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Michigan’s keys to victory versus Northwestern

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The Wolverines go on the road versus the Wildcats

Michigan v Northwestern Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

The No. 14 Michigan Wolverines (3-1) will look to keep things rolling against the Northwestern Wildcats (1-2) on Saturday afternoon.

Michigan’s keys to victory

Maintain mental edge

A week removed from completely demolishing, Michigan will have to keep the killer instinct in them. A sharp and obvious mental focus will not only aid them against Northwestern, but it will also show they go about their business accordingly and beat the teams they should be convincingly. Along with this, a decline in the amount of penalties put up is necessary.

Put Northwestern away fast

This is Michigan’s second test on the road this season. While Northwestern isn’t exactly Notre Dame, the Pat Fitzgerald coached Wildcats always try their damndest and on a given week they can give even the best teams in the nation a fight, for a quarter here and there.

Northwestern fans take this game seriously, they will be loud. Yes, 41,000 capacity venues can get very loud (Wrigley Field is around the same capacity).

Michigan should try to be physical or vertical to start the game off, not methodical. Punching Northwestern in the mouth via a long run or pass would put a dent in the confidence of NW right out of the gate.

Intercept Clayton Thorson

Thorson is a hot and cold quarterback, throwing for 47 touchdowns in his career while also tossing 33 interceptions. Michigan should be able to generate pressure and force some bad throws out of Thorson, and they’d be best served to cash in one of these throws for an interception.

For better and worse Thorson plays without hesitation and slings the ball with authority. The problem is, his confidence can become misplaced and he will make a variety of head scratching decisions.

Continue the balance on offense

Last week Jim Harbaugh implemented an excellent gameplan on offense, mixing up pass and run even when up by over 40 points. Michigan took multiple shots deep down the field, there was an uptick in plays from the pistol formation, and overall the offense just looked well-rounded.

Expect this trend to continue. Michigan has to start using more of their playbook in real games against lesser opponents before they take on what are perceived to be their toughest opponents in Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State.

Handle Northwestern’s Front-Seven

DE Joe Gaziano put up 9 sacks last season, already has 2 in 2 games this year and will be a player to take note of in this one.

At LB Northwestern has Paddy Fisher, who had an impressive 111 tackles in 2017 and is up to 28 this season. Fisher has good lateral speed and can fly downhill. If Michigan can stop Fisher, they’ll likely have success running the football today.