It’s hard to erase the memory of 2016’s 78-0 loss at the hands of Michigan, and with Rutgers opening as the 35-point underdog, it’s clear that expectations for the Scarlet Knights are incredibly low.
That’s not entirely surprising, as the Wolverines are coming off a 42-7 win against Penn State and are currently ranked fourth in the nation, while Rutgers showed some fight at Wisconsin for most of the game before ultimately losing 31-17 and now sit at 1-8.
Michigan has averaged almost 37 points a game this season, which will play well for the Wolverines as the Scarlet Knights gives up an average of 33.4 points per game.
If Rutgers wants to avoid another embarrassing blowout, they’re going to have to find a way to slow down Karan Higdon, who is 11th in the country in rushing yards with 963 yards on the year. Shea Patterson has thrown for 14 touchdowns with only three interceptions and an average of 185.2 yards per game.
If Higdon is not playing up to the standard that he’s created for himself, Michigan has other options to beat the Scarlet Knight’s defense with. Donovan Peoples-Jones has seven touchdowns, 364 yards on 24 receptions this year, and Zach Gentry is right behind him with 350 yards of his own. Backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey is another reliable option for the Wolverines, with 126 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Meanwhile, Rutgers’ defense has underperformed all year. Trevor Morris leads the team with 81 tackles on the year, including 3.5 for a loss. Saquan Hampton continued his solid senior year on Saturday when he lead the team with seven unassisted and 10 total tackles.
However, all Michigan needs to do on Saturday to get the win is for Patterson and Higdon to show up and play an average game.
Rutgers’ offense, on the other hand, is averaging just 15.3 points per game and 277 yards per game. Artur Sitkowski has 11 more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (four) and is completing less than 50 percent of his passes.
On the bright side, for the Scarlet Knights, Raheem Blackshear has 886 total yards this season to go along with his four touchdowns.
The game plan for the Scarlet Knights is relatively simple; hand the ball off to Blackshear and true freshman Isaih Pacheco as much as possible. This makes Michigan’s game plan very easy as well, and while their defense is not quite as strong as their offense, they have multiple weapons capable of stopping Blackshear and Pacheco.
Devin Bush has 56 tackles on the season, but the biggest weapon for the Wolverines will be the combination of John Metellus and Brandon Watson, who each have three interceptions this year. With Sitkowski’s tendency to give the ball away, look for those two to have busy days on Saturday.
Overall, while this game should not be an exact replica of 2016’s tragedy, it will likely be one more in a string of games that the Scarlet Knights want to forget. While I think Michigan will ultimately cover the 35 point spread, I think the Scarlet Knights come close to beating the spread.
Prediction: Michigan 52, Rutgers 13
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