After the blowout loss to Penn State, the young Wolverines look to have, arguably, the best rebound game possible. As the 2nd biggest rival, Rutgers, comes to town riding a hot streak unlike the Scarlett Knight fans have seen since the RU’s 2nd and 3rd games of 2016. But even though Rutgers is feeling good and Michigan is seeing its first true struggles during the Jim Harbaugh-era, this still should be a comfortable win for UM.
And I believe it is crucial for that to be the case as there isn’t a better chance to get the team’s confidence back and to get some of the young, unproven talent some meaningful snaps. But that’s not all to look for in this match-up.
Check out the four things to watch for in the 2017 Michigan vs. Rutgers game:
1. Big Start for O’Korn
Jim Harbaugh and Tim Drevno made it clear that O’Korn would remain the starter for Michigan on Saturday but the chatter for Brandon Peters is as loud as ever. And with, what should be, a comfortable win, it’s likely that Peters gets a good amount of time in this game. So, this will be huge for O’Korn as a half-way decent performance from the redshirt freshmen will have everyone calling for him to start over the incumbent against Minnesota and Maryland.
A good performance for the fifth year senior could be big in keeping the coaching staff’s confidence in him being the best option for the team moving forward. Something he’ll need with Peters waiting in the wings and Wilton Speight possibly making a return before the end of the season.
Last week was the worst performance for Michigan’s defense under Don Brown’s watch. He was out-schemed by PSU OC Jim Moorhead, most notably with Saquon Barkley on Mike McCray in the passing game and Daesean Hamilton on Josh Metellus in the slot. It wasn’t a day to remember for anyone on the defense. And this may not be a day to remember for Rutgers either as you’d have to think Brown and every player on the defense is looking to take out their frustrations on a Rutgers offense that, though showed some signs of life against new Big Ten basement dweller, Illinois, is dead last on offense in the conference.
With Michigan’s offense looking to build some confidence and potentially play some of the young guns, it’ll be important for Don Brown’s boys to stay on point and dominant from start to finish.
3. Playing the Future
Like I’ve mentioned multiple times already, the main thing I’ll be watching for in this game will be the push to get some of the young talent onto the field for meaningful snaps. That includes Brandon Peters, Kareem Walker and Nico Collins on offense while it’d be good to see what some of the young, athletic talent can do, including Elysee Mbem-Bosse, Devin Gil, Michael Dwumfour and Aubrey Solomon.
Peters is an obvious one. Walker is a guy who flashed that former #1 running back recruit talent on his lone carry against Indiana and with a boost needed somewhere on offense, he’s a guy who could see a decent amount of touches throughout the game. And then there’s Collins. Don’t worry about burning his redshirt, that happened against Penn State. So, now it’s important not to waste that lighter fluid and see exactly what the 6’4” wide out can give O’Korn and/or Peters.
As for the defense, Solomon has already started to get more and more playing time so it won’t be a surprise at all to see him get a lot of playing time on Saturday. But the other three names I mentioned are guys to watch as well as Don Brown hasn’t played a very deep bench this season. Thanks to the offense consistently struggling, the defensive starters have started to show some wear. Getting Dwumfour, Gil and Mbem-Bosse on the field is not only good for the future but it’s good for this year’s team.
4. Easing Some Nerves
While i’m far from that side of things, it’s not surprising to see some Michigan fans starting to worry about the state of the program and Jim Harbaugh’s abilities. Michigan will always have those fans. It’s what comes with the territory. So, to help talk some people off of the ledge, the last thing the Wolverines can do this weekend is allow Rutgers to be in the game for any more than the first quarter.
A start to finish, dominating win that features some big plays in the running game and passing game, as well as on defense, will call off the dogs and ease the nerves of some fans for at least a week. Maybe.
This is another intriguing match up against Rutgers for Michigan. What will you be watching for most? Will Brandon Peters finally get some real time? Can Don Brown’s defense pitch its first shut-out of the season? Will this performance calm some of the nerves of the fans? Let us know in the comment section below!
Photo Credit: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog