ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Michigan football team is looking for its ninth-straight victory this weekend as it travels to play an overmatched Rutgers squad.
Since opening the season with a loss to Notre Dame, the Wolverines have ripped off eight wins in a row, rising to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings. But with undefeated teams occupying the top three spots, it’s a crowded battle for the final seat at the table.
Michigan holds it for now, but Georgia, Oklahoma and a handful of others would love to move up.
So far, Michigan has impressed the committee with dominant wins over teams with winning records, blowing out Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State the last three games.
A close game against Rutgers would take some of the shine off Michigan’s dominance.
The Scarlet Knights haven’t won a game since Sept. 1, losing eight straight and six by at least 14 points.
Georgia and Oklahoma have chances to further impress the committee against stiffer competition this weekend, so Michigan needs to make a statement in a different way.
Two years ago, Michigan took a trip to Piscataway as the No. 4 team in the AP Poll and stomped Rutgers 78-0. While it doesn’t necessarily need to be a 70-point victory Saturday, Michigan would love to put a similarly impressive performance together.
Rutgers is among the worst teams in the country and struggles on both sides of the ball. Even a half-interested Michigan team could win this game, but this group of Wolverines doesn’t seem like the type to take its foot off the gas.
Defensive end Chase Winovich dubbed the last three weeks a “revenge tour,” as Michigan avenged three of its losses from a year ago. The defense was relentless in all three games, and the offense didn’t let up, no matter the score.
Jim Harbaugh would have scored 100 against Penn State if he had enough time.
Now, as the Wolverines stare at the porous rushing defense of Rutgers, another potential blowout is on the table. Rutgers is No. 120 in the country in stopping the run and No. 21 in stopping the pass, though those numbers are skewed by the fact that opponents are usually playing from way ahead.
Those numbers play right into Michigan’s hands, as Karan Higdon will look to continue his streak of rushing for more than 100 yards. If Michigan could rack up 183 rushing yards against MSU’s No. 1 run defense, it can explode against Rutgers.
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Michigan also needs to continue passing the eye test, especially since two of its wins against teams with winning records could be erased this weekend. Northwestern and Maryland, both 5-4 on the season, are underdogs this weekend and could fall to 5-5.
That means Michigan would only have four wins against teams with winning records, instead of a nation-leading six. It might not seem significant, but that’s absolutely a factor when the CFP committee builds its rankings.
Michigan will have every opportunity to impress the committee at the end of the season when it travels to Columbus to face Ohio State. For now, the best the Wolverines can do is take care of business, and do so emphatically.
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