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OTB Staff Predictions: Rutgers at No. 19 Michigan

Our contributors make their picks for Saturday’s game.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers heads to the Big House to face Michigan in a battle of 3-0 teams on Saturday airing nationally on ABC. The Scarlet Knights are around three touchdown underdogs despite playing the Wolverines to a triple overtime thriller a year ago. It’s a different season and both teams have a lot to prove. How will things play out in the Big Ten opener for both teams? Our contributors make their predictions and some optimism does exist.

Dave White: Good Morning America is ABC’s National Morning News show. The hosts are familiar faces in Michael Strahan, Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos. They are located right in Times Square, according to their commercials. I’m more a Today Show watcher, so I don’t really catch up on GMA much anymore. But when I was a kid, that was the news we watched GMA followed by Regis and Kathy Lee—which, of course, is no longer a thing. ABC was always famous in the 90s for its TGIF line up which featured such classic sitcoms as Full House, Perfect Strangers, Step by Step and Family Matters to name a few. If you were a 90s kid, you clicked that on right after Friday Night Pizza dinner. We ordered our dinner from a pizzeria called Mr. Tino’s, which no longer exists. ABC also shows sports, as its linked to ESPN via the Disney Corporation. On Saturdays in the fall, they air college football games. Rutgers 24 Michigan 17

Patrick Mella: While I believe this contest will be closer than in years past, I don’t think Rutgers has the fire power to take this one. Schiano has done a great job between limiting penalties and turnovers, but a raucous Michigan crowd on homecoming will be out for blood come Saturday. The key to keeping this one close is to continue the trend of limiting penalties and turnovers. My hopes are that early on, even as early as their first drive, they try and beat Michigan for a shot deep. This would settle the crowd and give Rutgers a fighting chance. A 20-point line is huge. I would take Rutgers with the points. Michigan 35 Rutgers 17

Chris Banker: This is what we’ve been waiting for, right? Under Chris Ash, matchups against Michigan and Ohio State were akin to walking into a slaughterhouse — the outcome was never in doubt, it was only a matter of when the hammer would drop and how graphic things would get. That shifted last year, most notably with Rutgers taking these Wolverines to the brink in Piscataway. Jim Harbaugh’s current group, though, is built a bit differently. Rutgers arrives in Ann Arbor to take on the country’s top rushing attack, and a seemingly revitalized team on both sides of the ball. Additionally, the Scarlet Knights aren’t going to surprise anyone on Saturday with their level of compete like they might have a year ago. It’s safe to say that after years of absolutely manhandling this program, Michigan may have looked past their trip to SHI Stadium last fall, perhaps, contributing to the near-stunner we saw unfold. Between the home-field advantage of the Big House, new depth concerns in the defensive backfield, and a potentially devastating rushing attack to defend, the intangibles just aren’t in the visitors’ favor here. I think Rutgers fans, understandably, are leaning on some recent bias with their optimism heading into Saturday’s game. Rutgers covers, but the Knights are still a few plays away from beating a Big Ten blueblood at full strength, much less on the road. Michigan 35 Rutgers 20

Fred Gaudios: After the Delaware game, my friends and I were having cigars and playing a little Guess The Spread for the Michigan game. I was most bullish, predicting Rutgers would be 11.5 point underdogs, with my friends aligned in the 13.5-14.5 point range. So I was stunned to see Rutgers open as a 19 (!!) point underdog. I suppose Michigan is what Vegas calls a “public” team, where name recognition and popularity has some impact on betting action, and Rutgers is the opposite. Whatever it was, I almost never feel this way, but I completely disagree with the spread (which, reminder, is different from a game prediction) for this game. Sure, The Big House is daunting, and Michigan is absolutely deeper and more talented on paper, but 2021 feels to me like one of those Michigan teams that everyone in CFB media loves and perhaps overrates until they lose a game they aren’t supposed to lose. So, why not us? A Michigan blowout would really surprise me on Saturday. A close game would not surprise me, and here’s where my prediction gets weird. IF Rutgers can stop the Michigan run game, and can force them into third and long situations on offense, I think this one will be surprisingly close. I’m making a prediction with my heart this week; a last second Rutgers field goal shocks everyone. Rutgers 19 Michigan 17

Art Stein: Both teams are 3-0 and both teams have yet to be tested. That is where the similarities end. Michigan has returned to smash mouth football and a stifling defense. The Rutgers defense which looked at times very pedestrian against an undermanned Delaware squad is taking a large step up in weight class. On defense, Michigan’s front four is formidable with a potential 1st round pick in next year’s NFL draft among them. Fans who are looking for solace from the triple-overtime loss last year shouldn’t. Last season was an outlier in almost every way imaginable. When you add that this game will be played at the Big House in front of a homecoming crowd, the task at hand becomes that much taller. Conversely, Rutgers is a much improved team this season and if the team plays to its potential and can win the turnover and penalty battle. the game could be much closer than the 19-point spread established by the bookmakers. I think Rutgers will play Michigan tough in the first half, but the Wolverines size and depth will eventually wear the Scarlet Knights down. Michigan 41 Rutgers 24

David Anderson: In past years by Week 4, I was often already looking forward to the following season, but I have barely thought about anything past this Saturday (and I’m not just talking about football). This is a terrible matchup for Rutgers. When you have a significant talent gap, usually upsets happen when your opponent’s weakness happens to be your strength. Last year for one game, Rutgers’s strength was their passing attack and Michigan’s corners were atrocious. Had we not seen deep balls from Noah Vedral last week, I thought there was a good chance Michigan could shut out Rutgers by just stacking the box. Now I think Rutgers will score, but the Knight run D may get steamrolled by the nation’s best ground game. Schiano and Gleeson are probably worth a +8 compared to other coaching staffs but I think Harbaugh will be able to motivate his team after last year and needs points to impress the playoff committee and to some extent, themselves. Prove me wrong, Rutgers! Michigan 38 Rutgers 18

Greg Patuto: The 2020 matchup between Rutgers and Michigan in Piscataway might give fans some hope but that game should not be taken into account. This is a different Michigan team that is winning games in many ways — mostly on the ground.

Like Rutgers, the Wolverines have not turned the ball over this season. They have a duo in the backfield that can dominate and are stout defensively. Parlay all of that with the game being in Ann Arbor and it might be a long afternoon for the Scarlet Knights. With that being said, there is no shame in that. Rutgers is clearly on the rise and just the fact that some believe Rutgers can compete in this game is a testament to how far Greg Schiano has taken them in just two years.

In the end, Rutgers will not have enough offensively to keep up in this one and the defense might struggle getting off the field. There are some Big Ten wins on the schedule for Rutgers but this is not one of them. Michigan 41 Rutgers 17

B Vincent P - Rutgers is fully healthy, minus Max Melton with a self inflected suspension. If you are going to pick an upset, do it early on when the two and three deep is not yet taxed by mounting injuries, as typically occurs later in the season. The pressure is all on Michigan to demonstrate that the Maize and Blue are still relevant and worthy of being considered a top 15 or 10 team. Harbaugh is on the hot seat, perennially. He cannot afford another close game or better yet a loss to Rutgers. I expect RU to be prepared and opportunistic on defense and the offense to stretch the field. If you are a betting person, take RU with the +20 line. I won’t be long winded on my prediction and will go all in on an outright Rutgers win. Rutgers 27 Michigan 24

Sean McGrath: I am really conflicted about this one. Apart of me thinks this Michigan team is just on another level. Everywhere you look, people are claiming that they are an unbeatable juggernaut. One that enforces its will with the run game until the opposition is worn out. The recent suspensions for Rutgers also does not help the situation. With that being said, there’s something about this coaching staff that tells me they are going to fight toe to toe. Last year, Rutgers threw out every trick in the book to keep up with the bigger opponents. I think this is the game Schiano brings those back and it will catch Michigan off guard. Rutgers is returning 20 of 22 starters from last year’s 3 OT loss. This team will be as fired up as they have ever been. Do I think it will be enough to get the win? Unfortunately no. But I do think they easily cover and fight to the very end. Michigan 30 Rutgers 20

Aaron Breitman: I love the confidence of some of our contributors, but I don’t think it will be rewarded this week. Throw last season’s game out the window between these teams. Michigan had a majorly depleted roster and it was probably the strangest game in the strangest season perhaps ever.

Rutgers is now at a level where they have a legitimate chance to beat teams at or slightly above them from a talent perspective. That’s a huge step forward from recent years as the talent on the roster has improved significantly and it’s clear that player development is a strength of this coaching staff. However, going to the Big House on homecoming against a revitalized Michigan team that leads the nation in rushing is a different animal altogether. There is no shame in saying Rutgers is not yet at the level to seriously challenge the Wolverines on Saturday.

Stopping the run and being able to establish the run is essentially the key to everything. I don’t really see a way Rutgers will be effective enough in either area to be able to scare Michigan. The Scarlet Knights have the fewest penalties in the country and have zero turnovers this season, but I don’t expect them to play nearly as clean in their first hostile road game in two years. If they play sloppily, the game could really get out hand quickly. There is a lot to be positive about this team and a loss in this game, no matter the score, has no impact on whether RU will ultimately have a successful season or not. Michigan 42 Rutgers 13

How hopeful or worried are you about this game? Let us know in the comment section including your own game prediction.