The Jim Harbaugh era is alive and well in Ann Arbor already at Michigan. In only his sixth game as the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, Harbaugh has steered the Michigan Wolverines in the right direction. The assumption was that there may have been some growing pains with Harbaugh as the new coach. Other than a hard fought loss against a very good Utah team on the road, the Wolverines have been suffocating opposing teams in all of their wins. The defense has evolved tenfold since Rich Rodriguez was fired a few years ago. Under Brady Hoke, Michigan had a defense, but Harbaugh has taken their defense to another level. A level that has sent them to atop the NCAA defensively. The loss against Utah in week 1 looked like an okay loss at the time, no harm done against what people perceived as a pretty decent Utes squad. After a few weeks though, Utah looks like a bonafide contender in the Pac 12. They beat the Oregon Ducks on the road two weeks ago, which makes the Michigan loss to Utah look even better.
Michigan has had their highest ranking in years now, ranked 18th in the nation. You cannot sleep on Northwestern, though. Michigan is much improved, but the Wildcats have moved up substantially as well. Don’t look now, but Northwestern is ranked 14th in college football. In a lot of the same ways, the Wildcats have used a strong defense to assert themselves near the top of the BIG 10. Considering how shaky the rest have been, MSU and Ohio State included, the BIG 10 is still up for grabs. I said it before the start of the season, and will say it again, I see Michigan beating either MSU or the Buckeyes. Both? I can’t agree with that, but MSU and Ohio State are going to need to bring a potent offense to the contest for them to win there. Northwestern enters the Big House with a perfect record of 5-0. The biggest win coming for the Wildcats in game 1, a 16-6 victory over Stanford. Last week was an impressive one for them as well, taking Minnesota 27-0.
Northwestern Wildcats vs. Michigan Wolverines College Football Pick
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Northwestern vs. Michigan Pick:
If Jim Harbaugh wants people to take Michigan real serious, go out and pound Northwestern this week and beat Michigan State next week. With that kind of two weeks, it will probably put Michigan into the top 10. The defense has been the focal point of this team. If U of M had a legitimate offense this season, they would be among the best teams in the nation. I suspect Harbaugh will find a big quarterback recruit to take the reigns of this team and bring them back to an elite level. Brandon Peters anyone? Peters who is currently in high school still has over 30 touchdown passes to only 3 INTs for his school. Keep that name in mind for the future. As it is now, Jake Ruddock, the Iowa transfer is pacing the Michigan offense. Ruddock is simply a game manager for this Michigan team. In true Harbaugh fashion, the running game and defense are leading the way for Michigan.
The mantra for Michigan is to run the ball, wear the other team until they can’t take much more and bust the contest open. They did it against BYU and Maryland last week. BYU, their best win yet, just couldn’t take the continual beating from the Michigan offensive line. It ultimately opened up big runs, and the passing game was hitting with play-action calls all afternoon long. Northwestern has been an exact clone of Michigan this season.
Take a look at this, Michigan averages 27.8 points per game, Northwestern averages 25.4 points a game. Conversely, on defense Michigan allows 7.6 points against, and the Wildcats allow 7.0 points per game. There are going to be little points in this game. I can’t remember I seen a total of 35 in a college football game. That is even low for a NFL preseason game. I see Michigan winning this game in the neighborhood of 20-14 or 23-17. Both defenses should be able to keep this game close. I think it’s just too many points to give to Northwestern in this game. Players get jacked up to play in the Big House and it almost erases the home field advantage the Wolverines have. Most teams come to play with plenty of fire. Defenses rule the day today, which should keep the game within 10 points.
PICK: NORTHWESTERN +10 (-110)