After all these amazing noon games earlier in the year, Michigan fans will have to wait a few more hours to watch their favorite team play for the second week in a row, as they are set to play Rutgers in New Jersey this evening.
As has been the case for most of this season, the Wolverines are heavy favorites according to oddsmakers. They’ve been 26-point favorites all week long, so that hasn’t changed much up until this point.
Here are some keys to victory for the Michigan Wolverines.
Don’t fall into trap games
On paper, it seems as if Michigan has two extremely favorable matchups against Rutgers and Nebraska before key matchups with No. 14 Illinois and No. 3 Ohio State.
How the Wolverines fare in those last two games will likely determine whether or not they return to the College Football Playoff. Two more wins against top-15 teams —including your No. 1 rival and a CFP regular in Ohio State — will certainly help their resume in the eyes of the Selection Committee.
That being said, Michigan can’t look too far ahead and take these games against Rutgers and Nebraska for granted. To paraphrase Ted Lasso, one of the great philosophers of our time, it’s important to have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to sports.
Michigan needs to take these games week-by-week to avoid falling in one of these trap games to make sure it is undefeated going into those important matchups in a few weeks.
Don’t let Gavin Wimsatt beat you with his legs
As our Dan Plocher mentioning in a piece previewing Rutgers players earlier this week, one of the ways Rutgers was able to keep it close in last year’s 20-13 Michigan win was it was able to get yards on the ground with its quarterback. Noah Vedral didn’t do much through the air, but his 11 carries for 46 yards were able to keep drives alive for Rutgers.
Gavin Wimsatt has since taken the reins as the starting quarterback for the Scarlet Knights, and he’s a threat with his legs too. He has 185 total rushing yards through just four appearances this season, including 62 yards in a blowout win over Wagner and a 48-yard run on a read option in play in a road win over Boston College.
Michigan needs to stay disciplined and keep Wimsatt in the pocket as much as possible. He’s far from a fearsome passer, as he’s only completed 41% of his passes over two seasons, and has only thrown one touchdown this year to go along with three interceptions.
If Michigan can limit Wimsatt on the ground and make him try to beat the Wolverines through the air, it only increases Michigan’s chances of victory.
Continue to dominate time of possession
One way to make sure Wimsatt doesn’t beat you with his legs is to keep him on the sideline.
The Wolverines have dominated time of possession all year long; the Wolverines ranked sixth in the country in time of possession, having the ball for 277 game minutes. That is good enough for second in the Big Ten behind Minnesota (282).
Michigan actually lost the time of possession battle against Rutgers last season, with the Scarlet Knights having the ball for almost 33 minutes.
The easiest way to win this game is to play a style of football that Michigan fans have grown accustomed to — play to your strengths. Run the ball and chew up the clock while methodically picking apart the defense.
The Wolverines’ run game behind a dominant offensive line has been their biggest strength this season, and I’d imagine they’re going to play to that strength the rest of the season.