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November 15, 2013

WR staff predictions: Michigan


So which disappointing team will reverse its slide into Big Ten oblivion? Will it be a Northwestern team reeling from five straight losses and coming off of a last-second, Hail Mary loss to Nebraska? Or a Michigan team that can't find any semblance of an offense and is rebounding from losing two of three?

The WildcatReport staff has the answers to those questions and more in this week's installment of our fearless predictions.



Aric "Hey There" DiLalla

Northwestern wins if... the defense keeps up its stellar effort and the offense makes a few big plays.

Northwestern loses if... the team's progress from the last few weeks regresses in a big way.

The bottom line: : I said I wouldn't pick NU until they won again, but the Cats aren't losing at home to this poor of a Michigan team. Time for people to talk about Northwestern's games, not its uniforms.

Prediction: Northwestern 21 Michigan 16



Danny "Portlandia" Moran

Northwestern wins if... The game comes down to field goals. Jeff Budzien is the more reliable option than Brendan Gibbons.

Northwestern loses if... Michigan can establish the run. The Wildcats are still a threat to force turnovers but they'll have a more difficult time forcing Devin Gardner into mistakes if he has another dimension to play off.

The bottom line: The week off does the Cats some good heading into a game against an underwhelming Michigan team. They earn their first conference win and avoid the embarrassment of losing while draped in the flag.

Prediction: Northwestern 23 Michigan 21



"Cool Hand" Luke Srodulski

Northwestern wins if... Kain Colter and Treyvon Green both rush for over 100 yards. The Wildcats have been most successful with multiple threats on the ground, and they'll need these two to show up big.

Northwestern loses if... the front four can't contain Michigan. The Wolverines' ground game struggles have been highly publicized, and even without Sean McEvilly, Northwestern should be able to slow it down.

The bottom line: Two teams who have been struggling mightily are going at it. Northwestern may not get a better chance to grab that elusive Big Ten win, and that's just what they'll do.

Prediction: Northwestern 23 Michigan 21



Louie "C.K." Vaccher

Northwestern wins if… The shaky offensive line can just pass protect long enough to let Colter and Trevor Siemian complete a few passes. All they need is a handful of plays in the passing game to keep the Michigan defense honest.

Northwestern loses if… it allows Gardner to connect on a couple big plays. NU's defense has been solid, but Michigan's Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess can be lethal.

The bottom line: As amazing as it may seem, Northwestern has been playing better than Michigan and at least has a running game to hang its hat on. Coming off of a bye week, the Cats are also healthier than they've been in weeks.

Prediction: Northwestern 24 Michigan 21



Larry "Slick" Watts

Northwestern wins if... the defensive front seven can shut down the Michigan running game while keeping pressure on Wolverine quarterback Devin Gardner and the Wildcat offense establishes a solid rushing attack.

Northwestern loses if... Gardner is given time to find open receivers in the Northwestern secondary and the Cats' continue to make foolish mistakes on the offensive line.

The bottom line: Bad weather could force this game into a battle of rushing attacks. This isn't your father's Michigan team, so Northwestern must control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

Prediction: Northwestern 20 Michigan 14



Alex "Li'l" Wayne

Northwestern wins if… Colter and a very basic running game can be established and Northwestern finds themselves feeling in better control of their ability to score than Michigan does. I'm not going to lie -- this is a mighty big "if" given all the injury woes.

Northwestern loses if… Michigan gets a toe-hold against NU's spotty defense. The Wolverine offensive line is held together with chewing gum, but quarterbacks who can improvise and ball carriers who keep their legs churning until the whistle blows have made things difficult for Northwestern all year.

The bottom line: I certainly didn't think Pat Fitzgerald's superior job security compared to Brady Hoke's would play into Northwestern being the more stable team going into this match-up, but we've had a lot of surprises this season. What's more, I think Coach Fitz can convince his players that they're the better team after one close loss, one agonizing loss, and one ideally timed week off to recuperate.

Prediction: Northwestern 24 Michigan 13




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