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Three keys to Rutgers football's night matchup against No. 4 Michigan

Sophomore quarterback Gavin Wimsatt and the Rutgers football team face an uphill battle on Saturday night when they play Michigan at SHI Stadium on Busch campus.  – Photo by Ben Solomon / Scarletknights

For the third time this season, the Rutgers football team will play under the lights in a primetime matchup against Michigan on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights (4-4, 1-4) are looking to bounce back after a 31-0 shutout at Minnesota that saw the defense stay on the field for more than 40 minutes of the game. Here are three keys to Saturday’s matchup.

There’s a precedent for an upset

While the No. 4 Wolverines (8-0, 5-0) constitute one of the best teams in the nation and could be on their way to the College Football Playoff, Rutgers has had multiple close matchups with them in the last few years. Last season saw the Knights almost come back from a 17-point halftime deficit, losing 20-13 after a fumble from senior quarterback Noah Vedral on the final drive of the game.

2020 saw one of the better games in recent Rutgers history between these two teams. The Knights scored with 27 seconds remaining in regulation, then converted a 2-point conversion to send the game to overtime. Both teams traded a missed field goal, then a touchdown before Michigan scored in triple overtime and held Rutgers for the 48-42 victory. The Knights are large underdogs in this game, but the Wolverines can’t overlook them.

Stop the run

Rutgers struggled with its rushing defense last week, surrendering more than 150 yards and three touchdowns to Mohamed Ibrahim in the blowout loss. The team will face another tall task on the ground, as Michigan is the fifth-best rushing offense in the nation. The backfield is led by Blake Corum, who individually has the fourth most rushing yards in the country.

The Knights will need to keep their opponent off the field for extended periods of time after allowing the Golden Gophers (5-3, 2-3) offense to stay out there for more than two-thirds of the game. The Wolverines will keep a slow, run-heavy pace if they can, so Rutgers needs multiple three-and-outs in order to keep the defense fresh.

Score (if you can)

The Knights will need to keep pace as Michigan has the eighth-best scoring offense in the country, averaging more than 40 points per game. But Rutgers will face a difficult time trying to match the Wolverines as the Knights also have the third-best scoring defense in the country, allowing just 11 points per game.

With sophomore quarterback Gavin Wimsatt being named the official starting quarterback, he will need to improve on a pedestrian performance if Rutgers wants a chance to shock the college football world.

The game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, with the broadcast taking place on the Big Ten Network and 88.7 WRSU-FM.

For more updates on the Rutgers football sports, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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