Kornacki preview: Michigan at Rutgers
|Photo: Paul Sherman|
After their performance last week in the Wisconsin game, there was very little doubt left in anybody's mind as to whether or not this is one of the nation's elite defenses. They rank in top ten statistically in the country in several categories including: scoring defense, total defense, pass defense, pass efficiency, sacks, TFLs, 3rd downs allowed and defensive TDs. There's also very little doubt that they are going to be a complete nightmare for the Rutgers offense. The D-Line is going to be in their back field all game long, and the shut down secondary play should create all sorts of coverage sacks. I'd also be surprised if Rutgers is able to move the ball on the ground for much more than 75-100 yards. I'm expecting a high number of turnovers caused. Look for Jabrill Peppers to add to his TFLs and maybe even come up with that first career INT.
The Michigan offense that through their first four games, looked like they could give any Fielding H. Yost, 'Point A Minute' offense a run for its money, were brought back down to Earth last week by a stout Wisconsin defense. But look for them to return to their old ways this Saturday. I anticipate many, many yards will be put up by both the run and passing games. I'd suspect the gameplan will be to establish the run first, then look to Speight to exploit their overmatched linebackers and secondary. I see Jake Butt having a huge game, with Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson both busting big plays. I expect De'Veon Smith to get most of the carries, but I'm saying that it'll be Chris Evans who takes one or two to the house on long runs. I think this game could also be a big day for freshman, Eddie McDoom. As for the offensive line play, they're going to put on a clinic in the trenches. It's not gonna be pretty for Scarlet Knights fans. I see Michigan putting up 40+ points on the day.
It's no secret that Rutgers has struggled to put points on the board since joining the Big Ten three seasons ago, and that's not going to change at all Saturday night. The first meeting between Michigan and Rutgers ended with the fans rushing the field at High Point Solutions Stadium (<---??!), pretty much sealing the fate of then Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. But these are different times. First year Rutgers head coach (and former OSU DC) Chris Ash has been extremely vocal about his dislike for Michigan, even going as far as to call it a rivalry game for Rutgers. I'm sure that much of this is due to the fact that he knows he can no longer allow Michigan to come in to their own backyard and grab whichever recruits they want. At least not if Ash is to have any success at all while at Rutgers. That being said, he doesn't have the offensive talent to keep up with the Michigan defense. Chris Laviano is a mobile QB who could give the Michigan defense minor problems in the first quarter with his feet, but his completion rate is below 50% at just 62 of 125 with 2 INTs. I don't see this being anything that can be sustained for four quarters however. In every other facet of their offensive game, Rutgers is average to poor. I'd be surprised if they put up more than 10 points.
I'm somewhat more impressed by Rutgers on the defensive side of the ball. They have a few legit players, with the standouts being free safety, Kiy Hester (36 tackles, 5 TFLs, 3 BUs) and defensive lineman, Julian Pinnix-Odrick (22 tackles, 5 TFLs, 4 sacks), but this is a defense that, like the offense, won't be able to hang for an entire game. They won't be able to blitz Hester much because they're going to need him in coverage, and I don't see their defensive line getting through the Michigan O-Line very often to create any pressure on Speight. I would imagine that Rutgers will try to generate most of it's pressure by going after the left side of Michigan's offensive line, due to the absence of Grant Newsome. I don't envision them finding much success there however. The Rutgers corners are no match for Michigan's receivers. Speight will be looking to go long down the sidelines fairly often with Hester in the middle of the field. He'll also be able to find Butt open in the middle of the field between the linebacker and safety coverage. By the end of the game, Rutgers is going to be run ragged on both sides of the ball.
I'm not sure we'll see much of the struggling Michigan field goal unit Saturday, so I don't think we'll learn a lot about whether they've solved some of those woes. But I am expecting Peppers to be electric tomorrow in the return game. The New Jersey native will be playing in front of several friends and family members, and I'm predicting at least one special teams TD for him.