Staff Predictions: Michigan Wolverines Football vs. Northwestern
Revenge Tour 2021 continues, only instead of teams, Michigan is burning through guys that turned them down in previous coaching searches.
Greg Schiano was the first, and the Wolverines toyed with his team for a half before giving him hope of an upset in the second stanza of a 20-13 win. Schiano admitted he had actually accepted the U-M job in 2008 before reversing course and staying at Rutgers (only to bolt a few years later).
This week, it's Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, a hot commodity in both the NFL and NCAA ranks over the last several years. He's won Big Ten West titles, has two, 10-win seasons in the last six years, a nine-win campaign and gave Ohio State game in the Big Ten title game tilt last year after winning the West in a COVID-shortened season.
He also turned down U-M through a third party in 2011, when then-A.D. David Brandon reached out to him, even though he made it clear in October that year he "never talked" to Michigan.
The fact that it didn't even get that far means, of course, that Fitzgerald must pay for the Brady Hoke years (minus 2011), the way Schiano has done his penance for the Rich Rodriguez Error. For message board sanity's sake (and ours in trying to moderate it), we'd prefer something more than a triple overtime win (last year in Piscataway) and this year's 7-point stinker in Ann Arbor.
And that's what we expect.
Yes, the Wildcats showed signs of life in beating Schiano's group last week, 21-7, but this is a team bereft of playmakers and team speed. They got plastered two weeks ago by a coach in Scott Frost on the U-M 'revenge' list for totally different reasons — we don't need to explain, but will note he's been punished sufficiently by Jim Harbaugh over the years (sorry, Carol) — a 56-7 beatdown by Nebraska that was every bit as bad as the score might indicate.
Expect Harbaugh to take his foot off the brakes a bit if the Wolverines get up. Unlike a segment of the fan base still mad at Fitzgerald for jumping up and down on the sidelines celebrating a call in Ann Arbor several years ago, the U-M coach has great respect for him.
Finally, for those who missed it — this game is being played for the George Jewett Trophy, and while it might be 'just another silly trophy game' to some, it probably wouldn't be if you knew the history behind the man for whom it's named.
Take the two minutes to watch while Michigan running backs coach Mike Hart explains its (and Jewett's) importance. It literally gives goosebumps.
Congratulations to Doug Skene, who didn't lose last week (credit the bye). This week's winner gets to make fun of the former Michigan lineman after he finds a way to lose this installment of Staff Predictions.
This week's picks:
CHRIS BALAS: This Michigan team could probably look ahead to next week's showdown with Michigan State and still win, but this team seems focused. The Wolverines will rest some banged-up warriors and capture a workmanlike victory before turning their attention to transfer portal warriors Sunday. MICHIGAN 34, NORTHWESTERN 10
JOHN BORTON: This should represent a safe start to a treacherous second half of the season. But there aren't any safe havens at this time of year ... just ask Iowa.
Forget any thought of Gang Green until it's time, and keep the haven't-done-a-thing mentality. MICHIGAN 34, NORTHWESTERN 13
CLAYTON SAYFIE: Northwestern did some good things last week, albeit against Rutgers, and the Wolverines are coming off a bye. Do they still hold the momentum they had before the idle week? They've said all the right things in terms of focus, and that's good enough for me with the way they've backed up the talk.
Ultimately, Michigan has the advantage in the trenches and it's hard to picture the Wildcats holding up enough to stop the run. The Wolverines cruise to victory. MICHIGAN 45, NORTHWESTERN 7
ANTHONY BROOME: It is tough to call any Big Ten game a tuneup, but that feels exactly like what the Wolverines have in front of them on Saturday. Northwestern's three wins are against Indiana State, Ohio and Rutgers, hardly a murderer's row of opponents. Any time they have played a competent opponent this year, they have folded like a lawn chair.
Pat Fitzgerald is a good coach and will squeeze every drop out of his team that he can, but it is hard to see them standing much of a chance on Saturday. I expect Michigan to win the way it did in non-conference play with a vanilla gameplan that hammers the run game and gets the reserves on the field. Win first, stay healthy and turn the page to Paul Bunyan week. MICHIGAN 38, NORTHWESTERN 13
DOUG SKENE: Michigan need to demonstrate they are indeed the Big Ten champion contender we think they are. There is no room to look past any opponent. The Wildcats provide an opportunity for Michigan to tighten up on areas of needed improvement (DL twist games vs. the U-M offensive line) and get back to their groove after a week off.
Great teams don't mess around in games against inferior opponents. I expect Michigan to win by a wide margin.
MICHIGAN 49, NORTHWESTERN 13
DOUG KARSCH: Northwestern has the worst rush defense in the B1G, but they (finally) provided some rush resistance last week against Rutgers. The Wildcats also turned it over at a prodigious rate early with seven in their first three games but they (finally) stopped giving it away with just two in their last three games.
Pat Fitzgerald teams get better as the year goes on. Michigan will have some success on the ground and pound out a win. MICHIGAN 31, NORTHWESTERN 10
• Talk about this article inside The Fort
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel
• Listen and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, The Wolverine
• Sign up for our daily newsletter and breaking news alerts
• Like us on Facebook