The Rutgers football team is trying to shake off the recent 31-0 loss to Minnesota. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights (4-4, 1-4), they are coming home to face Big Ten title contender Michigan.
The Daily Targum sat down with Nicholas Stoll, the co-managing sports editor of The Michigan Daily, to get an inside look at the keys to the No. 4 Wolverines (8-0, 5-0). On Tuesday night, the first College Football Playoff standings were released, with Michigan coming in at fifth, on the outside looking in at the final four.
“For now, what I think is it doesn’t really matter,” said Stoll. “Michigan is gonna have to run the table anyway and beat Ohio State to make it into the top four. And if they do it, they’re going to be top four, probably at that point one or two … as far as where they should be ranked (today): four, five, six, anywhere in there.”
Regardless of an argument on ranking, there is no denying that the Wolverines have been one of the best teams in the country. They have outscored their opponents 328-92 this season and have the third-ranked scoring defense. So who is the one opponent this year that gave Michigan trouble?
“You expected going into it that it was going to be Penn State, but it almost seemed like Michigan was built to stop Penn State,” said Stoll. “The team that did cause Michigan the biggest amount of issues was Maryland — athletic quarterback and talented receivers that can exploit Michigan’s weak spot in their linebackers … on that same day, Maryland’s defense was playing pretty good, and (Michigan’s quarterback) missed on some open passes.”
Head coach Greg Schiano announced that sophomore quarterback Gavin Wimsatt would be the starter for the second consecutive game. He has the athletic talent that could cause problems for the Wolverines defense if the team isn't careful.
Speaking of quarterback, Michigan's starter coming into the season was expected to be Cade McNamara. But after McNamara suffered an undisclosed leg injury, J.J McCarthy took over the job and refused to let go.
“(McNamara) is certainly a competent quarterback, but (McCarthy) has some form of ‘it factor’ that a lot of other quarterbacks just don’t have,” Stoll said. “He’s a bit raw still. He’ll make ill-advised throws and fumble the ball …but he has that talent, the legs, the arm, and can make passes that other quarterbacks simply can’t make.”
The Wolverines have decided their identity on offense will be running the ball with running back Blake Corum. He has more than 1,000 yards rushing on the season, along with 15 total touchdowns. For Rutgers, who gave up 159 yards and three touchdowns to Mohamed Ibrahim a week ago, Corum’s ability in the running game could pose more issues.
“That's Michigan’s blueprint: run the ball, hand it to Corum … and just let him do what he does with the offensive line,” Stoll said. “Including Michigan State, (Corum) has gone five games in a row with over 100 yards, and I believe he has a touchdown in each one of those games … sometimes ... he’ll shed three tackles and turn what should have been with a normal running back 3 yards into something that’s 15.”
Stoll expects Michigan to continue its win streak against the Knights on Saturday but knows that anytime this team plays Rutgers, the score, for some reason, stays closer than expected.
“Two things I know to be true about Michigan: always going to struggle with Rutgers — no idea why, they always do — and then, they’re also always gonna start slow in that first half," Stoll said. "It’s going to be kind of close, and then, Michigan is going to pull away in the second. I’ll go 41-21."
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