Michigan Football: 5 Wolverines to watch against Rutgers

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Syndication: Detroit Free Press /

The Big Ten opener for Michigan football and Rutgers is now less than 24 hours away and here are five Wolverines to watch on Saturday. 

The next test for Michigan football is the Wolverines first foray into Big Ten play which will come against Rutgers, one of the two teams U-M beat last season.

Jim Harbaugh has never lost to Rutgers and Michigan football hasn’t lost at home to the Scarlet Knights since they joined the Big Ten.

Both teams rank in the top 10 in scoring defense and have former NFL head coaches leading their programs in Harbaugh and Greg Schiano.

Since Schiano returned, the Scarlet Knights have regained respectability and are 6-6 in his tenure, a run that included three Big Ten victories last season.

Michigan football can’t take Rutgers lightly and here are five Wolverines to watch on Saturday.

Josh Ross

Rutgers likes to run the football, a lot like the Wolverines and despite averaging just 3.3 yards per attempt, the Scarlet Knights have run the ball an average of 43 times compared to 28 passes.

That’s going to mean a busy day for the Wolverines front seven and Josh Ross in particular. So far, Ross has been outstanding, leading Michigan with 23 tackles, as well as having one tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

Ross is back to being the productive player he was a couple of years ago and actually is better — more physical. That’s on top of being an impressive leader in the middle of the defense. Expect a big game from the senior linebacker.

Aidan Hutchinson

The Rutgers offensive line is a weak point and with the way Mike Macdonald moves around Hutchinson, he should be able to find some favorable matchups.

He’s gotten a sack in each game this season and did so in the last game on a play that was clearly a sack on Rocky Lombardi, but some places just gave him a tackle.

At any rate, Hutchinson and the pass rush will be essential. I don’t expect a ton of sacks because Noah Vedral gets the ball out quick, but Aidan will get one and he will be a major factor setting the edge in the run game.

Hassan Haskins

In my predictions for Michigan football and Rutgers, I projected Blake Corum to reach 100 yards and I think he will do just that.

However, let’s not forget about Hassan Haskins. He was huge against the Scarlet Knights a year ago and he’s going to be key in Big Ten play.

The offensive line isn’t going to have as many gaping holes as the past three weeks during conference play and tough yards will need to be had. And there are few backs better in the Big Ten Conference of getting tough yards than Haskins, who gets a touchdown Saturday.

Cade McNamara

My biggest concern in this matchup is that McNamara struggles and Rutgers is able to contain the running game.

You can bet Schiano is going to stack the box and try to force Michigan to throw more than it wants. That could be a formula for success, although the game last year is evidence that McNamara is more than capable of winning the game with his arm when needed.

Michigan should have success running the ball, but will it get 300 yards again? That’s a lot to ask for and heading into Wisconsin, it would be good to see McNamara hold his own again.

David Ojabo

Hutchinson is going to command extra attention from the Rutgers offensive line which should provide some others with opportunities and David Ojabo is one of those guys.

Ojabo has one sack so far this season but Michigan could use more production out of its edge rushers and a sack or at least some pressure from Ojabo would be good to see.

Next. 5 predictions for Michigan vs Rutgers. dark

Jaylen Harrell has also been getting more run and actually started against Northern Illinois but Ojabo still has a lot of potential as an edge rusher and it’d be nice to see him cash that in on Saturday.