Predictions: Northwestern-Michigan

Steven Goldstein with predictions for today's game.

Part I: Hype Machine
Collin Ellis

To say Ellis has fallen off since September would be a little ridiculous — were you really expecting the dude to run back another pick? The stats haven't been there, but Ellis has mostly exceeded expectations on the strong side, and Northwestern's front seven has been sharp since Minnesota. You can bet that Ellis is deployed on blitzes to collapse on Devin Gardner Saturday. Michigan can't run — -69 rushing yards in the past two weeks — and the entire linebacking corps should be stout in gap defense.

Part II: MVP
Kain Colter

No question. The Wildcats have completely lost their playmaking edge, and if Northwestern has any shot at pulling the upset, it'll have to set the game tempo and mask the struggling O-line. Colter needs to spread the field more Saturday, and against a Wolverine defense allowing just 3.2 yards per carry to opposing rushers, the senior should look to go for more than the eight passes he threw in Nebraska.

Part III: Question
Can Tony Jones return to top form?

Jones broke out with three touchdowns in September and gave Northwestern an important vertical dimension that defenses were forced to respect. Lately, the deep ball has been completely scrapped from the playbook, and Jones has just 14 catches in the past five games. Jones was scratched from the Nebraska game due to injury, but a full two weeks off could get NU's top wideout back on track. The Cats will need it against an inconsistent Michigan secondary.

Part IV: Bold Prediction
The Wildcats have at least three sacks on Devin Gardner.

Michigan's O-line gives Northwestern's a decent fight for worst in the Big Ten. The Wolverines have already allowed 26 sacks in just nine games, and the Cats will be aggressive in controlling Gardner from the get-go. Gardner's scrambling ability has been diminished from a year ago; expect big days off the edge for Tyler Scott and Deonte Gibson.

Part V: Prediction
Michigan 34, Northwestern 20

Regardless of how well Northwestern's defense has played over the past few weeks, Gardner, Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess cause huge mismatches. The Wildcat offensive line is still a mess, and as bad as the Wolverines are on the ground, they're excellent in stopping the run. Northwestern has just one win against Michigan since 2003, and it's tough to see this injury-ridden group changing that.


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