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Michigan football vs. Northern Illinois roundtable and predictions

The Maize n Brew staff weighs in on this week’s non-conference finale.

NCAA Football: Washington at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This week, the Maize n Brew staff got together to weigh in on the Michigan Wolverines so far this season as they look to move to 3-0 on Saturday. Northern Illinois comes to town as Michigan attempts to round itself into form ahead of Big Ten play.

Here is what is on our minds this week.

Through two games, name the biggest positive you’ve seen so far.

Von Lozon: The blocking by the tight ends and the offensive line has been fantastic, especially in the run game. Having Joel Honigford transition from OL to TE has done wonders for his game and the offense as a whole. Very happy with how that has looked so far this year.

Andrew Bailey: The running game and Aidan Hutchinson. The pair has been nice. Michigan has controlled the ball and moved it aggressively down the field. Meanwhile, Hutchinson has been a menace on the other end, finishing drives very quickly. Hard not to love the combo.

Kellen Voss: Offensive line play. Sherrone Moore has maximized the talent along the line, refined technique, and built chemistry between the positions scarcely seen under Harbaugh.

Jacob Shames: The offensive line has been fantastic. Coming off last year, we had some questions about the unit upfront. But through two games, they’ve looked dominant.

Trevor Woods: Offense: The success the o-line and running game has had. It’s been impressive. Corum and Haskins have been lights out.

Defense: The speed. Guys are flying around, hitting hard, and showing hustle. Hutchinson has been a monster.

Dan Plocher: This is a team that is built to win games the old-fashioned way. I think they compare to the early 2010s Rex Ryan Jets is the nicest way possible. Great defense all over the field that has the power to win games on its own. Plus we have two NFL quality running backs

Luke Ghiardi: Michigan has two running backs that can both absolutely take over a game. I get the sense, watching them, that they’re playing with an identity and confidence/freedom that has been rare coming from them in recent years. It’s early of course, but to me, this is easily the Wolverines’ best start since 2016.

What questions do you still have you’d like for Michigan to find answers to?

Von: Who is gonna step up in Ronnie Bell’s absence? I know we only had one week to see who that replacement could be, but it’s still a question that needs to be answered. I believe Cornelius Johnson is that guy, but it remains to be seen.

Andrew: Is Cade McNamara the real deal or just a system quarterback? Has the defense been the standout or are they just playing poor offenses? Is the cornerback room good enough to stop Big Ten receivers?

Kellen: Is there a receiver on the team that can step up in place of Ronnie Bell. There is a plethora of talent at the position, but who will be the one to break out on the field.

Jacob: If needed, can the passing game do enough? Can this offense play from behind and make up a deficit if things go bad? Does the coaching staff trust Cade McNamara?

Trevor: Have to see more out of the passing game to truly know if it can get the job done when necessary. And the secondary started giving up yardage in the second half vs. Washington and would like to see four consecutive good quarters out of the unit.

Dan: What’s the answer at the quarterback position? Cade McNamara has been just fine, but over the Harbaugh tenure, I think one of the biggest reasons why teams have underachieved has been because the quarterback play has been just fine. Will we see McNamara gradually improve over the season, or will McCarthy get a proper chance?

Luke: This is the obvious one. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that the Wolverines are doing what they’re good at. I don’t think that they need to run a “modern” offense to win — they want to play smashmouth football and have the personnel to run it, and that’s all that matters while they’re producing. But they will have to throw for more than 50 yards per game consistently, and that’s not up for debate. I’m not expecting it to happen in the next two weeks, but certainly, they’ll need an answer against Wisconsin.

Give a score prediction and your player of the game

Von: Michigan 38, NIU 7. The Player of the game will be Blake Corum until he gives me a reason not to pick him.

Andrew: Michigan wins big, again. Northern Illinois has one of the worst rush defenses in all of college football. I think the Wolverines run for over 400 yards and win 56-14. Blake Corum shines again in the win. They throw less than 15 times.

Kellen: 55-10 .. Andrew Vastardis. He might be the leader for team MVP on the season.

Jacob: Michigan 40 - NIU 7 - Player of the Game: Blake Corum

Trevor: 61-17 Michigan. Blake Corum.

Dan: Rocky Lombardi is an elite name, but he’s fairly mediocre as far as being a college football quarterback. I like Michigan to win 42-10.

Luke: Michigan wins, 45-10. For POG, either Corum, Haskins, or Hutchinson.