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Three Up/Three Down: Michigan Beats Northwestern, Moves To 7-0

It wasn't very pretty, but Michigan is now 7-0 after defeating Northwestern 33-7.

Coming into the game Michigan was a massive 23.5-point favorite, and for a while, it looked completely out of reach. The Wildcats were pesky and hung around in the first half, but Michigan proved to be too talented over the course of 60 minutes. Despite a 26-point win, there are still some question marks heading into the matchup with Michigan State next weekend. At the end of the day U-M is 7-0 and ready for the huge in-state showdown.

Three Up

The running game showed up

Northwestern knew Michigan wanted to run the ball, and still couldn't do anything about it. The Wildcats are last in the Big Ten at stopping the run, and it showed, but give Michigan credit for sticking with it and calling effective plays that worked even though NW knew what was coming. Blake Corum finished with 119 yards on 19 carries and scored two touchdowns. Hassan Haskins also found the end zone twice and piled up 110 yards on 23 carries of his own. The passing attack was pretty ineffective again, but the rushing attack was there and carried U-M to a pretty easy win and a 7-0 overall record.

Michigan's third-down defense kept Northwestern off the field

Northwestern isn't very good on offense as evidenced by their 21 points per game average, but U-M made it very tough for them all day. The Cats ran only 55 plays and finished just 4-of-14 on third down. Northwestern really only had success on one big play — a 75-yard run by running back Evan Hull in the second quarter. That's how you get a final score of 33-7 as Michigan doubled up the Wildcats in just about every offensive category.

David Ojabo and Aidan Hutchinson are officially disruptive defenders

For about the third or fourth week in a row, Hutchinson and Ojabo both showed up and made plays. Hutchinson and Ojabo each recorded a half a sack each and filled up the stat sheet across the board. Ojabo tallied three pass breakups while Hutchinson notched one, and the two combined for two quarterback hurries. Hutchinson in particular seemed to figure out Ryan Hilinski's cadence early and routinely got a phenomenal jump on both running and passing plays. Big No. 97 was in the backfield as the back was getting the hand off at times. Those two have become a handful and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald keeps using them in unique ways.

Three Down

Unimaginative play calling

Here we are again, nitpicking after a win, but it's hard not to when it still feels like a lot of meat was left on the bone. There were peculiar play calls inside the 10, plays where space is needed run to the short side of the field and conservative approaches aplenty. Early on it looked like it might bite Michigan, but it didn't. At the end of the day, a 33-7 win is a big win in conference and the team is 7-0, but the real tests are coming. If Michigan can pass those, everyone, including myself, will have to shut up. Period.

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I don't understand the two-quarterback approach/Quarterback play remains uninspiring

Here we are again with this situation as well. Cade McNamara finished the day 20-of-27 for 129 yards and no touchdowns. To his credit, he also took care of the ball again and was only sacked once. McNamara's performance today was a snapshot of the entire season — good not great, mistake free and effective enough to win. But you can't help but wonder if that's going to last, especially next weekend and against Penn State and Ohio State. If there wasn't another option, the question wouldn't be as burning. But there is and we've seen flashes of it.

Late in the third quarter, JJ McCarthy entered the game and picked up two big first downs with his legs on designed runs. He attempted one pass, which was incomplete as he was pressured. His stat line is certainly nothing to write home about (3-of-5, 34 yards), but you just see another dimension with him in the game. He's a much better athlete and has a stronger arm with a quicker release. It really does make everyone wonder what he's doing wrong or what McNamara is doing right in practice. 

Then, in the fourth quarter, with Michigan up 33-7, McCarthy is on the sidelines as other backup players like Donovan Edwards, Carter Selzer, Andrel Anthony and Karsen Barnhart are all in. It just seems odd that other backups are getting run while he's not in the game.

THEN, midway through the fourth quarter, while Michigan is still up 33-7, McNamara remained in the game while limping around. McCarthy did enter the game shortly after that, but....what?

Bringing McCarthy in sparingly throughout the game only to run the ball when his best asset is hanging off of his right shoulder is just strange and adds to the curiosity of the whole situation.