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Michigan 42 … at Northwestern 24

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Oct 8, 2011


Week 6 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - Michigan at Northwestern


2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 6 - Michigan at Northwestern

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Oct. 8 Michigan 42 … at Northwestern 24
CFN Analysis: It might not have been the cleanest game – Denard Robinson threw three picks and the secondary got picked apart for 331 yards – but the offense kept the pressure on, Robinson made up for his mistakes with 337 passing yards, two scores, and 117 rushing yards and two scores, and the Wolverines pulled away for a fantastic start. Since 1974, Michigan has gone to the Rose Bowl every year it’s started 6-0, and while it’s been a dream season so far in Brady Hoke’s first run, the season might come down to the trip to Michigan State. Rich Rodriguez’s biggest problem, besides the defense, was getting by the Spartans, and if Hoke can do it, it should be an 8-0 start with Purdue a relative layup to follow. To do even more, the pass rush has to be stronger and the secondary has to be tighter against the better quarterbacks, but more than anything else, Robinson has to stay healthy. He hurt his hand, but he fought through it.

There’s the Dan Persa everyone’s been waiting for … sort of. He completed 32-of-44 passes for 331 yards with a pick, but he wasn’t running like the pre-injury version. He wasn’t as mobile, was tentative when he had his chances to take off and make something happen, and that means Kain Colter will need to be a part of the rotation. With Mike Trumpy out for the year, the Wildcats don’t have a reliable running back, although the three-headed monster of Adonis Smith, Venric Mark, and Jacob Schmidt gave it a try, and if the quarterback isn’t taking off, not much is happening on the ground. It’s a danger time now for the Cats at 2-3 with three road games in the next four to come. With home games against Rice and Minnesota still to play, there are more wins out there, but a loss at Iowa next week would out NU on a four-game losing streak and in big trouble for a bowl game.

(AP) EVANSTON, Ill. -- Denard Robinson threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, helping No. 12 Michigan come back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Northwestern 42-24 Saturday night to remain unbeaten.

Robinson matched his season-high by throwing for 338 yards and ran for 113 as Michigan (6-0, 2-0) scored on its first three possessions of the second half. The Wolverines trailed 24-14 after a first half in which Robinson threw three interceptions.

Michigan's Junior Hemingway caught five passes for 123 yards and Roy Roundtree added five grabs for 83 yards.

Dan Persa threw for 315 yards for Northwestern (2-3, 0-2) which blew a double-digit lead for the second straight week. Jeremy Ebert caught 11 passes for 87 yards for the Wildcats.

Michigan has won nine of the last 11 meetings between the schools, though they hadn't met since Northwestern's win at Michigan Stadium in 2008.

With Michigan trailing by 10 points, Robinson came out firing in the second half. He connected with Roundtree on a 57-yard bomb to set up Robinson's two-yard touchdown scamper. After a stop, Robinson led an 80-yard drive, accounting for 68 yards himself, and Devin Gardner scored on a one-yard run to put Michigan up 28-24.

Michigan's Brandin Hawthorne then picked off Persa's tipped pass, setting up Michael Shaw's three-yard touchdown run. Northwestern had the ball for just 2 minutes, 32 seconds during the third quarter.

Ebert fumbled after a short reception from Persa, giving Northwestern two straight turnovers after turning the ball over just two times total in their first four games. After shutting out Northwestern in the second half, Michigan has allowed just 21 second-half points in six games and has forced nine second-half turnovers.

After winning their first five games at home, the Wolverines were playing their first road game of the season, though the Northwestern purple in the crowd at Ryan Field had a liberal sprinkling of Michigan maize that gave the game a Big House-like feel.

The Wolverines started fast. Robinson hit Junior Hemingway on a key third-down pass for 48 yards. The senior outleapt safety Ibraheim Campbell to make a tumbling catch, and Denard found Steve Watson from nine yards out for the game's first score.

Persa led three long Northwestern scoring drives in the first half. Northwestern's 14 first-quarter points were more than Michigan allowed in its three previous games combined. The Wolverines entered the game allowing just 10.2 points per game, second in the nation and down from 35.2 last season.

Meanwhile, Robinson's erratic throws kept Michigan off the scoreboard. Robinson entered the game with a Big Ten-high six interceptions and he threw three more -- all on overthrows -- in the first half.

Campbell had two of the interceptions, his second coming on the first play of the second quarter after Michigan reached Northwestern's 16-yard line. It was the second time all season that Michigan didn't score inside the 20 -- the first was a kneel-down to end last week's 58-0 win over Minnesota.

But after halftime, it was all Robinson and Michigan, which converted 14 for 17 on third-down conversions in the game.

Michigan (5-0) at Northwestern (2-2) Oct. 8, 7:00, BTN

Here’s The Deal … Is Michigan really this good? It’s experienced, Denard Robinson is being Denard Robinson, and the much-maligned defense has allowed ten points or fewer in four of the five games and has given up fewer points in the first five outings than it did in the bowl loss to Mississippi State. More than anything else, the team has been able to focus on the task at hand and hasn’t been looking ahead. It managed to get by San Diego State without any drama, and it didn’t let down in any way against Minnesota, winning in a 58-0 blowout that wasn’t even that close. With the showdown at Michigan State coming up, getting by Northwestern is a must to be fully established as the star of the Legends.

A win would also bring the program’s fist 6-0 start since 2006. To jack up the excitement even further, since 1974, when the 10-0 Wolverines lost to Ohio State and didn’t go to a bowl, they’ve started the season 6-0 five times. 1976 – Rose Bowl. 1977 – Rose Bowl. 1986 – Rose Bowl. 1997 – Rose Bowl. 2006 – Rose Bowl. 2011 - ???

But Northwestern can be a pain in the butt.

It’s been 11 years since the epic 54-51 shootout in Evanston, and Michigan took back control with five straight wins in the series after the loss. In 2008, though, in the midst of a miserable year, the Wolverines lost the home finale 21-14. Now it’s a Legends battle, and after a tough loss to Illinois last week, it’s a critical game for the Wildcats.

Missing Wisconsin is nice, and there’s no Ohio State to deal with but Northwestern still has to go on the road to face Iowa and Nebraska and still has to handle Penn State and Michigan State at home. After the puzzling loss to Army two weeks ago, the Cats can’t afford to miss out on many more close games if they have any hopes of going bowling.

Why Northwestern Might Win: The Michigan secondary can be thrown on, and no matter who’s under center for Northwestern, the passing game should work. Getting Eastern Michigan and Minnesota on the slate helps make the stats look better, but San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley, Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees, and Western Michigan’s Alex Carder didn’t have any problems getting the ball moving through the air. The Michigan defense might be improving, but the pass rush still hasn’t shown up on a regular basis and the front four isn’t getting behind the line. Illinois, who’s been great all year at wreaking havoc in the backfield and sold out all game long to make plays, came up with three sacks, but got burned in the process.

The Wildcats aren’t making mistakes. Michigan hasn’t had to live off of takeaways, but it hasn’t hurt that it’s winning the turnover margin on a regular basis. Stanford has only given the ball away once so far, and Northwestern is second in the nation in fewest turnovers with losing just two so far. There haven’t been a slew of penalties, there haven’t been any giveaways, and the team is playing smart.

Why Michigan Might Win: Army quarterback Trent Steelman ran for 108 yards and three touchdowns as part of a 381-yard rushing day from the attack. Freaking out that Illinois would have similar success, Northwestern did everything possible to stack the run last week, and Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns. The Wildcats will take their chances with Denard Robinson throwing the ball down the field and they’ll load up everyone in the box to take away the ground game first and leave the average corners on an island. Of course, everyone tries to make Michigan win by throwing, and last week Robinson made Minnesota pay completing 15-of-19 passes for 169 yards and two scores.

The Michigan offensive line is having a great start to the season. It helps to have Robinson running around, and it helps that few teams have tried to sell out to get to No. 16, leaving the defensive midsection open, but the time is there to hit on the deep passes. Steelman completed 1-of-7 passes for six yards in Army’s win over NU, and the Wildcats are still 81st in the nation in pass defense and 88th in pass efficiency defense.

What To Watch Out For: Dan Persa is dinged again. His injured Achilles was sore late against Illinois and had to leave the game for a stretch after completing 10-of-14 passes for 123 yards and four scores. If he’s not able to run like he did before his injury, and if he’s limited and hurting, he’s not nearly the same player. Backup Kain Colter, a great runner who did a solid job over the first part of the season, will see plenty of time even if Persa is fine. The Cats need a runner after losing leading running back Mike Trumpy for the year with a knee injury.

The Wolverines are looking for more and more help to keep Robinson from getting worn down, and junior Fitzgerald Toussaint did his part last week running 11 times for 108 yards and a score. At 5-10 and 200 pounds he’s a slim speedster who was brought in as a great threat for the spread attack – courted by Illinois to be a featured back – and he’s producing whenever he gets his chances.

What Will Happen: Northwestern will be its normal plucky self, but the Michigan offense is playing too well. However, it’ll take a little while to put the game away. Robinson will be off target early and he won’t find much room to run, and then he’ll come up with one great drive in the second half to take control. Northwestern will hang around, but it won’t have the running game to balance out the attack.

CFN Prediction: Michigan 31 … Northwestern 23
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Michigan -7.5  O/U: 59

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