Two undefeated teams at the top of the Big Ten standings clash in the BIG HOUSE Saturday at noon; Michigan hosting Rutgers! I just got real chills typing that out (it’s only Week 4 but technically no team has MORE Big Ten wins than Rutgers at this moment). Rutgers has shown an ability to play up for the recent clashes with Michigan: 2020-loss in OT, 2021-seven-point loss in Ann Arbor, 2022- 17-14 lead at half. The Wolverines will be the best team Rutgers has faced, and arguably the best they will face this season. Here are some things I’ll be watching out for come Saturday.
Rutgers Linebackers vs Michigan Running Backs
Finding a more talented backfield duo in the country than Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards may be almost as difficult of a task as actually tackling them. We’ve seen both players run wild plenty this season and in 2022, and we know Jim Harbaugh LOVES to “run the dang ball!” Deion Jennings, Mo Toure, and Tyreem Powell will need to be on their A+++ game Saturday to slow them down. The Scarlet Knights linebacker core has been exceptional so far, and all three I mentioned have made a case to be cosindered the best player on the field at different times for this Rutgers defense, seemingly covering the whole field sideline to sideline and making tackles. All three are ranked in PFF’s top seven linebackers in the Big Ten. This is the week to step up (they’ve stepped up plenty so this would just be an even bigger step) and make plays.
Rutgers DB’s vs. Michigan Wideouts
Roman Wilson has 12 receptions and six TD’s so far this season. For those who are not so good at math, that is 50% of his catches resulting in touchdowns. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Pair him with Cornelius Johnson, who actually leads Michigan in receiving yards, and that is a formidable duo on the outside. However, Max Melton and Robert Longerbeam have the athleticism to keep up with anyone in the country. Shaquan Loyal and Flip Dixon are playing at very high levels and have done an excellent job on the back line along with Desmond Igbinosun. Michigan QB JJ McCarthy threw three interceptions last week against Bowling Green by trying to fit passes into some very tight windows. If he tries that again this week, I would bet on these DB’s taking advantage.
Rutgers Offensive Line
Last week vs. Virginia Tech, I believe, was the best performance so far for this group. Virginia Tech was the best defensive line they had faced to that point. This group opened up plenty of holes for Kyle Monan-He is THAT-gai to run through, of which he took full advantage and was awarded the Big Ten Offensive Player of The Week. Gavin Wimsatt remained upright the entire game as he was not sacked once. However, Michigan’s defense is legit and they have some DAWGS in the trenches. The offensive line will need to strap those helmets a up a little bit tighter and chomp down on those mouth pieces a little harder, as I expect both sides to GET AFTER IT!
In games where your team is overmatched from a talent standpoint (Rutgers is overmatched, I don’t think that’s a revelation to anyone), the absolute last thing you want to do is give the opponent extra possessions off of turnovers. Rutgers has done an outstanding job on both sides of the ball to this point as they are tied for 15th in the nation with a +4 turnover margin, whereas Michigan is actually -1. If Rutgers does not turn the ball over, and also forces turnovers, they have a shot.
The all out GAUNTLET that is the Big Ten conference schedule is upon us (ignore Wagner next week). 2023 is the third straight season Rutgers has began the season 3-0, but in the prior 2 two, they finished a combined 3-15 down the stretch. Hoping to avoid that same fate this year, Rutgers will need to remain as healthy as possible. That depth will become increasingly important as the season rolls on.