No. 6 Michigan will try and remain undefeated this season as it plays host to Northwestern in a cross-divisional Big Ten contest Saturday in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Wolverines survived Nebraska on the road thanks to some defensive heroics from DB Brad Hawkins, who stripped the ball from Huskers QB Adrian Martinez on a third-down play to seal the game.
After earning a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game in 2020, Northwestern has taken a massive step back. The Wildcats lost matchups against Duke and Nebraska early in the year, including the latter by 49 points. However, Northwestern had some success against Rutgers last week, holding the Scarlet Knights to just 222 total yards and 1.9 yards per carry in a 21-7 victory.
Michigan holds a 58-15-2 advantage against Northwestern historically, and has won 11 of the last 12 matchups. The Wolverines edged Northwestern 20-17 the last time these teams sparred in 2018. Here's what to expect from this Saturday's game, plus picks straight up and against the spread.
Michigan vs. Northwestern: Need to know
Getting into the end zone: Following an inconsistent 2020, Michigan has put the pieces together to create one of the most cohesive groups of the Jim Harbaugh era. The Wolverines rank No. 5 nationally in red zone offense, scoring on 25 of its 26 trips. Michigan has scored more than 30 points in five of its six games and jumped from No. 66 to No. 14 in national scoring offense. The trio of QB Cade McNamara and running backs Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum have kept the offense on schedule.
Quarterback woes: After losing Peyton Ramsey to graduation, Northwestern has oscillated between a pair of former top-100 recruits. Hunter Johnson started in Week 1, but struggled mightily in a loss to Duke. South Carolina transfer Ryan Hilinski stepped into the starting job and has won two of three games, but is still completing just 57.6% of passes. The inconsistency has resulted in Northwestern posting the No. 108 offense nationally, per opponent-adjusted SP+ efficiency metric -- in the neighborhood of Temple, FIU and UNLV. The defense has been fine, but nowhere near good enough to bridge the gap.
Defensive playmakers: Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson recently earned a spot on the CBS Sports Midseason All-America list with 24 tackles and 5.5 sacks. However, he isn't the only future pro defender in this game. Safety Daxton Hill has been a menace with 29 tackles, four pass breakups, two interceptions and three QB hurries. The playmakers aren't limited to Michigan's side of the ball. Northwestern DL Adetomwa Adebawore has been everywhere with 22 tackles, seven TFLs and nine QB hurries. Linebacker Chris Bergin leads the Big Ten in tackles. Saturday will be a showcase of physical defensive football.
How to watch Michigan vs. Northwestern live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 23 | Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Michigan Stadium -- Ann Arbor, Michigan
TV: Fox | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Michigan vs. Northwestern prediction, picks
Northwestern has a decent defense and will get some stops, but the Wildcats have been no stranger to losing big. Michigan, conversely, has beaten four of its six opponents by three touchdowns or more. The Wolverines have the power to pull away and cover a massive spread. Prediction: Michigan (-23.5)
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