No. 19 Michigan (3-0) takes on Rutgers (3-0) Saturday afternoon at Michigan Stadium. Both teams have had solid starts to the year and Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano is slowly but surely turning the Scarlet Knights into a respectable program once more.
Michigan beat Rutgers a season ago 48-42 in triple-overtime after being down 17-0 to start the game. Will this year be as close as it was in 2020? Here are Michigan’s keys to victory.
Exploit the thin Rutgers secondary
Cornerbacks Chris Long and Max Melton were both suspended by Rutgers after being arrested earlier this week — a paintball incident led to them being charged with aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose. Melton was the best player on Rutgers to this point in the year, with two interceptions, four pass breakups, a blocked punt, a fumble recovery, and 8 tackles.
Michigan’s offensive output will be balanced, but there’s no doubt that offensive coordinator Josh Gattis will attempt to exploit the thin secondary and give quarterback Cade McNamara opportunities to exploit the unit. Rutgers ranks No. 15 in passing yards allowed heading into the game, but that stat doesn’t mean nearly as much with Melton no longer in the picture.
Wreak havoc on Rutgers weak offensive line
Rutgers has a few playmakers on offense — QB Noah Vedral, RB Isaiah Pachecho, WR Bo Melton. However, it’s hard for their best players to be overly productive when the offensive line is abysmal.
Pacheco is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and Vedral has been harassed the past few weeks as the pass-rush keeps getting home. If Rutgers struggled to contain the run defense and pass-rush of teams like Delaware, Syracuse, and Temple, there’s a good chance that Michigan’s defense may feast in this one. Don’t be surprised if Aidan Hutchinson has a huge day.
Pound the rock
On the Banks’ Aaron Breitman expressed concern over Rutgers inability to stop the run through three games. “I think that Michigan’s strength is definitely a concern for Rutgers in terms of Rutgers run defense — they allow 4.5 yards per carry. Major, major weakness,” Breitman said.
Michigan leads the nation in rushing — and while Blake Corum has the flashiest numbers of the bunch, Hassan Haskins isn’t far behind him, Donovan Edwards is getting increasingly involved, and the likes of A.J. Henning and Roman Wilson both will continue to get some looks. Michigan has a lot of playmakers who are above average at running the rock.
Expect Rutgers to stack the box and attempt to make it difficult for Michigan to run, also expect Michigan’s offensive line to simply be too physical for the Scarlet Knights to contain.
Take Rutgers seriously
Michigan will take them seriously, they remember how close the game was a season ago. Michigan realizes that Greg Schiano and the Scarlet Knights are really fighting to gain more respect and supremacy in the Big Ten. However, the fact of the matter is Michigan is a more cohesively ran operation this year, and there is still a talent gap between the two programs.
If Michigan comes out and plays to their best abilities, this game shouldn’t even be a close one. If Michigan continues to execute how they have through the first three weeks, playing with energy and a chip on their shoulder, we could see backups for most of the second half.