Michigan is a 26.5-point favorite over visiting Northern Illinois later today, which is a really big number. Still, it feels like Michigan can cover that massive spread against a team that flat out can't stop offenses. NIU is 1-1 after an improbable season-opening win over Georgia Tech, but the Huskies really struggle to stop the run. As we've seen through two weeks, Michigan loves to pound the rock and likely will with ease against Northern Illinois. Michigan should win easily, but what will the score be? We try our hands at figuring that out ourselves...
The last time Rocky Lombardi was in Michigan Stadium he was in a Spartans uniform and he threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns, handing the Wolverines their first loss of the 2020 season as a 21-point underdog. Something tells me that the Michigan defense hasn't forgotten that game and, in particular, that performance by Lombardi. Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo have a big day and Michigan gets its first pick-six of the season.
Do we finally get to see what the passing attack is capable of, or is it another full 60 minutes of smash-mouth football? Either way it's the Wolverines BIG.
Michigan 49, Northern Illinois 13
I just don't think there's a lot to say about this one. Michigan's strength is running the ball and Northern Illinois' weakness is stopping the run. The Wolverines ran for 343 yards against Washington last week; they may go over 400 this week. I expect big games out of Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum, and I think we get a healthy dose of Donovan Edwards as well. I wonder if we're going to see Cade McNamara throw it. I don't think we will, but it would be good to see what the offense looks like with a little more balance.
I'm also anxious to see if Mike Macdonald can stack up another impressive performance. He's done a great job putting Aidan Hutchinson in a position to impact the last two games and he's also made the necessary adjustments to shut down a pretty good offensive team in Western Michigan and a respectable Power 5 team in Washington, although their offense has been pretty poor.
There are a few interesting storylines to watch from an observation perspective, but the outcome isn't really up for debate.
Michigan 51, Northern Illinois 17
Another week, another game in which No. 25 Michigan is very unlikely to be tested. This week’s matchup looks like another blowout in the making for the Wolverines.
Sure, freshman running backHarrison Waylee leads a Northern Illinois rush attack that has averaged 204 yards per game through two weeks, but the Huskies rushing defense looks as bad as their offense looks good. And with the Wolverines running back duo of senior Hassan Haskins and sophomore Blake Corum having run over, around and through Washington’s Power 5 defense last week, I would expect it to be a tough night for Northern Illinois’ defensive front.
The Huskies do have a ringer of sorts in redshirt junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi, who already has a win over Michigan to his name (Lombardi played for Michigan State in 2020’s matchup), but it really comes down to the cast of characters Lombardi has around him. Much like Western Michigan, I expect Northern Illinois’ offensive and defensive fronts to wear down under the pressure of Michigan’s more talented lines and explosive running backs. The Huskies simply don’t have the manpower to keep this game close.
Michigan 38, Northern Illinois 13
Michigan is riding high and, while they might come crashing back to Earth at some point, it won’t be this week. Northern Illinois poses no threat to the Wolverines. While former Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi did beat Michigan at the Big House less than a year ago, the talent he has around him this time around does not compare.
While I expect Michigan to roll through the game, I’ll be curious to see a couple things that could be telling for the team's long term development. First, will the offense have a more balanced attack after throwing for just 44 yards last game? Also, how much of JJ McCarthy will we see? If Cade McNamara doesn’t look comfortable throwing against NIU, and JJ comes in and starts slinging it, the rumblings of a QB controversy could begin. But until then, I expect the Wolverines to win with ease and start the season 3-0 heading into conference play.
Michigan 45, Northern Illinois 7