by Chris Johnson (@ChrisDJohnsonn)
The latest evidence of folks not buying into Northwestern’s 7-2 start: Michigan enters this game as a 9.5-point favorite despite ranking lower than the BCS No. 24 Wildcats. At 7-2, Northwestern begins the defining stretch of its season, a three-week gauntlet where any loss could mean the difference between the Big Ten Championship game and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Only a perfect record would keep the Wildcats in contention for the former, and even then, they’re going to need some help. Nebraska has to lose two of its final three games for Northwestern to have a shot at the Legends title. That may or may not happen, but it’s nothing the Wildcats can control. They had their chance against the Huskers, and they saw it slip away in agonizing fashion three weeks ago in a fourth-quarter meltdown at Ryan Field. What NU can control is the game at hand. It will be the Wildcats’ toughest test yet. No matter how much Michigan’s offense has struggled this season, how much Denard Robinson has regressed as a passer, winning at the Big House with division implications on the line will test the depths of Northwestern’s focus and mettle. The last time NU played in a hostile road environment – I’m stretching the definition for comparisons sake – Penn State stormed back from 11 points down to deny the Wildcats a 6-0 start. Maintaining intensity through four quarters against Michigan, who remains in contention for a division title, and whose stadium has long stood as one of the nation’s most rabid fan environments, presents a challenge of greater magnitude. This is gut check time for NU. A win keeps them in the Rose Bowl conversation. A loss hardly diminishes their impressive start, but it lowers the bar for realistic postseason expectations.
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We hope this post finds you in good temperament as you proceed through whatever gameday routine accompanies these precious fall Saturdays. Hopefully our preview material has you ready for the upcoming matchup, but in case you missed anything, below we’ve compiled a last-minute study guide for any opponent queries that may yet stand unresolved. It never hurts to get some last-minute cramming in before watching your beloved Wildcats in game action. That said, read up, and enjoy the game!
The update on Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is that there is no update. An elbow injury will limit Robinson’s ability to throw passes, but shoelace – who went off for 454 yards of total offense and five touchdowns in these teams’ meeting last season – is expected to play limited snaps Saturday. Even if he can’t throw passes, Robinson is a dynamic playmaker Northwestern needs to account for on every play.
The best sources of gameday information come from the inside, which is why Detroit Free Press Michigan Beat Writer Mark Snyder’s insight is so helpful.
Much digital ink has been spilled on one of the most storied programs in college football history. We did our best to pick out the most timely, most pertinent, and most enlightening morsels.
I can’t remember staring at a game between two teams more evenly matched that Michigan and Northwestern. If I were to simulate this game 100 times in my head, a 50-50 split would be the most plausible result. Fortunately, we broke down each phase of the game to streamline the prediction process.
As you probably gleaned from my previous statement, picking this game was really, really hard. See where back-and-forth mind struggle ended up, and where the rest of the Northwestern media stands on the matter.