No. 21 Michigan looks to continue its resurgence under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh when it hosts 14th-ranked Northwestern on Saturday. The Wolverines have won four straight games, including an impressive 31-0 victory over BYU in Week 4, and are coming off a 28-0 triumph over Maryland to earn back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2000.
Michigan is ranked second nationally in total defense (184 ypg) and has outscored its opponents 119-7 in its last 15 quarters as it strives to beat the Wildcats for the fifth consecutive time. Northwestern is 5-0 for the first time since 2012 after blasting Minnesota 27-0 on Saturday. The Wildcats lead the nation in scoring defense (7 ppg) and hope to beat Michigan for the first time since Nov. 15, 2008 after some heartbreaking defeats along the way, including two of the last three meetings in overtime. “This will be the best team we’ve played all year and you compound that with being on the road and this will be a great challenge for our team,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald told reporters. “Coach Harbaugh and his staff have done a terrific job in their first year.”
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, BIg Ten Network.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened Michigan -8 but that’s moved to -7.5. The total is down to 34 from the opening number of 35.
OL Matt Frazier (Probable, infection), SB Garrett Dickerson (Probable, lower body), OL Geoff Mogus (Probable, head), S Kyle Queiro (Out indefinitely, arm), OL Adam DePiertro (Out indefinitely, undisclosed), SB Jayme Taylor (Out indefinitely, ankle).
S Dymonte Thomas (Probable, undisclosed), FB Joe Kerridge (Probable, leg), CB Channing Stribling (Questionable, undisclosed), WR Brian Cole (Questionable, undisclosed), LB Mike McCray (Questionable, undisclosed), RB De’Veon Smith (Questionable, leg), RB Wyatt Shallman (Out, undisclosed), DE Mario Ojemudia (Out for season, Achilles), DT Bryan Mone (Out indefinitely, leg).
WEATHER: Temperatures expected to be in the low-60s under clear skies with wind blowing across the field at around eight miles per hour.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Northwestern (-16.5) + Michigan (-13) + home field (-3.0) = Northwestern -0.5
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “The Wildcats defense is the real deal, and they recorded their second shutout of the season in a 27-0 home win over Minnesota last week. The Wolverines have won four straight, recording back to back shutouts over BYU and Maryland. They didn’t have their leading rusher De’Veon Smith against the Terps, and he’s questionable to play this week against Northwestern.” Covers Expert Jesse Schule.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “Joe P. is loving the dog in this one for a change. The line opened at 9.5 and quickly made its way down to 7.5. The bets are 3-1 on Northwestern 7.5, and the money is 2-1. I imagine things will level out a bit, and the line will be pretty stable where it is.” Mick Sloan, GTbets.eu Lines Manager.
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS, 0-5 O/U): Sophomore running back Justin Jackson rushed for 120 yards in the win over Minnesota to notch his 10th career 100-yard rushing game. Linebacker Anthony Walker, who leads the team with 44 tackles, has been a revelation for the Wildcats as he’s recorded 8.5 tackles for loss and also returned a fumble for a touchdown to put the game out of reach against the Golden Gophers. Northwestern has held four opponents to 10 points or fewer this season and is fifth nationally in total defense, giving up 247.4 yards per game.
ABOUT MICHIGAN (4-1 SU, 3-2 ATS, 0-5 O/U): De’Veon Smith, who leads the Wolverines with 331 rushing yards and five total touchdowns, missed the win over Maryland with a foot injury but is expected to play on Saturday. Senior defensive end Mario Ojemudia was having one of the finest games of his career before he suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in the second half against the Terrapins that will effectively end his collegiate career. Senior quarterback Jake Rudock continued his struggles as he was limited to 16-of-32 passing for 180 yards and threw his sixth interception of the season.
* Underdog is 6-1 ATS in their last seven meetings.
* Under is 6-2 in the last eight meetings.
* Road team is 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings.
* Under is 6-0 in Wolverines last six home games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Sixty-seven percent of Covers users are backing Northwestern.