Michigan 63 Northern Illinois 10 – Game 3 Recap

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GAME 3 PROJECTION vs. RESULTS

Final Score: 63-10, Michigan by 53 over NIU
SP+ Projection: Michigan by 36 (+17)
CD Projection: Michigan by 32 (+21)

FIVE FACTORS

GAME 3 RECAP vs. Northern Illinois

No reason to over-analyze. Seems like Jim Harbaugh has the program back to the pre-pandemic standard. Michigan has taken care of business against 3 overmatched opponents. Now, the Wolverines will look to carry their momentum into the Big Ten season next weekend when they host Greg Schiano and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Offensively, the big question coming into this game was whether Michigan would, or could, pass the ball effective coming off a 44-yard performance last week vs. Washington. Even though the game plan stayed heavy on the run game, both Cade McNamara (8-11 for 191 yards) and J.J. McCarthy (4-6 for 42 yards) were able to get live reps in this one.

The offensive line was absolutely dominant for the third consecutive week. Michigan combined for 373 rushing yards, and spread the love relatively evenly. Blake Corum led the way again with 125 yards and 3 TDs, including a 52-yard race along the sideline. Hassan Haskins did his part for the Boom & Zoom duo by setting up that 52-yarder with physical runs of 4 & 15 yards on the first two snaps of the drive. Corum took the third snap to the house.

Early in this game, there was some interesting cat & mouse between coordinators. Once Mike MacDonald effectively countered NIU’s initial play script, the Wolverines effectively clamped down for the final 3 quarters. Josh Ross let the unit with 6 tackles on the day. Gemon Green chipped in by picking off a tipped pass and returning it to the NIU 3 yard line to set up a short touchdown drive.

The top-line special teams summary goes like this: punter Brad Robbins successfully held the ball 9 times for PAT kicks, and was not asked to punt once.

In the return game, we saw A.J. Henning’s explosiveness, and his ceiling for making big plays is exciting. However, he was pulled after failing to catch a punt in the 2nd half, and Andrel Anthony was given the last few opportunities. Henning looked good, but needs to continue working on reading the ball as it goes into the air so he can get to the spot and make the catch. Onward!

By the Numbers: Game 3 vs. Northern Illinois

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LAST WEEK RECAP

Michigan steamrolled a Washington team who was searching for answers.  The Wolverines rolled up 343 rushing yards on the way to a 31-10 victory that had a vintage Harbaugh feel.

NEXT UP: vs. NIU: 108th, -10.4

PREGAME SP+: U-M by 35.9, Michigan Win Probability 95%

The SP+ model continues to love what Michigan is doing.  The Wolverines again moved up in the SP+ rankings to 6th overall.  NIU has been pretty static in the rankings, but they are a rollercoaster on the field.   The Huskies upset #66 Georgia Tech in Week 1, then lost at home to #88 Wyoming.

Michigan Offense (13th) vs. NIU Defense (97th) 

We used our recap podcast to discuss the worry emanating from Michigan fans about the pass offense after the Washington game.  I warned folks there, and I’ll warn everyone again here: the Wolverines might hand the ball off 40-50 times again in this game.  I do agree it would be nice for Michigan to get game speed reps for Cade McNamara to read the Huskies’ defense and work on his anticipation & improving the timing of his delivery.  It would also be great to see J.J. McCarthy and Donovan Edwards inserted into the game with the starters as early as possible, just as they were as the WMU game reached a 26-point lead.  However, these are nice-to-haves.  It is irrational to melt down if we see another ground & pound blowout over a MAC school.    

Michigan Defense (9th) vs. NIU Offense (108th)

There is one very clear difference between Mike MacDonald and his predecessor Don Brown that we don’t hear enough about.  MacDonald and the defensive staff clearly believe in the value of game experience for younger players down the depth chart.  I did a small double take when I saw both Junior Colson and Rod Moore on the field during the 1st Quarter of the Washington game with a 3-0 score.  We should really see a lot of unfamiliar faces in this one.  I do believe SP+ is underrating the NIU offense a little bit after they put up 395 total yards, including 191 yards on the ground, versus Wyoming last week.  Still, anything but utter domination and the bench emptying will be a disappointment.

PREDICTION: This is a ripe opportunity for an underwhelming hangover performance coming off last week’s Maize Out night game victory.  We are hearing the right coach speak about “…not falling in love with our stuff,” from Jim Harbaugh.  The players have reiterated “…we haven’t done anything yet,” when they are in front of the media.  We’ll see if the captains and other player leaders can actually turn those clichés into focus and enthusiasm right away, or if there is a sleepy start to this game.  One potential smelling salt for the Wolverines: the NIU quarterback is Rocky Lombardi.  He has some very valuable and recent experience catching Michigan asleep in the Big House.
Michigan 45 NIU 13 (PRESEASON Michigan 45 NIU 17)

MICHIGAN RESUME UPDATE (9/12/21), 2-0

  • SP+ Overall: 6th (↑1), 22.1
  • SP+ Offense: 13th (↑1), 37.3
  • SP+ Defense: 9th (↑1), 15.5
  • SP+ Special Teams: 5th (↑6), 0.2

AP Poll: 25th (NR), 163

Coaches’ Poll: 25th (NR), 180

CFP Rank: N/A

U-M Resume after Game #2