Scouting the Wolverines

There are many intriguing matchups to follow when Northwestern takes the field against Michigan, with several key storylines to watch. PurpleWildcats offers a detailed scouting report to preview Saturday's contest.

Looking Back

Think Brady Hoke regrets starting Russell Bellomy at Nebraska?

Michigan could have taken the driver's seat in the Legends Division race with a win. Instead, the Wolverines suffered their first loss against a non-undefeated team, with Bellomy going just 3-of-16 in a dismal performance.

Even with both teams tied at 4-1 in Big Ten play, Nebraska owns the tiebreaker because of the head-to-head victory. So the Northwestern game functions as a sort of must-win if the Wolverines want a shot at Pasadena.

They still took a major step towards righting the ship with a decisive 35-13 victory at Minnesota. Devin Gardner had a workmanlike performance to fill the void with Denard Robinson out because of an elbow injury.

Either quarterback has the potential to succeed against the Wildcats secondary. Have no doubt: with NU ranked No. 24 in the BCS standings, Michigan is gunning for a solid win.

Wolverines on Offense

Most analysts expect Denard Robinson to see time against the Wildcats. His reputation speaks for itself. The guy is a talented runner who can make the occasional play in the passing game. Once a Heisman candidate, Robinson looks to end his college career on a positive note, beginning against NU.

Fitzgerald Toussaint entered the season with a great deal of hype, but has generally failed to meet expectations. He averages only 3.6 yards per carry. Robinson leads the team with 946 rushing yards and he could easily reach the 1000-yard mark with a decent outing against NU.

After a dynamite sophomore season in which he caught 72 passes, Roy Roundtree saw his role change in recent seasons. The senior has just 15 catches but looks to rediscover his dominant play. The deep-ball threat could challenge the depleted Cats secondary.

The Michigan offense is anchored by formidable left tackle Taylor Lewan, who was just named by Sports Illustrated as the fifth best draft prospect overall. The Wolverines have a number of upperclassmen in protection, including fifth-year senior Ricky Barnum and senior Patrick Omameh.

Wolverines on Defense

By most statistical measures, Michigan has one of the top defenses in the country. The Wolverines hold opponents to 16.8 points per game.

In a breakout season, sophomore linebacker Jake Kovacs has collected 65 tackles and 3.5 sacks, both good for team highs. Fellow linebackers Kenny Demens and Desmond Morgan are also lighting it up in the tackle department with 58 apiece.

The Michigan secondary has been wildly successful so far this season, which bodes poorly for NU. The Wolverines give up only 145 yards per game through the air.

The major contributors are standout safety Jordan Kovacs and a shutdown corner in senior J.T. Floyd.

The Wolverines have only 1.2 sacks per game, an indicator that the NU offensive line has a fighting chance at protecting the man under center.

The numbers speak to this team's collective dominance, though. Even against a difficult schedule, Michigan ranks 13th nationally in points allowed per game.

The Wolverines also lead the nation in pass defense. That sounds like a potential nightmare for an NU team looking to get its passing game back on track.

Follow on Twitter: @NicholasMedline

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