Michigan (5-0) will get to unveil their new Jordan brand road uniforms for the first time this season as they travel to Piscataway, New Jersey, to take on Rutgers (2-3) Saturday night.
The Wolverines are coming off of a hard-fought victory last weekend over then-No. 8 Wisconsin. It’s a win that very well could have gone the other way had it not been for an Odell Beckham-esque interception from All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis to seal the deal. Michigan held the Badgers to just 159 total yards of offense.
Rutgers, meanwhile, got blitzed by Ohio State from the first whistle, gaining just 116 yards of offense in the 58-0 blowout loss. Head coach Chris Ash did not get any help from the schedule makers in his first season with the Scarlet Knights as Saturday will mark his third top-five opponent of the early season.
Michigan at Rutgers
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Michigan -26.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The Blindside
For the second straight week, the Wolverines suffered a season-ending injury to a starter as left tackle Grant Newsome was lost for the year with a knee injury. Early in the second quarter last week, Newsome went down after a chop block and would remain on the ground for the next few minutes before being helped to the locker room. Junior Juwann Bushell-Beatty came on in relief of Newsome and played well, though was called for a holding penalty on a long run in the second half. He is what head coach Jim Harbaugh called “Plan A” as of now, but the staff is looking into other options such as sliding over guard Ben Braden or center Mason Cole, who played left tackle the last two seasons. Regardless of which player is chosen, the left tackle spot will certainly be under a microscope this week.
2. Robert Martin and Who Else?
There may not have been a more crushing injury during the first month of the season than when Rutgers wide receiver Janarion Grant went down with a lower leg injury in the Iowa game. Prior to the injury, the senior had accounted for nearly 35 percent of the Scarlet Knights’ offense – not even factoring in his dynamic ability as a kick and punt return specialist. With Grant lost for the season that leaves junior running back Robert Martin as the lone proven playmaker on offense. That showed against Ohio State last week where the Buckeyes’ back seven were playing closer to the line of scrimmage to stop Martin and daring any Rutgers receiver to beat them over the top. Whether it is John Tsimis or Jawuan Harris, someone is going to need to emerge as a consistent threat on the outside or defenses will continue to focus solely on stopping the run moving forward.
3. Kicking Woes
Kicker was not supposed to be one of the problem areas for the Wolverines heading into the year with Kenny Allen returning after hitting 18-of-22 field goals a season ago. But the senior has had major struggles in recent weeks, missing four out of his last five attempts, all of which coming from under 50 yards. After missing his second consecutive try last week against Wisconsin, Harbaugh replaced Allen with walk-on Ryan Tice who proceeded to miss his first attempt before rebounding on his second. True freshman Quinn Nordin, whose house Harbaugh famously stayed overnight at to secure is commitment during the recruiting period, is still on his way back from injury but could enter the competition this week for who will be kicking against Rutgers.
Two years ago, Michigan came into Piscataway for a night game and left with a narrow defeat. While the crowd is sure to be hostile yet again for this night-time affair, the game does not figure to be as close. The most important thing we may learn as it relates to the Wolverines is who will be the kicker from here on out. Other than that, expect another smothering performance from the defense against a far lesser opponent in what should be a blowout victory for the Maize and Blue.
Prediction: Michigan 44, Rutgers 16
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.