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Scouting the Wildcats Week 8 Opponent: Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines

What to expect from the No. 6 team in the country.

After a much needed victory over Rutgers University, the Northwestern University football team has its toughest test coming this weekend; a date with the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines enter the matchup undefeated and ranked No. 6 in the country, and they have little intention of letting the 3–3 Wildcats halt the chance at a berth in the College Football Playoff. 

Before the two teams take the field, here is a look at the Michigan Wolverines.

Overview

Michigan has reached the 6–0 record after defeating Western Michigan University 47–14, the University of Washington 31–10, Northern Illinois University 63–10, Rutgers 20–13, the University of Wisconsin 38–17 and finally the University of Nebraska 32–29. These scores are very interesting, as the Wolverines seem to handle the easier opponents extremely well, and hold on against divisional foes. The Wildcats beat Rutgers by more in its contest, but Nebraska blew out Northwestern and lost to Michigan, so that is worth noting too. The Wildcats performance in this game will be telling in preparing for their upcoming contest against Wisconsin, as the Wolverines proved to be too much for the Badgers in that game. Michigan is also coming off of a bye for this game, so the team will be extra rested and fired up for a home game at The Big House.

The Wolverines currently rank No. 39 in the country in total offense, No. 20 in total defense, No. 14 in scoring offense and No. 8 in scoring defense. These numbers are higher across the board than the Wildcats so far this season.

Offense 

The Wolverines offense can score at will. The unit has only been held under 30 points once and has never been held under 20. This will be tough for a Wildcats defense that has struggled all season to defend. 

Junior quarterback Cade McNamara has handled starting duties as the field general this season and has thrown for 986 yards and five touchdowns while only surrendering one interception so far this season. He possesses a 60.5 % completion rate and is averaging 164.33 yards per game through the air. He also had contributed a score on the ground as well.

Sophomore running back Blake Corum is the Wolverines leading rusher with 610 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior running back Hassan Haskins has eight touchdowns to go along with 496 yards, completing the two-headed attack. On the receiving end, junior wide receiver Cornelius Johnson leads the pack with 282 yards and three touchdowns, with senior wide receiver Dalyen Baldwin following shortly behind with 219 yards and two touchdowns.

Defense

The Wolverines defensive play this season has been exceptional as well, which is further proven by the No. 8 ranking in scoring defense. The unit has only allowed more than 20 points once this season, which again will be difficult for a Wildcats team that has been inconsistent offensively at times this season.

Graduate student linebacker Josh Ross leads the team in total tackles with 40, while sophomore linebacker Nikhai Hill-Green leads the team in solo tackles with 23. Junior defensive back Daxton Hill leads the team with two interceptions while also breaking up four passes and is second on the team in total tackles with 29. Senior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson leads the team with 5.5 sacks and also has a forced fumble, while junior linebacker David Ojabo has 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

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Final Thoughts

The Wildcats need to take this game one possession at a time in order stay competitive. The win over Rutgers was a huge improvement, but a win here would make the season for Northwestern. The Wolverines are a team that executes on both sides of the ball and will pounce on mistakes. Minimizing risk will be huge for the Wildcats as a result of this. 

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