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Inside NU's Northwestern-Michigan predictions

For the first time since Week 3, our staff is split.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern football is undefeated. A month and a half ago, that would've been an astounding declaration to make. But the Wildcats have rolled through five weeks on the back of one of the nation's top defenses, and head into a top 20 matchup this weekend with Michigan as the 13th-ranked team in the nation. And with the Wolverines rolling, and with Jim Harbaugh on the prowl on the sidelines, Northwestern-Michigan is, nationally, one of the top college football games of Week 6. It's the first time Northwestern, now 5-0, has been in the national spotlight (on the football field) since 2013.

The last time the Wildcats were 6-0? 1962. That was a long time ago. Will we be able to throw that stat out the window Saturday? Will the Wildcats break their gut-wrenching losing streak against Michigan? Here's what our writers think:

Josh Rosenblat: Michigan 13, Northwestern 10

Michigan has a slightly better offense that'll give it a few more opportunities inside Northwestern territory than Northwestern has in Michigan territory. That'll make the difference. Unfortunately, I don't see this game being as comical as M00N.

Zach Pereles: Northwestern 16, Michigan 13

There's something special about this team. The players have a certain mental toughness and veteran leadership that has been missing the past two seasons. At halftime, it's 10-7 in favor of Northwestern. Heading into the fourth, it's 13-10, and the Wolverines tie it up at 13 about midway through the quarter before Jack Mitchell (who's great in clutch situations and not quite as great in other situations) comes through with the game-winner. The Wildcats' luck with Michigan finally changes on the back of another solid defensive performance. Justin Jackson goes over 100 yards and Clayton Thorson commits one turnover (resulting in the Wolverines' lone touchdown), but a strong red zone defense and good special teams take the Wildcats to 6-0.

Sam Brief: Northwestern 17, Michigan 13

As Henry Bushnell noted, Michigan and Northwestern are extremely similar teams — both with top-tier defenses, average quarterbacks and offensive dependency on the running game. And in a certain slugfest and tightly-contested game, I give the Wildcats a slight edge. This defense has been able to force turnovers all season, and I see no reason for that to change against a shaky quarterback in Jake Rudock. The turnover potential can give Clayton Thorson and the Wildcat offense better opportunities to capitalize and put Michigan in a tough spot at the Big House. This game is a virtual toss up to me, but I'm feeling a Northwestern win.

Ian McCafferty: Northwestern 13 Michigan 6

Here's hoping everybody likes field goals and defense because that's all there's going to be in Ann Arbor on Saturday. In a battle of two of the country's best defenses (and two average quarterbacks), the team that can run the ball more efficiently will win this game. I think that will be Northwestern, and that gives it the edge. The over/under for this game is 35 and that may be too high. The offenses will sputter and a crucial turnover will be what decides this game in the final moments.

Josh Burton: Northwestern 13, Michigan 10

Michigan is a very good team, but the Wolverines — like the Wildcats — are really limited by their quarterback, Jake Rudock. Northwestern's defense should be able to force him into a few big turnovers which could ease the burden on NU's underwhelming offensive attack. If the Wildcats can pick Rudock off once or twice, and maybe force a fumble, this game could be had.

Henry Bushnell: Michigan 24, Northwestern 10

Less than 24 hours ago, I was feeling a Northwestern upset. Michigan is a better team, but something in my gut told me the Wolverines would come out and fall flat on their faces. There's proof on our Michigan preview podcast. But...


Michigan is a 7.5-point favorite in this game for a reason. They're really good. So I feel like I have to pick the Wolverines to give our staff some semblance of rationality. (Also, this is going to be a higher scoring game than you probably think)

Zach Wingrove: Michigan 24, Northwestern 16

The Wildcats have a very good chance to beat the Wolverines for the first time since 2008. Thanks to the two stellar defenses, I believe this game will be low scoring and the Northwestern offense won't have to worry about getting into a shootout with Michigan. However, I do think the perfect season will come to an end on Saturday. I think Michigan's defense will be keyed in on Justin Jackson all game and the Wildcats will struggle to run the ball, something that is essential to their success. I think the Wolverines will go into halftime with a 10-3 lead and while I can see the Wildcats making a run in the second half, I don't think it will be enough.

Now it's your turn to tell us what you think. Crowd's Line will compile your picks, and those of Michigan fans, and compare them against each other and against the Vegas lines.