No. 25 Michigan is set to host the Northern Illinois Huskies at noon. The Wolverines come into the game as a heavy favorite, but non-conference games always pose some sort of scare, especially coming off of a big win.
NIU has grabbed one upset so far against a Power Five school in Georgia Tech in their season opener. The following week saw the Huskies attempt to take down Wyoming with a late comeback surge from being down 42-16 in the third quarter. While they fell short, they have been deemed an “upset-happy” team.
Historically they have completed seven upsets over Big Ten schools. Thankfully, Michigan is not one of them. The Huskies have traveled to Ann Arbor previously in September 2005 where they fell 33-17. I think a lot of where this idea of an upset is coming from rests in NIU’s back-to-back MAC offensive player of the week RB Harrison Waylee and QB Rocky Lombardi. More than likely because of Lombardi’s role in last season’s upset which he led against the Wolverines in a Spartan uniform.
To pull the upset over Michigan, NIU’s defense is going to have to come up with an answer for containing Michigan’s run game. Two teams have tried and failed to this point. I don’t see the offensive line that Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins have both given credit towards their successes on the field faltering to NIU’s younger defense. Michigan’s OL is going to push the Huskies around and though they may try, Michigan is more than equipped to break tackles and rack up rushing yards.
On the flip side, Michigan’s defense is going to be called to do the same: contain the run game. Freshman RB Harrison Waylee rushed for 179 yards and 2 TDs against Wyoming last week. While it could be expected for Waylee to rack up yards against the Wolverines, I think Michigan will counteract NIU’s run game more effectively especially after their performance last week against a different pack of Huskies. Waylee is more than likely Michigan’s main focus and if they can keep him under 100 yards, NIU will have a difficult time offensively.
Michigan’s defense looked good last week against Washington, keeping those Huskies to 50 yards rushing. Will this lead NIU to relying on their passing game a little more? That seems likely with Michigan still figuring things out at defensive back. Lombardi torching last year’s Michigan defense with 3 TDs and 323 passing yards still haunts our dreams. I still rest that the previous contest that involved Lombardi and the Wolverines was a head-scratcher and weird fluke in the system. The difference in this contest is that Michigan looks more comfortable, solid, and ready.
The NIU Huskies are by no means a write-off for Michigan, but considering what it is going to take to bring down the Wolverines at home makes this match up anything but an upset. NIU is going to have to rely on firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball to stay in it at all. The Maize and Blue should be comfortable going into this game and they should not be playing safe. Michigan is going to keep churning out their rush-heavy offense as they will more than likely not need high pass attempts and passing yards. If anything, I think this game will see more of Donovan Edwards much similar to the last time Michigan played a MAC school. There might even be a JJ McCarthy appearance, should Michigan fans be so lucky.
Michigan enters the game as the heavy favorite. NIU will churn out some points against the Maize and Blue, but it won’t be as much of a contest as it may be painted as. Michigan isn’t going to assume they have this game in the bag and they are going to play exactly as we have seen them so far this season. Will the Wolverines win this game decisively or is their validity to a potential upset? Let us know in the comments!