Game Preview: No. 4 Michigan at Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Almost nothing remains the same since Rutgers beat Michigan two years ago and stormed the field after its first conference win as Big Ten members. A significant underdog against the fourth-ranked Wolverines, Rutgers hosts Jim Harbaugh's program under the primetime lights. Scarlet Report brings you inside the program for an in-depth preview with predictions.

No. 4 Michigan (5-0, 2-0) Rutgers (2-3, 0-2)

Time – 7 p.m. High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.

TV/Radio – ESPN2, 1450 AM WCTC, 710 AM WOR, Tune In App

Series – Tied 1-1

Last meeting – Nov. 7, 2015, Michigan won 49-16

Coaches: Rutgers – Chris Ash (1st season, 2-3); Michigan – Jim Harbaugh (9th season 73-30, 2nd at Michigan, 15-3)

Projected Starters:

Offense: QB Chris Laviano, RB Robert Martin, WR Jawuan Harris, WR Andre Patton, WR John Tsimis, TE Nick Arcidiacono, LT Zack Heeman, LG Dorian Miller, C Derek Nelson, RG Chris Muller, RT JJ Denman

Defense: DE Darnell Davis Jr., DT Darius Hamilton, DT Sebastian Joseph, DE Julian Pinnix-Odrick, OLB Trevor Morris, MLB Deonte Roberts, OLB Tyreek Williams, CB Isaiah Wharton, CB Blessuan Austin, FS Saquan Hampton, SS Anthony Cioffi

Storyline Central

Oden's Zantetsuken Tylin Oden is far from ready as the starting Rutgers quarterback, and that comes directly from coach Chris Ash. Still, it is clear that Oden represents the closest fit to run Drew Mehringer's offense. Oden received his first real playing time last week once Ohio State came out of hand. Ash discussed a similar role for Oden this week, so keep an eye on the developing freshman if Chris Laviano needs a change of pace or series on the bench.

Redesign, Rebuild, Reclaim – Visit the Scarlet Report members board for a full breakdown, but let's just go ahead and call this the biggest recruiting weekend of the season for Rutgers football. Official visits, four-star recruits, star underclassmen and the majority of the 2017 class visits for “Stripe the Birthplace” and what could either be an electric night or another tough loss against a ranked opponent.

The Great War – Nobody said Chris Ash had an easy job, but did the strength of schedule really have to be this difficult? While counterpart Maryland and first-year coach DJ Durkin jump out to a 4-0 start with games against Howard, FIU, UCF and Purdue, Rutgers faces three top-five teams in the first half of the season alone. Not only that, but Rutgers faces three men on the Heisman shortlist in Washington quarterback Jake Browning, Ohio State quarterback JT Barrett and Michigan do-everything Jabrill Peppers.

Matchup to Watch

Rutgers WR Jawuan Harris, RB Robert Martin vs. Michigan LB/DB Jabrill Peppers

The Wolverines do not fear linebackers and safeties in man coverage. Nor should they with a fringe Heisman candidate like Peppers in the box. Harris spoke confidently about favorable matchups against Michigan, and Martin remains one of the Big Ten's best rushers. Peppers is one of Michigan's top pass rushers in addition to his role in coverage.

Scarlet Knights win if …

Get Stops and Extend Drives– Rutgers only stopped Ohio State once before the red zone, and that came on Anthony Cioffi's interception. The defense came hungry early but a lack of offensive consistency mean too much time on the field for the ones. As an offense, Rutgers needs real, extended drives. Rutgers needs to be better in time of possession for a reason other than extremely quick touchdown drives for Michigan.

Wolverines Win if …

Their Jersey Players Make an Impact – Michigan has as many hits as it does misses so far in recruiting New Jersey, but three players can be difference makers in their homecoming – all from Paramus (N.J.) Catholic. Peppers' impact is obvious after he sat out Michigan's last trip to Rutgers. Rashan Gary brings value to the Wolverines' defensive line. He's sixth on the team in tackles in his first season at the college level. A spotlight also falls upon left tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty after the season-ending injury to Grant Newsome.


Impact Player

RB Robert Martin – Martin dropped from first to fifth in Big Ten rushing totals after 40 yards on 13 attempts in a shutout. In the top 10, Martin's 5.6 yards per carry trail only the Ohio State dynamic duo of Curtis Samuel and Mike Webber. Rutgers had a running game before Ohio State stacked the box. Martin and his offensive line are the jumper cables in Drew Mehringer's motor.

Something to Prove

DE Kemoko Turay – Remember his impact the last time Michigan came to down? Brady Hoke sure does. Turay's potential is sky high but there are clear on-field issues after blown alignment timeouts in two straight games. Rutgers is desperate for a conventional pass rush. Turay brought it at least once against Ohio State. He has to do it again if he earns any in-game reps against Michigan after another limited week in practice.

Looking to Build

LB Tyreek Williams – Williams never backed down against the last top-five offense. The true-freshman linebacker gets another opportunity against Michigan and quarterback Wilton Speight. Williams led Rutgers with 11 tackles against the Buckeyes. With limitations for injured starter Greg Jones, Williams got a full week's worth of practice reps with the ones that must translate.

Freshman to Watch

WR Dacoven Bailey – Get Bailey, Martin and Jawuan Harris on the field at the same time, and Rutgers has some firepower. Bailey steps up into Harris' old role in his return to offense. A broken thumb won't stop the Texas track star from an impact at slotback and on special teams. A new cast made catching a non-issue in practices.


Scarlet Report Top Stories