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Staff Predictions: No. 5 Michigan at Rutgers

The MnB staff weighs in on the upcoming game.

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

The Michigan Wolverines head on the road for the first time in nearly a month, traveling to Piscataway to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Maize n Brew staff members got together to put out some final thoughts on the tunnel incident, the first batch of College Football Playoff rankings, and the game this weekend.

After thoroughly whooping MSU 29-7 last Saturday to maintain their undefeated record, the College Football Playoff Committee put Michigan at #5 in their first rankings of the season. Do you think they got Michigan’s spot right, and what are your thoughts on some of the other rankings as well?

Von Lozon: I know a lot of Michigan fans were upset about it but personally, I don’t really care or have much of an opinion on it. The bottom line is — Michigan controls its own destiny. Win the rest of your games, especially the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and you will be just fine.

Scotty White: I do not think #5 is right for Michigan. Clemson’s “ranked” wins against Wake Forest, NC State and Syracuse don’t matchup to Michigan’s blowout win over Penn State which, despite two losses, has proved to be a very good team as it just took Ohio State to the wire. Also, LSU at 10? Really?

Seth Berry: The committee’s justification for ranking Clemson ahead of Michigan was laughable. It looks as if they were automatically going to the Wolverines for having a weak non-conference schedule while overlooking the fact Clemson has played games against Louisiana Tech and Furman. If they were watching the games, they would have noted Michigan’s dominating performance against Penn State and how they carved up a good Nittany Lions defense for 400 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, Clemson’s best wins are over Syracuse, which took a desperate comeback at home to secure, and Wake Forest, who was just curb stomped by Louisville. Michigan’s overall schedule has been far from daunting, but neither has Clemson’s in a weak ACC. The Tigers have struggled in about half their games, as Michigan has had to sweat it out in just one against Maryland. As far as the other rankings go, I have no issue with the rest of the top three. LSU has no business being in the top 10, that was a total joke by the committee.

Andrew Bailey: Not at all, but the great news is this thing is going to play itself out. Secondly, I love Michigan getting snubbed a little because it adds some needed motivation for the rest of the season and allows the Wolverines to be tunnel-visioned in the best way with a focus on solely winning football games.

Zach Breininger: For Michigan, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish that matters most. All we should care about is beating the Buckeyes and winning the Big Ten. Although, if you had to ask me whether I think Clemson is better than Michigan, I’d laugh in your face. Michigan would steamroll the Tigers. As for the rankings in general, it’s apparent that regardless how the rest of the season shakes down, two SEC teams are going to the playoff. The 12-team format can’t come soon enough.

At a media availability earlier this week, Olu Oluwatimi revealed Jim Harbaugh had an epiphany upon waking up early one morning to move on from the tunnel incident and not let it impact what happens moving forward. Do you think there will be any sluggishness this weekend at Rutgers, or do you think the team will be fully locked in?

Von Lozon: I believe this team is ready to put all this garbage and nonsense behind them and lay a whooping on every team left on their schedule. What happened to Gemon Green and Ja’Den McBurrows is horrible, so I think the team from top to bottom is going to use that as motivation the rest of the season. That all starts this weekend in Piscataway.

Scotty White: I honestly think this is just going to give Michigan more juice going forward. This is a well-coached, focused team with good leaders. I think the guys will only use this as motivation.

Seth Berry: I don’t think that incident will carry over at all. Michigan knows it has a lot on the line and has to move on and focus on getting better week to week and let law enforcement sort out the rest of what happened. Surely, everyone is frustrated by what took place, but there’s nothing that can be changed about what happened at this point. It should be noted that Mel Tucker and the athletic department have handled the situation well on their end up to this point when it comes to the aftermath.

Andrew Bailey: Rutgers is the Iowa of the Big Ten East — a very good defense handicapped by a below-average offense. I think this game would have been a grind regardless but by Harbaugh setting the tone and re-shifting his focus, I believe the team will follow in his footsteps and not overlook a team that pushed Michigan to the wire last year.

Zach Breininger: The tunnel incident should only affect how Michigan plays MSU going forward. My fervent hope is that what transpired last Saturday lights a fire under the Wolverines and Michigan goes on a 100-0 run against the Spartans. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Michigan looked sluggish in every game leading up to The Game. With how much more talent the Wolverines are compared to these next three foes, I can’t say I can blame the coaching staff for placing a greater onus on Ohio State than usual.

One of Michigan’s recurring issues has been red zone offense. Rutgers, however, has allowed 15 touchdowns on 18 red zone trips for opponents in 2022 — statistically tied for the worst in the FBS with Notre Dame. Do you think this game will help the Wolverines with prepping for future red zone opportunities against Illinois and Ohio State?

Von Lozon: Yeah, this has to be the game where they right the ship. Rutgers has a solid defense overall but when it allows opponents in the red zone, it has no defensive game plan. Allowing 15 touchdowns on 18 red zone trips is pretty bad, but the fact the Scarlet Knights have only given up 18 red zone trips to begin with isn’t bad for them at all. Michigan will have to get a bit more creative on offense if it wants to score more touchdowns consistently within the 20-yard line. See: Blake Corum’s receiving touchdown last week.

Scotty White: I think it will, and it has to. The score against State should’ve been in the 40s or 50s. When Michigan is playing actual football teams, it will need to capitalize and get touchdowns in the red zone.

Seth Berry: Yes, if they can get into the red zone enough times to capitalize. The Scarlet Knights have been good on the defensive side of the ball and 18 trips isn’t a lot, but obviously when teams are getting inside the 20, they are scoring. Michigan’s offense has not been able to generate big plays through the air and we know they will continue to rely on that ground game, so if they are able to move the ball on the ground they will have chances to drive the ball deep into Rutgers territory. In the passing game, they have to find a consistent target McCarthy can rely on even when plays break down and when windows get tight.

Andrew Bailey: Absolutely. These next four games get progressively more difficult and give the Wolverines a chance to perfect the periphery of their schematics before The Game. Michigan had similar red zone issues last year and did not resolve those until Week 10 against Penn State. The Wolverines could get ahead of schedule and start cleaning up some of the issues in Week 9 this year, and be operating at the peak of their powers in Columbus.

Zach Breininger: Probably not. Play sequencing has been the primary cause of the red zone blues, and any meaningful improvement will have to happen in the coaches’ meetings. That being said, I’m hoping Michigan won’t need to work on its red zone offense to win. Matt Weiss needs to start incorporating deeper passes into the playbook if Michigan is to have a better shot at living up to its potential.

As always in these roundtables, throw down one bold prediction for the game.

Von Lozon: I am completely stealing this one from Luke Ghiardi earlier this season, but Michigan will score a touchdown in each facet of the game this weekend, with possibly more than one on defense.

Scotty White: I’ll say Michigan gets at least four red zone touchdowns.

Seth Berry: Michigan will hold Rutgers to under 25 yards rushing.

Andrew Bailey: The defense scores twice against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are shaky on offense and the team is comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores. Couple youthful inexperience and sloppy exception and you have a recipe to get the turnover machine cranked up in the final quarter of the season. Pass the Turnover Buffs!

Zach Breininger: Here’s a “bold one”: J.J. throws for 200+ yards. Believe me, I’m loving every minute of Blake Corum’s Heisman campaign, but Michigan has to have a more balanced attack going forward.

The final score is...

Von Lozon: Michigan 35, Rutgers 13.

Scotty White: Michigan wins 45-10.

Seth Berry: Michigan 42, Rutgers 7.

Andrew Bailey: 38-3, Michigan. It will be a grind early but much like Minnesota last week against Rutgers, Michigan will wear them down with a relentless rushing attack. Defensively, a shut out is on the board, but I believe some tendency-breaking schematics will be implemented for one or two big plays to move the Scarlet Knights deep into U-M territory to prevent the donut.

Zach Breininger: Michigan wins 33-3. Field goals galore in this one.