3 Things to Watch for Against Northwestern

3 Things to Watch for Against Northwestern

Football

3 Things to Watch for Against Northwestern

Coming into Saturday’s game, Michigan is 1-0 in conference play after a big win over Nebraska last week 56-10, but Northwestern is 1-0 in conference play but has gone the opposite way since.

Northwestern would beat Purdue week one before falling to Duke week two, and Akron week three as they had a bye week last week.

Northwestern is having some issues as they are usually a mid-tier competitor in the Big Ten, but with the recent retirement of their best player Jeremy Larkin, and the issues they have had with non-conference teams, it could be a down year for the Wildcats. Michigan has rebounded after losing its week one game and now looks on a dominant path for the rest of the season. Here are my three things to watch in this week’s game.

1. Will Chris Evans Return For Michigan?

Michigan hasn’t had its top two running backs together since their week two win over Western Michigan. Week three against SMU saw Karan Higdon miss time due to an injury, and week four against Nebraska saw Chris Evans miss due to the injury he suffered late against SMU.

Michigan didn’t need Evans last week against Nebraska, as Higdon returned with a bang of 136 rushing yards and a touchdown. Michigan can last another game without Evans if he needs the rest, but having him back is always helpful and gives the offense another weapon that can help create some big plays.

2. How Will Northwestern Do Without Jeremy Larkin?

Northwestern lost their starting running back Jeremy Larkin to cervical stenosis and he must retire from football. This is a huge blow to the Wildcats as Larkin is their best player and has over 300 rushing yards more than the backup John Moten IV.

Quarterback Clayton Thorson is already the winningest quarterback in school history, so they still have him to lead the charge, but he hasn’t been very impressive this season with 753 passing yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

Northwestern also plays their backup quarterback TJ Green who has thrown for 169 yards and an interception, so expect him to see the field as well. Northwestern will be lost without their best running back and he also had the second most catches on the team with 19 for 127 yards so seeing what Northwestern draws up without him will be interesting.

3. Will The Offensive Line Dominate In Easy Game?

Northwestern has five sacks in three games this year and one team never allowed a sack from them? What school? Akron. If Akron can stop you from putting pressure on the quarterback, then the Michigan offensive line shouldn’t have an issue with you.

The offensive line has improved its play since week one and a week like this would be great for them to boost their confidence against a Big Ten opponent. They are able to create big rushing lanes for Higdon and Evans, while the weakness has been more of the pass protection, but that has improved and quarterback Shea Patterson has started using his legs if needed.

If the offensive line struggles to help the running backs create holes or let Patterson take a few licks, then we can come back after and question what this offensive line can do how can they improve.

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