DNo. 25 Michigan (2-0) is set to complete its non-conference schedule on Saturday afternoon against the 1-1 Northern Illinois Huskies.
If Michigan plays a clean game, this should become a blowout. Even so, the Huskies upset Georgia Tech Week 1, and put up 43 points against Wyoming in a Week 2 loss. If Michigan takes them seriously, this should be an easy win.
Here are the keys to victory.
Don’t let Lombardi gain confidence
Rocky Lombardi was Michigan State’s quarterback a season ago, and he beat Michigan — throwing for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns in what was the best game of his career. Yes, Lombardi has familiarity facing Michigan, but this isn’t the Don Brown led Michigan defense he faced last year.
Michigan players haven’t forgotten what Lombardi did to them — he put on an aerial assault and was playing out of his body, looking more like Justin Herbert than a guy who throws lots and lots of interceptions.
Michigan’s pass-rush has been pressuring opposing quarterbacks aplenty through the first two weeks of the season, a trend that should continue against Northern Illinois. Lombardi is going to feel quite sore after four quarters.
Michigan’s secondary has looked better this year, but it’s still a unit that has to get better. Washington QB Dylan Morris started to gain traction and drive down the field through the air in the second half on Michigan. The biggest strength Northern Illinois has had is their ability to convert on third down, which ranks No. 22 in the nation. Stopping NIU on third down early will help Michigan gain a substantial lead before halftime.
Bottle up Harrison Waylee
Running back Harrison Waylee has top tier speed, and a lapse in assignment could mean this man takes one to the house. Waylee ranks third in the nation with 323 rushing yards and presents a challenge for Michigan — one they should handle, but one they’re definitely aware of.
More production out of the passing game
There’s been a lot of chatter about the lack of passing a week ago versus Washington, and the lack of success QB Cade McNamara had when he did pass the ball (7-of-15 for 44 yards). The noise was overblown, McNamara’s arm wasn’t really needed with how great the running game was doing with Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum dominating. However, to truly be an elite team, to beat every team on the schedule, the quarterback will have to answer the bell throughout the season when the run game gets stopped.
It would be nice to see McNamara hit some receivers deep with not only accuracy, but with pop in his arm. It’s far too early in the year to proclaim who Cade McNamara is or is not as a quarterback, and we have to see more from him to make a final determination.
Another dominating game on the ground
Michigan’s passing offense is ranked No. 119, but their rushing is ranked at the other extreme, sitting at No. 4 in the nation. Michigan’s o-line has established they can create gaping holes against a good defense in Washington, and Northern Illinois is not very good at stopping the run, ranking No. 120. This could be yet another big day for Corum and Haskins, and there’s a good chance we’ll see plenty of Donovan Edwards in this one after running backs coach Mike Hart said that he vowed to get him more playing time. It would be a surprise if there aren’t a couple long touchdown runs in this game.