Michigan Football: Coach’s Corner — Northwestern at Michigan — An Initial Preview
Go U Northwestern are the first words of Northwestern’s famous and upbeat fight song. That line is perfectly acceptable. The second line of the fight song is one Michigan fans hope does not come to fruition: fight for victory.
Northwestern has won seven games and lost to Nebraska and Penn State. Once again the Wildcats will go bowl hopping, for the fifth straight season. The Wildcats were up on Nebraska, but the defense fell late.The energetic Pat Fitzgerald, a portrait of loyalty and commitment to Northwestern, a lifer type, coaches Northwestern. More talent lately has made its way to Evanston, home of Northwestern, one of the premiere private universities in the nation. Northwestern athletics and Northwestern in general should be a model of integrity and what college should really be about for some well-known football factories.
This year’s Wildcat team starts games very fast, blowing away teams in the first and second quarters, hanging even in the third, and giving up some big points in the fourth quarter. Northwestern beat Nebraska last year and had the Huskers on the ropes again before losing late.
The image of Northwestern is a bombs away offense led by a mobile and effective quarterback. That perception is partial true. What is missing is the yardage Northwestern has put up by the ground game: 231 yards per game. Some of that is accountable to the quarterback spot, but most of the damage has been done by the running backs.Northwestern has showcased two quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter. Siemian has enjoyed a little more success passing and Colter is the best runner.
The running backs are shifty and mobile; the results are by committee. Four backs are averaging 4.8 or more yards per carry led by Venric Mark, who is over 1,000 yards for the season and averaging a strong 6.5 yards per carry. He is the first option that must be stopped.
The receivers run all over the place and are very capable of the big play. The defensive backfield must prepare for so many options from the Northwestern offense. The inside read is dangerous, but Northwestern also runs a sprint option to the edge with success. Northwestern loves to run the fly down the sideline and seams, throwing the ball up and trusting to the skill of the wideouts. Be prepared to see the skinny post yield some big plays over the middle. This is a big staple of the spread them out and isolate Wildcat passing game. The Wildcats run flag patterns very well, especially to the corners of the end zone.
The defense is quick and can shoot gaps and blitz well. An opponent’s best strategy is to be physical with the Wildcats. The rushing defense has held up well, but the passing yardage given up by the Wildcats is pretty hefty. This reality begs the question as to how well Michigan can benefit from this trend.
There should be points on the board this Saturday at Michigan Stadium. Fans may wish to harbor back to last year when the Wildcats gave Michigan a near pounding the first half. Once again, this is Northwestern’s mode of operation.
Northwestern has earned respect for its football program in the last 15-20 years. Gone are the days of 52-7 wipeouts. Northwestern demands serious defensive preparation. And if the Michigan offensive line yields minimal production, then the defense must win the day.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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