We have two writers picking Northwestern this week, but either way, a lot of people are expecting a close game.
Kevin Trahan, Inside Northwestern: Northwestern 24, Michigan 23 — Northwestern has that one game every year where it pulls an upset nobody sees coming. This is that game. Northwestern’s improved run defense puts together its best performance of the season — especially against a struggling UM offensive line — forcing both quarterbacks to throw. Denard Robinson will rush for just under 100 yards, but it won’t be enough for him to win without his arm. Gardner, meanwhile, will struggle both on the ground and through the air. The Wildcats’ offense will struggle with an impressive Michigan defense, but it will have a couple big plays and get some good field position due to turnovers. After NU takes a late lead, Robinson will have the chance to lead a game-winning drive, but won’t be able to get it done through the air.
Chris Johnson, Inside Northwestern: Michigan 23, Northwestern 21 — The Michigan football program is taking cues from Bill Belichik’s totalitarian information control policies. Brady Hoke called the Wolverines’ quarterback situation “Day to Day,” which basically means every possible outcome is officially on the table. Whoever lines up under center, the Wolverines offense will do just enough to hold off NU, who I fully expect to pull out the frustrating QB shuffling tendencies of old just two weeks after Kain Colter was so effective taking a majority of the snaps against Iowa. Or maybe Colter will play the entire game. At this point, your guess is as good as mine. This game will lack for aesthetic taste, and you can bet passing yards will be at a premium. To me, this is easily the toughest pick of the season to date. I go with Michigan not because it is the decidedly better team, per se, but because of the home field advantage and the Cats horrific record coming off of bye-weeks under Fitzgerald -- for whatever that’s worth.
Phil Rossman-Reich, Lake the Posts: Northwestern 21, Michigan 20 — This game is going to be really weird. This late in the season it does not seem like either team has really found its identity. Northwestern is still turning the whole team over to Kain Colter and Michigan has struggled to get any offense going without Denard Robinson. Except for last week against Minnesota when Devin Gardner took over. It is honestly really difficult to project this game. Northwestern seems further along and the offense seems a bit more dynamic. Plus add in the bye week and the Wildcats bend-don’t-break defense does just enough.
Chris Emma, PurpleWildcats.com: Michigan 31, Northwestern 23 — The Wolverines have too much talent and Brady Hoke will combat Northwestern's attack with a solid game plan. Michigan will take a commanding lead early, the Wildcats will battle back, but fall short. The Wolverines get a needed victory at home.
Nick Medline, PurpleWildcats.com: Michigan 31, Northwestern 17 — Both teams have a lot to prove. Northwestern lacks anything close to a signature win, and a surprisingly unranked Michigan looks to march back into the rankings. I expect Devin Gardner, and only him, to play at quarterback. But this game comes down to performances away from the skill positions. If the Michigan offensive line can hold off a fierce NU pass rush, Gardner can make the throws necessary to win. And let’s not forget that Michigan boasts what is perhaps a top-10 defense. This is a very tough matchup for the Wildcats, who will have trouble moving the ball. That does not bode well for them at all.
Jonathan Hodges, Hail To Purple: Michigan 31, Northwestern 24 — Expect NU to keep this one closer than the initial spread thanks to some special teams plays and being able to move the ball to some degree on the ground. Unfortunately, Michigan's defense is superior to Northwestern's so far, and it will be tough for the 'Cats' defense to hold down the Wolverines for the entire game no matter who is behind center. NU's best hope is to clamp down on the run game and hope to get some solid play from the secondary through the entire game. At the very least this should be a very entertaining game, as any good Wildcat fan should expect.