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Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Michigan Wolverines Preview and Prediction

Jim Harbaugh Michigan Wolverines

Jim Harbaugh Michigan Wolverines

The battle is on for fourth place in the Big Ten East division between Rutgers and... Michigan. No one in their right mind would have thought this would be the case coming into 2017, but here we are.

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The Wolverines (5-2) are looking for a bounce-back performance on Homecoming weekend this Saturday after the butt-kicking they took last week at Penn State, where the Nittany Lions rolled up more than 500 yards of total offense. With two losses now in the division, Michigan is likely out of any championship contention this season.

Rutgers, meanwhile, is now on a two-game winning streak in the Big Ten after upsetting Purdue 14-12. The Scarlet Knights had only 87 passing yards on the day but forced the Boilermakers into two turnovers and limited Purdue to 4-of-19 on third- and fourth-down conversions.

Chris Ash and the Knights will need that and a whole lot more, though, to pull off the upset in the Big House on Saturday.

Rutgers at Michigan

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Michigan -23.5

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Three Things to Watch

1. Run, run and run some more
Don’t expect very many passes to be thrown by either team. The Wolverines found some success against Penn State mixing in the pass more on first down but were mostly forced to do so as they were in a hole early. Once they get the lead against Rutgers, expect the offense to revert back to their 1920s style of I-formation, run first, second and maybe mix in a pass on third down. Rutgers quarterback Giovanni Rescigno has completed only 14 passes the last two weeks combined. Neither team is built to throw the football, and that won’t change on Saturday.

2. Time for Peters

It’s time for Brandon Peters to see the field this week and be the starting quarterback moving forward for Michigan. Clearly the coaches have felt like John O’Korn gives Michigan the best chance to win, and relatively speaking, he did play well last week against Penn State. But with any hope of a championship now out the window, what is the point in keeping the redshirt freshman on the bench? The staff needs to find out what they have in the young QB to further assess what they have at the position for future seasons. Offensive coordinator Tim Drevno confirmed Wednesday that O’Korn was still the starter, but if this game gets out of hand, expect to see Peters get some snaps under center.

3. Take some shots

Rutgers does not have the offensive firepower to compete with the likes of Michigan and certainly will not be able to sustain long drives against this defense. Running back Gus Edwards and tight end Jerome Washington, two Miami transfers, have been the most consistent weapons for Rutgers on offense this season, but neither player is keeping opposing coaches from sleeping at night. For the Scarlet Knights to put a scare into the Wolverines, they may have to pull out some gadget plays and misdirection to score points. Manufacturing points like they have the previous two weeks will not work against the Wolverines.

Final Analysis

Yes, Rutgers is trending upwards, while the Wolverines have had their fair share of struggles for much of this season, but there is still a tremendous disparity in talent between the two teams. Rutgers generated a little more than 200 yards of total offense last week against Purdue. They may not top 100 against this Wolverines defense. Michigan wins big.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Michigan

Prediction: Michigan 37, Rutgers 6

— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.