No. 19 Michigan plays host to Rutgers at The Big House on Saturday afternoon and it is an unexpected matchup of unbeaten teams starting Big Ten play. Sure, a 3-0 start to the 2021 college football for the Wolverines isn't altogether unexpected, even if they went 2-4 last season. But Rutgers, on the other hand, comes as a bit of a surprise as we enter the final weekend in September.
The 3-0 start to the season is the first time Rutgers has started with three consecutive victories record since 2012. The Scarlet Knights were still members of the Big East at the time and would go on to finish the season 9-4.
Unfortunately for Rutgers, the history between these programs suggests the Knights won't be starting the season 4-0. They've played seven times since Rutgers joined the Big Ten, and while Rutgers won the first meeting 26-24 in Lloyd Carr's final season at Michigan, the Wolverines have dominated since Jim Harbaugh arrived. Michigan won the first five meetings under Harbaugh by a combined score of 256-37. Last year's meeting was much closer, but Michigan still got by Rutgers 48-42 in triple overtime.
Michigan vs. Rutgers: Need to know
Michigan is running all over teams: In a typical college football season, it's an option team that leads the nation in rushing yards. That could very well be the case when the 2021 season comes to an end, but it's not the case right now. Michigan enters the week averaging 350.3 yards rushing per game, which is the most in the nation, and nearly 15 full yards per game more than Florida in second place. The Wolverines also lead the country with 15 rushing touchdowns and are fourth in yards per carry at 7.15.
It's been a one-two punch of Blake Corum (48 carries, 407 yards, seven touchdowns) and Hassan Haskins (49 carries, 281 yards, four touchdowns), with Corum serving as the smaller, big-play back and Haskins playing the classic role of battering ram. Michigan has run the ball on 74.5% of its offensive snaps this season, and while part of that is because the team has been sitting on large leads late in games, it's also an accurate reflection of this team's identity.
Michigan has been the most efficient team in the country: There are a lot of valuable stats in football, but in the end, it always comes down to how many points you score and how many you allow. When we look at this from a per-drive perspective, no team in the country has been more efficient than the Wolverines. Michigan's offense ranks third nationally with 4.52 points per drive and ninth in points allowed per drive at 0.77. The net differential of 3.75 points per drive is the best mark in the country and 0.52 points per drive better than the second-place team, Army.
Rutgers has relied on turnovers: Rutgers is averaging 4.85 yards per play, which ranks 107th nationally, but the 41 points per game the Knights have scored ranks 21st. How does an offense that has struggled to move the ball score so many points? They take advantage of turnovers. The Knights enter the week with a turnover margin of +8, which is the best in the nation. The Knights have forced eight turnovers and haven't turned the ball over once. They'll need to continue this trend to have a realistic chance of pulling off an upset on Saturday.
How to watch Michigan vs. Rutgers live
Date: Saturday, September 25 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Michigan Stadium -- Ann Arbor, Michigan
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Michigan vs. Rutgers prediction, picks
You can argue that there's some skill involved when it comes to forcing turnovers. The numbers show that when it comes to fumbles, there's a lot of luck involved. Basically, any time the ball hits the turf, it's a coin flip which team will recover it. So, theoretically, the more fumbles you force, the more you'll recover, but coming into this week, Rutgers has forced six fumbles on defense and recovered each one. That's awesome, but it's also fortunate, and I just can't see Rutgers being able to do to Michigan what it's done to Temple, Syracuse and Delaware. The Wolverines have been one of the more impressive teams in the country so far this season and shouldn't have too much of a problem with Rutgers. Prediction: Michigan (-18.5)
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