Michigan 38, Northwestern 0 Instant Analysis
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1. Michigan out-Northwesterned, Northwestern.
Everything that worked over the first five games for Northwestern was suddenly thrown back in its face. The two teams basically do the same things, but the Wolverines did them better. The Michigan resurgence was nice after the loss to Utah, but it seemed like it was a bit of a mirage with mediocre competition – outside of a gassed BYU – and without much pop or pizzazz. But this wasn’t any sort of fluke, and this was exactly what the Wolverines need to keep on doing. Both Northwestern and Michigan play great defense, are great on the ground, and keep the mistakes to a minimum, but it was UM side that did it all, but better. The running game was far stronger, the defense was far tougher, and the Wolverines committed fewer penalties and came up with the one turnover that ended the fun on the Jourdan Lewis takeaway for a touchdown.
2. Michigan State at Michigan. Now it’s on.
Here you go, Michigan. You’re getting exactly what you wanted – the Michigan State game now really, really matters. Now, it’s not just about possibly beating a hated rival and finally getting past the little brother again, and it’s not just about taking a big step in the race for the Big Ten East title, it’s about being in the playoff chase, and that’s exactly what the Wolverines will be if they can get by the Spartans next week in Ann Arbor. It’s still the first year under Jim Harbaugh, and there’s still a lot of work to do before the team is actually one of the four best teams in college football, but it’s mid-October and the team matters and is relevant. Harbaugh has already been worth it.
3. Shut out and shut down.
It’s one thing to shut down a BYU team coming off an exhausting first three games, and it’s another to close down a punchless Maryland, but to go three straight games with shutouts and allowing a grand total of 14 points over five games has proven just how nasty this defense really is. Northwestern doesn’t have a downfield passing game, so the Wolverines were able to load up on the line and stop Justin Jackson and the running game cold, and that was it. Part of the key to the defense was a running game that ground out the clock, holding the ball for 37 minutes, and it helped that Jake Rudock didn’t make any big mistakes, but the defense did its part. Next week, the Wolverines have to deal with a real, live passer in Connor Cook, but for now, the front seven isn’t allowing a thing – everything else is working off of that.