Northwestern has the 13th ranked rushing offense in the nation behind Kain Colter and Venric Mark. Michigan in run defense is only 44th in the country, so expect some emphasis placed on the defensive line for the Wolverines this week. I'll write more about it in my weekly prediction post, but of a lot of the game will depend on who starts at quarterback for Michigan this week. Will Denard be better healed after missing his first college career start? Or will Devin Gardner be able to shine for the second week in a row? Either way it's going to be a slobber-knocker (Thanks Jim Ross). Here's a few Wildcats to be wary of:
Is he a quarterback, or is he a running back? Does he have the same kind of ball skills that Denard Robinson has, or is he better? It's a tough situation to answer since he doesn't always play at the QB position. Colter has passed for 3 TDs and 2 INTs on the season for 517 yards and a near 70% completion rate. On the other hand as a runner, he has 114 carries for 662 yards and 11 TDs..and that's a 5.5 ypc average. He does possess home run speed and is also able to run receiver routes to catch the ball. Bottom line is that Colter is a threat in every phase of the offense. Michigan does have the 1st ranked pass defense in the nation, but even Colter might give their safeties some issues when he breaks through the first or second tackle.
The other running threat is Venric Mark. Mark has 166 carries for 1072 yards and 9 TDs, which is at a 6.5 ypc average. He's a junior who is also special on kickoff and punt returns. His best game was against South Dakota where he ran for 3 TDs, and he has eclipsed the 100 yd mark 6 times this season; the highest being against Minnesota where he ran for 182 yds in a 21-13 win. What can I say other than Michigan's defense will need to make sure there are very few missed tackles because both Colter and Mark could make them regret it.
One thing they might not be able to do very well is pass the ball. Northwestern is averaging 162.3 yards through the air, 113th in the FBS. It seems unlikely to get that passing attack going against Michigan, owner of the best pass defense in the nation at 145.4 yards allowed per game. The main quarterback now is Trevor Siemian, who has passed for 931 yds and 4 TDs with 1 INT. What that basically tells me is the Wildcats can be predictable using their run heavy offense, since not a whole lot can be done through the air. Remember I said earlier Michigan has the No.1 ranked pass defense and judging by the lack of passing numbers that Northwestern has, it could be fruitful for Michigan. The Wildcats don't have any game breakers at receiver, but this could be an offense that doesn't really need one.