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Rutgers Football Game #5 Preview vs. Michigan

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Rutgers will host the Wolverines on Saturday night.

Rutgers v Michigan State Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

How To Watch, Stream & Listen

Michigan at Rutgers

Where: SHI Stadium, Piscataway, New Jersey

Kick-off: Saturday, November 21 at 7:30 PM ET

Weather: 37 degrees, overcast with a 0% chance of rain, 5 mph winds

TV: BTN with Mark Followill (play-by-play), James Laurinaitis (color), and Elise Menaker (sideline)

Stream: FOX Sports App

Radio: RWJBarnabas Health Rutgers Sports Network (WCTC 1450-AM, WOR 710-AM, WENJ 97.3-FM, XM 195, Sirius 133) with Chris Carlin (play-by-play), Eric LeGrand, Ray Lucas, and Anthony Fucilli (sideline).

Current Spread: Michigan -11.5

Series History: Michigan leads, 5-1; last season Michigan shutout Rutgers 52-0.

SB Nation Michigan site: Maize n Brew

Statistical Leaders

Rutgers

Passing: Noah Vedral - 82-for-130, 63.1%, 723 yards, 5 touchdowns, 7 interceptions

Rushing: Isaih Pacheco - 286 yards on 55 carries, 5.2 ypc, 2 touchdowns

Receiving: Bo Melton - 20 catches for 334 yards, 12.3 ypc, 4 touchdowns

Defense: Olakunle Fatukasi - 50 tackles, Mohamed Toure - 3 sacks, Tre Avery and Brendon White - 1 interception

Michigan

Passing: Joe Milton - 74-for-126, 58.7%, 967 yards, 4 touchdowns, 4 interceptions

Rushing: Hassan Haskins - 163 yards on 21 carries, 7.8 ypc, 3 touchdowns

Receiving: Ronnie Bell - 18 catches for 325 yards, 18.1 ypc, 1 touchdown

Defense: Brad Hawkins - 31 tackles, Carlo Kemp and Kwity Paye - 2 sacks, Josh Ross - 1 interception

What to watch for

This Saturday night matchup will feature two teams who have dropped three straight after winning their season-opener. It feels like a decade ago when Rutgers forced seven turnovers against the Spartans and Michigan was beating up on Minnesota’s poor defense.

Since then, things have completely turned around for each team. This game will come down to which side can put it together for a full 60 minutes.

When Rutgers has the ball

Where do we begin? Let’s start with the positives.

Bo Melton is a legitimate No. 1 receiver. He has turned into one of the most explosive players in the country and this led to his name being added to the Biletnikoff watch list. Isaih Pacheco was able to put together a breakout performance with 20 carries for 133 yards against Illinois.

Now, the negatives. There is no doubt that Noah Vedral has been an upgrade at the quarterback position this season, but his decision making is beginning to cost the team. He threw three interceptions, including two in the fourth quarter, in the Scarlet Knights’ 23-20 loss to Illinois. Turnovers have been a problem all season for Rutgers as they have 11 total, seven interceptions and four fumbles.

Rutgers is dead-last in the conference with 34 penalties in the first four games. There are clearly some parts of the game that have to be cleared up for the Scarlet Knights, but that was to be expected in year one under Greg Schiano.

Sean Gleeson will have to draw up an explosive game plan against a struggling Michigan defense. The Wolverines’ secondary currently rank 12th in the Big Ten allowing 247.3 yards per game. Their run defense was gashed during a 49-11 loss to Wisconsin to the tune of 341 yards on the ground.

There will be plays to be made out there on Saturday night, but Rutgers has struggled to make those plays consistently throughout the season.

When Michigan has the ball

It is beginning to fall apart for Michigan this season. They are 1-3 with no semblance of a rushing attack and have split reps at quarterback this week.

There has been a lack of consistency within the offense. The Wolverines are using a committee in the backfield and they are providing no help for their inexperienced quarterback.

Michigan is averaging 117 yards on the ground, which is 11th in the conference. Haskins is their leading rusher but only has 21 carries on the season. Milton is second on the team in rushing and that might be where the Wolverines will have to go in this one.

In Week 4, Illinois quarterback Isaiah Williams carried the ball 31 times for 192 yards and a touchdown. Milton is not the explosive runner that Williams is but at this point, Michigan should be trying anything. Defensively, Rutgers ranks ninth in the conference against the run.

The Wolverines have problems and it begins on the sidelines with Jim Harbaugh. Who knows what his future holds but his team better beat Rutgers or it is going to get even uglier in Ann Arbor.

“They’re playing very good football in so many different areas,” Harbaugh said of Rutgers. “Stepped it up greatly. They look very physical, fast. They execute really well on both sides of the ball. Running back is still really good and even gotten better. So many good things. We gotta play good. We’re going to have to play good in order to be successful. Excited about that challenge.”

Can Rutgers win this game?

It is hard to say moving forward that Rutgers should win any game after a loss to Illinois. Can they beat Michigan if all things go right? Theoretically, yes but they have been unable to put a complete game together this season. Even against Michigan State, the Scarlet Knights turned it over three times.

Final thoughts

Now that fans have had time to digest the Illinois loss, they might be able to see how expectations got a bit out of control. Coming into the season, one or two victories, along with a culture change, was a fair expectation of the 2020 season and it still is.

Greg Schiano has this team playing better. It is not perfect, but it is better than what has happened over recent years. There is a different feel around this program and that is what is important moving forward.