By the Numbers: Game 4 vs. Rutgers


Michigan cashed in a few run game corrections, but JJ McCarthy had perhaps his worst game as a starter.  The result was a 31-6 victory over BGSU that didn’t serve to calm the discomfort of our fan base.

NEXT UP: vs. Rutgers: SP+ 64th, 2.1

PREGAME SP+: Michigan by 28.6, Michigan Win Probability 95%

The Big Ten season brings a marginal increase in opponent strength according to SP+.  The model still favors the Wolverines by four touchdowns against the Scarlet Knights.

Michigan Offense (16th) vs. Rutgers Defense (44th) 

This matchup will likely play the biggest role in the final outcome of the game.  Greg Schiano has continued to improve on defense in each season since his return to Pascataway.  The defensive line creates a lot of motion and disruption for the blocking scheme of the offensive line.  This will be a legitimate test for Sherrone Moore’s group to show that they have ironed out the last of the wrinkles we’ve seen so far in the 2023 run game.  

I expect a bounce-back performance from JJ McCarthy through the air after the night-game wakeup call last week.  Really, the primary danger for Michigan in terms of an upset would be another sloppy performance riddled with turnovers.  I don’t want the Wolverines to be completely risk averse, but they should prioritize executing the base offensive plays well. 

Michigan Defense (2nd) vs. Rutgers Offense (78th)

Again this week, we’ll see Michigan’s defensive line looking to exploit a giant mismatch, this time versus the Rutgers offensive line.  The Scarlet Knights are led by mobile quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, and underrated running back Kyle Monangai.  While I expect to see 2 or 3 Wolverines in the backfield on nearly every snap, Rutgers has shown the ability to exploit a defense using designed QB runs.  The Scarlet Knights will be looking for a Denard-like performance from Wimsatt to try and shock Michigan.

When Rutgers does try to pass, they will likely settle for short dump off passes within 6 or 7 yards of the line of scrimmage.  The tight ends and running backs have nearly as many targets as the wide receivers from game-to-game.  The key will be fundamental tackling.  Linebackers, safeties, and corners must be sure tacklers to keep short passes and QB run plays from becoming explosive plays.

PREDICTION: Michigan gains two intangible bonuses for Week 4: Jim Harbaugh returns to the sideline after completing his three-game suspension & the kickoff returns to the traditional noon window.  I expect to see a game plan that is much more cleanly executed now that the coaching staff will all be back to their normally assigned roles.  Also, we should see adjustments made more quickly.  If the Wolverines get off to a fast start in all three phases, they could potentially bury Rutgers.

However, that has not been the case recently in these games against the Knights.  Greg Schiano will stick to a conservative, defense & field-position strategy to try and keep the game close.  Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca will also be looking for his preferred matchup to isolate Wimsatt.  This game could go by quickly with the new clock rules.  And, when we look up at the new scoreboards, we might be wondering how Rutgers managed to hang around.
Michigan 27 Rutgers 10 (PRESEASON Michigan 31 Rutgers 16)


  • SP+ Overall: 3rd (same), 28.2
    • SP+ Offense: 16th (↓2), 37.8
    • SP+ Defense: 2nd (↑1), 9.9
    • SP+ Special Teams: 5th (↑35), 0.3
  • AP Poll: 2nd (same), 1481
  • Coaches’ Poll: 2nd (same), 1514
  • CFP Rank: N/A

About Clint Derringer

@clint_derringer on Twitter U-M B.A. Sport Management & Communications ‘05 U-M M.S. Program & Project Management ‘18