sacks Made 22 (2nd) v. Rutgers Sacks Against 6 (2nd)

Rutgers Rushing Offense 167.7 ypg (8th) v. Michigan Rushing Defense 105.6 ypg (3rd)

Opponent 3rd Down Conversion Rate (Michigan 1st at 23%; Rutgers 5th at 30%)

Matchup Mismatches:

Rutgers Passing Offense 133.6 ypg (14th) v. Michigan Passing Defense 158.6 ypg (1st);

Average Time Of Possession: Michigan 33:10 (3rd); Rutgers 31:11 (5th)

Keys To The Game

Minimize Mistakes

Rutgers lost three fumbles and committed eight penalties against Illinois two weeks ago, proving they were fortunate to win the game. Facing a better team in Purdue, Rutgers showed major progress by not turning it over at all and committing only four penalties. They need to build off of that progress and deliver another clean performance against Michigan. Rutgers can't afford to give Michigan any type of advantage with costly turnovers and penalties. They will pay dearly and will greatly decrease the chances of Rutgers being competitive in this game.

Sustain Drives

It's hard to have a lot of confidence that the Rutgers offense will have much success against the Michigan defense, which isn't as dominant as last season, but still very good. Rutgers punted 12 times against Purdue and the offense had 9 drives that went three and out. If something similar happens against Michigan, the Rutgers defense is going to wear down in the second half and the game will likely get out of hand. Even if the Rutgers offense can't produce enough scores to seriously threaten Michigan, they need to move the ball and force the Wolverines into having to produce long drives for scores by starting deep in their own territory. This is the key factor that worries me the most in this game. Michigan is the best team in the Big Ten in holding opponents to just a 23% conversion rate on third downs. Gio and the offense need to find a way to put together some first downs, as well as.....

Big Plays From All Three Units

The offense scored two touchdowns against Washington in the season opener, who statistically are a better defense than Michigan. However, we know how much the offense has struggled this season and it's unrealistic to think the results will be much better against Michigan. The reality is that Rutgers needs big plays from all three units in this game, ideally big plays that produce points. A pick six on defense and any substantial return on special teams would be absolutely huge in this game. Of course, a good old fashioned big run or pass play would work too. The speed of Raheem Blackshear and Janarion Grant, as well as the reliable target of Jerome Washington needs to be utilized for the offense to have any big plays in this game. We can only hope. On the flip side, Rutgers needs to minimize big plays from Michigan and make them work hard for every score, which was a big reason in how they beat Purdue. Punter Ryan Anderson will need a repeat performance from last week to help win the field position battle, which is crucial in this game.

Win Turnover Margin +2 Or Better

Last week, head coach Chris Ash made the point that if the offense had turned the ball over against Purdue they would have lost the game. Rutgers played clean football and Purdue threw two interceptions, part of a strong effort by the defense. For Rutgers to have a chance at Michigan, they have to win the turnover margin by at least two. Talent and depth is a big advantage for Michigan, but mistakes like turnovers and penalties can lessen the gap in this game. If the defense can somehow force a turnover in Michigan territory and give the offense an opportunity on a short field, it would be huge.

Nothing To Lose Factor

Rutgers should walk into the Big House feeling like they are in zero gravity. There is absolutely no pressure on them in this game, as no one, including our own staff, is picking them to win. On the flip side, Michigan has been under scrutiny from a portion of their fan base this week and have had to answer a lot of questions from the media. Read this. Coming in on a two game winning streak, Rutgers should have a renewed focus on Saturday. You know Michigan native Gio Rescigno, who is hopefully more mobile for this game, is going to be fired up for this one and I'm sure all of the players who experienced last season's embarrassing 78-0 loss will be motivated to play much better this time.

It's Homecoming and Michigan fans will be out for blood. However, the longer Rutgers can stay in the game, the more uncomfortable the home faithful will become. The Michigan offense is not great and the more the defense can keep them at bay, the more pressure the fighting Harbaugh’s will feel as the game progresses. Chris Ash and the staff need to ensure this team comes out loose and confident, because there is zero reason not to be. No rational Rutgers fan can expect a win in this game, but we all are hoping for significant progress from last season’s debacle. Moral victories aren’t the goal, but for a program in the second year of a rebuild under Ash, making this a closer and more competitive game than expected would be a step forward.