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Posts Tagged ‘Wildcats’

#18 Michigan 38 – #13 Northwestern 0: Wolverines dominate Wildcats in all three phases

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Chesson vs NW(

The coin toss was the only thing Michigan lost on Saturday, but the Wolverines turned even that into a win as Jehu Chesson returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and they never looked back. Michigan recorded its third straight shutout with a  38-0 blanking of 13th-ranked Northwestern.

Michigan scored touchdowns on offense, defense, and special teams for the first time in a game since 2003 and held Northwestern’s offense to just 168 total yards while racking up 380 of their own — more than doubling the number Northwestern’s defense entered the game allowing per game.

Final Stats
Michigan Northwestern
Score 38 0
Record 5-1 (2-0) 5-1 (1-1)
Total Yards 380 168
Net Rushing Yards 201 38
Net Passing Yards 179 130
First Downs 21 13
Turnovers 0 1
Penalties-Yards 3-28 5-39
Punts-Yards 5-190 8-280
Time of Possession 37:05 22:55
Third Down Conversions 7-of-14 2-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 4-23 3-4
Field Goals 1-for-1 0-for-1
PATs 5-for-5 0-for-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-3 0-of-0
Full Box Score

Jake Rudock had perhaps his best game of the season, completing 17 of 23 passes for 179 yards, and most importantly, no turnovers. The running game was done so by committee as De’Veon Smith led the way with 59 yards on eight carries, Derrick Green 47 yards on 12 carries, and five others rushed for at least 11 yards as Michigan racked up 201 yards on the ground.

Michigan’s defense held the Big Ten’s third leading rusher, Justin Jackson, to just 25 yards on 12 carries, and Jourdan Lewis padded his claim as one of the nation’s best defensive backs with a 37-yard interception return for touchdown. When all was said and done Michigan scored more points than Northwestern had allowed in the previous five games combined to set up a highly anticipated matchup with in-state rival Michigan State next Saturday.

After Chesson’s touchdown, Northwestern’s offense went three and out and Michigan drove 59 yards on seven plays to take a quick 14-0 lead. On the drive, Smith had an 18-yard rush and Jake Butt a 32-yard reception setting up a Drake Johnson 1-yard touchdown run.

Trying to get back in the game, Northwestern drove 50 yards to the Michigan 25, but Jack Mitchell missed a 42-yard field goal. Michigan responded with a six play 75-yard touchdown drive that featured a 34-yard Joe Kerridge run and a 27-yard pass to Chesson. Rudock scored from two yards out to put Michigan ahead 21-0 with 2:35 remaining in the first quarter.

Michigan piled it on near the end of the first half when Lewis intercepted Clayton Thorson’s 3rd-and-9 pass near the Northwestern sideline and raced 37 yards for the score. Michigan tacked on a 47-yard Kenny Allen field goal on its first possession of the second half and then Derrick Green capped off a 12 play, 66-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with two minutes left.

Game Ball – Offense 

Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson
For the first time this season the game ball goes to an entire position group and it’s the big uglies who were impressive all day against one of the nation’s best defenses. From the game’s start, Michigan’s offensive line generated great push against a very good Northwestern defensive front. While no individual running back went off, it was a team effort as nine different players had at least two carries, and five backs and Rudock had at least 11 rushing yards. Michigan totaled 201 rushing yards as a team, 84 more than Northwestern’s defense averages per game, and 4.4 yards per carry against a defense that gave up just 3.7 yards per rush in the first five games. Sure, Northwestern sacked Rudock three times, but it didn’t matter as the damage was done.

Week 1 – Jake Butt (8 rec for 93 yards and 1 TD)
Week 2 – De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 3 – Ty Isaac (8 carries for 114 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD)
Week 5 — Drake Johnson (13 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 31 yards, 1 TD)

Game Ball – Defense

Jourdan Lewis (4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 touchdown, 1 PBU)
Willie Henry (2 sacks) and Jabrill Peppers (5 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 PBU) could have easily gotten today’s game ball, but Lewis gets the nod for his lockdown coverage and 37-yard interception return for touchdown. Northwestern tried throwing at him with little result and he got the better of Thorson when he picked off the 3rd-and-9 pass and raced 37 yards up the sideline to put Michigan ahead 28-0 in the first half. Lewis has been fantastic all season, but will have his toughest test yet when Michigan State comes to town next week.

Week 1 – Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 TFL)
Week 2 – Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 3 – Jourdan Lewis (3 tackles, 4 PBU)
Week 4 — Ryan Glasgow (3 tackles, 2 TFL)
Week 5 — Desmond Morgan (9 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU)

Final Individual Stats
Passing Comp-Att Yds Avg. TD INT Long Sack
Jake Rudock 17-23 179 7.8 0 0 32 3
Clayton Thorson 13-27 106 3.9 0 1 20 2
Matt Alviti 1-3 12 4.0 0 0 12 1
Zack Oliver 1-3 12 4.0 0 0 12 1
Rushing Car. Yards Avg. TD Long
De’Veon Smith 8 59 7.4 0 19
Derrick Green 12 47 3.9 1 10
Joe Kerridge 2 35 17.5 0 34
Justin Jackson 12 25 2.1 0 15
Karan Higdon 8 16 2.0 0 9
Sione Houma 3 13 4.3 0 5
Ty Isaac 2 13 6.5 0 7
Solomon Vault 3 12 4.0 0 15
Jake Rudock (QB) 6 11 1.8 1 13
Jelani Roberts (WR) 1 11 11.0 0 11
Jehu Chesson (WR) 2 6 3.0 0 12
Warren Long 1 6 6.0 0 6
Drake Johnson 2 3 1.5 1 2
Matt Alviti (QB) 3 -2 -0.7 0 5
Clayton Thorson (QB) 3 -4 -1.3 0 3
Zack Oliver (QB) 1 -9 -9.0 0 -9
Receiving Rec Yds Avg. TD Long
A.J. Williams 4 48 12.0 0 16
Jake Butt 3 40
13.3 0 32
Austin Carr 2 39 19.5 0 20
Jehu Chesson 2 26 13.0 0 27
Drake Harris 2 25 12.5 0 13
Cameron Dickerson 2 22 11.0 0 12
Christian Jones 2 22 11.0 0 12
De’Veon Smith (RB) 3 19 6.3 0 10
Amara Darboh 2 11 5.5 0 8
Dan Vitale 1 11 11.0 0 11
Mo Ways 1 10 10.0 0 10
Miles Shuler 1 9 9.0 0 9
Justin Jackson (RB) 1 3 3.0 0 3
Mike McHugh 2 0 0.0 0 2
Clayton Thorson (QB) 1 0 0.0 0 0
Kicking FG Pct Long XP Pts
Kenny Allen 1/1 100.0 47 5/5 8
Jack Mitchell 0/1 0.0 0 0/0 0
Punting No Yds Avg TB In 20 Long
Blake O’Neill 5 190 28.0 2 3 59
Hunter Niswander 8 280 35.0 0 2 47
Kick Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Jehu Chesson 1 96 96.0 96 1
Solomon Vault 2 39 19.5 22 0
Jelani Roberts 1 19 19.0 19 0
Marcus McShepard 1 17 17.0 17 0
Punt Returns No Yds Avg Long TD

M&GB staff predictions: Northwestern

Friday, October 9th, 2015


Pat Fitzgerald

Michigan hasn’t allowed a touchdown in more than two games and one of the Big Ten’s worst offenses comes to town tomorrow. Unfortunately, so does one of the best defenses. So what will give? Here are our predictions.

Last season’s low-scoring affair was a product of decent defenses, but mostly just bad offenses and it was tough to watch for fans of either side. Tomorrow’s matchup will also be low-scoring, but that’s because it will be a battle of defensive titans that rank first and second nationally in scoring defense and both in the top five in total defense.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Northwestern
Justin 17 6
Derick 20 13
Sam 17 7
Josh 24 10
Joe 17 7
M&GB Average 19 9

What separates these defenses is that Michigan has held two straight Power 5 opponents to just 105 total yards each in the past two weeks, while Northwestern gave up 359 yards of offense to Ball State. While Michigan’s defense is equally good in both phases, Northwestern is great against the pass, but vulnerable to the run, and that’s where Michigan’s offense excels. No one knows at this point whether or not De’Veon Smith will play, but if he does, expect him to split carries with Drake Johnson to give the offense a nice one-two punch of Smith’s hard-nosed power running and Johnson’s vision and burst. Expect Jim Harbaugh’s offense to allow Jake Rudock to take what the defense gives him with underneath passes all day long and not take many chances against Northwestern’s strong secondary.

Defensively, Michigan will focus on stopping Jackson just as it has done to running backs all season. Thorson completes just 56 percent of his passes and has thrown for 105, 152, 70, 256, and 128 yards in Northwestern’s five games. The 256 was against Ball State’s weak defense and the 152 was against FCS school Eastern Illinois, which means against Power 5 competition, he hasn’t thrown for more than 128 yards in a game. Don’t expect that to change tomorrow.

A low-scoring game is guaranteed with neither offense able to have much success. But Michigan will be able to sustain longer drives and pull out the win.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 6

Everyone is expecting a low-scoring battle between the top two defensive teams in the nation, and I’m not different.
Michigan’s elite front seven is complemented with a lock-down secondary and should have little trouble with Northwestern’s average offense. But on the other hand, Jake Rudock and the offense are still learning and trying to form an identity. If Rudock takes care of the ball, the Wolverine defense will make a few plays and put the rushing attack in position to score enough points.

If Michigan coughs up the ball three times, the Wildcats will probably walk away from Ann Arbor with a perfect 6-0 record. But I think De’Veon Smith and Amara Darboh will make enough plays to escape with a victory.

Michigan 20 – Northwestern 13

Last year, the Michigan/Northwestern game was nothing more than an embarrassing pile of ineptitude that devolved into the notorious “M00N” game. This year, while N00M might be in play, it will be for different reasons, as both defenses are coming off impressive shutouts and appear to be the legitimate class of the conference in that regard. Neither offense has caught fire yet, but I like Michigan’s defense a little more versus Northwestern’s inexperienced offense than vice versa. The Wolverines will put up just enough points to keep the win streak rolling. Give me Michigan by 10.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 7

The M00N game will now become N00M, at least to start off anyway. I expect this to be a lower scoring game, not as low as last year but it won’t be a shootout by any stretch of the imagination.

From what I can glean off the internet and in limited viewings of Northwestern they are a spread to run team that seems to go to empty sets on 3rd downs (again, this is just what I’ve gathered from other blogs and very limited actual game viewings so I could be way off). They have a decent RB but he isn’t a bruiser so don’t expect any De’Veon Smith type running but he does have some speed and wiggle so look for Michigan to keep him from getting to the outside, especially on RJS’s side (if our D has a weak link it’s gonna be the BUCK spot until someone can prove their worth, until then expect teams to test that side of the field).

They have a RS Frosh QB who’s stats are pretty decent but they are probably misleading as he’s not asked to do much other than dump it off, or so it seems anyway. I don’t think they’ll be able to pound the rock all day against a stout Michigan front so they’ll have to be creative and might take some downfield shots. Unlike in years past I am not too worried about our DB’s getting beat deep all that often so IF the Wildcats manage to hit one deep I doubt they’ll replicate that magic again.

However, I do expect that the quick read offense will help them get some quick, short yardage on numerous occasion as they try to negate the beast that is the Michigan defensive line. While his offense is not scary in the slightest and I don’t think they’ll be able to put up more than 10-13 points, they do have a ‘secret’ weapon in SuperBack (H-back/FB/TE) Dan Vitale and he can move, as well as block. Michigan will need to keep him check as he’s one of those ‘too fast for a LB and too big for a DB’ types, but hey Jabrill Peppers is basically a hybrid SS/LB and dude will hit you, so maybe we don’t worry about Vitale, too much.

Michigan’s offense, while not as exciting as many of us would like, is still hands down better than Northwestern’s so I expect the Wolverines to put up at least 20 points with a good mix of what we’ve grown accustomed to; Smith and Johnson pounding it up the middle (sidenote: I don’t think we see much of Ty Isaac, if any, after his double fumble week against Maryland) and I think this week is the week of Butt. Hm, that sounded weird but whatever. After having been somewhat absent from the offense after a hot, hot start I think the coaches will have more than a handful of plays for Jake Butt and hopefully that will open up the deep ball for Chesson and Rudock. Each week they attempt one or two downfield, so if Northwestern stacks the box to stop our bruising rushing attack this would be an ideal time to FINALLY connect on a deep bomb.

This will be an epic battle til the end between two excellent defenses and two less than stellar offenses. I think the final score won’t be as close as the game was though. In the end the Michigan offense gives them enough and the D holds the NW offense in check. Michigan pulls away in the end and we all look forward to Sparty.

Michigan 24 – Northwestern 10

We are finally getting to the “meat” of the schedule (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Michigan is rolling along and improving each and every week. The defense has quickly become one of the best in the country and will go head to head with another top ranked defense. This should be an old fashioned battle that will be fun to watch.

The stars will need to shine in this one to pull out the big W. Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers will be huge on the back end as they make life difficult for the redshirt freshman quarterback, Clayton Thorson. They have been getting better each week and will continue to dominate. I don’t see them giving up much more than a touchdown in this one.

The offense will need to be careful and control the clock. Jake Rudock has been careful with the ball and should continue to hand the ball off to whomever is in the backfield. Keep the chains moving by using the tight ends and Amara Darboh when it’s available. We can rule out the long ball as that has been nonexistent due to his accuracy issues. Just don’t turn the ball over on offense and make life difficult on the freshman quarterback and we go to 5-1.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 7

#18 Michigan vs #13 Northwestern game preview

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Game Preview_Northwestern_banner

After last season’s 10-9 snoozefest in Evanston, the thought of a highly anticipated top-20 matchup between Michigan and Northwestern less than a year later was far from most peoples’ minds. And for good reason. Both teams’ 2014 seasons ended with 5-7 records just three weeks after that meeting.

But as one of Week 6’s most anticipated matchups approaches — one of only two games naturally featuring two ranked teams — both Michigan and Northwestern are poised to make a major move toward the Big Ten title.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – BTN
Northwestern Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (10th season)
Coaching Record: 65-53 overall, 31-42 Big Ten (all at NU)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike McCall (8th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Hankwitz (8th season)
Returning 2014 Starters: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense)
Last Season: 5-7 (3-5)
Last Meeting: UM 10 – NU 9 (2014)
All-Time Series: UM leads 56-15-2
Record in Ann Arbor: 34-6-2
Record in Michigan Stadium: 34-6-2
Jim Harbaugh vs Northwestern: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 2014 (10-9)
Last Northwestern win: 2008 (21-14)
Current Streak: Michigan 4
Michigan on Homecoming: 88-28-2

At 5-0 and 1-0 in the conference, Northwestern is ranked as high as it has been since 2000, following a wild, 54-51 win over Michigan. The Wildcats shared the Big Ten title with Michigan and Purdue that season and haven’t won it since. Another win over Michigan would make Northwestern the favorite to win the Big Ten West.

Like Michigan, they have a quality win so far this season. In the opener, Northwestern shut down 21st-ranked Stanford for a 16-6 win, holding the Cardinal to just 240 yards of offense and 85 rushing yards. Since then, Stanford is 4-0, averaging 42 points and 506 total yards per game. Northwestern also has a 19-10 win over Duke in Durham and a 27-0 throttling of Minnesota last week. Despite that impressive resume, there is one game of concern, a narrow win over Ball State. The Cardinals gained 359 yards of offense — 181 on the ground — in the Week 4 near-upset.

Michigan holds a 56-15-2 all-time advantage over Northwestern, but the last three meetings were about as close as they could get. In 2012, Michigan trailed by three in the closing seconds, but Devin Gardner completed a Hail Mary to Roy Roundtree, setting up the game-tying field goal. Michigan won in overtime, 38-31. In 2013, Northwestern held a 9-6 lead late in the game, but Michigan pulled off an improbable last-second field goal to tie it. The Wolverines then won in triple overtime, 27-19. Then last year, Michigan carried a 7-0 lead into the fourth quarter before Northwestern kicked a field goal with 7:26 remaining. Michigan responded with a field goal of its own to take a 10-3 lead, but Northwestern scored with three seconds remaining. Instead of going to overtime for the third straight year, Pat Fitzgerald elected to go for two, but Michigan’s defense held strong and broke Northwestern’s heart once again.

Three years of frustration at the hands of Michigan could be redeemed with a win in the Big House tomorrow, vaulting the Wildcats into the top 10. Or Michigan could break their hearts again and make their own jump toward the top 10. Let’s take a look at the matchup.

When Northwestern has the ball

Like Michigan, offense isn’t what has carried Northwestern to a fast start this season. The Wildcats rank 79th nationally and ninth in the Big Ten in total offense (391 yards per game), 14th and first in rushing (248.8 yards per game), 118th and last in passing (142.2 yards per game), 99th and 10th in pass efficiency (114.85), and 89th and 11th in scoring (25.4 points per game).

The main source of offense has been sophomore running back Justin Jackson. His 636 rushing yards rank third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott (729) and Indiana’s Jordan Howard (709). Jackson is averaging 127.2 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry on 138 carries. By comparison, De’Veon Smith has just 69 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Jackson has eclipsed 100 yards in four of five games this season, but has just one touchdown.

Junior Warren Long and sophomore Solomon Vault are the backups with about six or seven carries apiece per game. Long is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and has two touchdowns, while Vault averages 4.0.

The second leading runner in terms of both yards and carries is quarterback Clayton Thorson. The redshirt freshman from Wheaton, Ill. has 200 yards on 41 carries and leads the team with four rushing touchdowns. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he’s not the traditional mobile quarterback, but he’s mobile enough to pick up yards when needed. He was the sixth-best dual threat quarterback in the class of 2014. Passing-wise, he stands in the bottom third of the conference with 711 yards, four touchdowns, and a 56.6 percent completion percentage. He has eclipsed 150 yards passing in just two of five games this season — one of which was 152 yards — and was held to 9-of-23 for 70 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions by Duke.

The leading receiver is senior super back Dan Vitale, who played for Thorson’s rival high school, Wheaton-Warrenville South. He has 15 receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns this season, but most of that production came against Ball State when he caught five passes for 108 yards and both scores. Fellow senior Christian Jones is the only other player with double-digit receptions, with 14 catches for 157 yards but has yet to find the end zone, while junior Austin Carr is a big play threat with 100 yards and two touchdowns on just four receptions. No other receiver has a touchdown or more than 54 yards.

The offensive line has a good amount of experience. Left tackle Geoff Mogus has 27 career starts, and although he missed the Minnesota game with an injury, he’s expected to start tomorrow. Left guard is the main question mark between senior Matt Frazier, who started against Minnesota, and junior Connor Mahoney, who started against Eastern Illinois and Ball State. Frazier is certainly the more experienced with 18 career starts. Junior Ian Park is the center with 13 career starts, while senior right guard Shane Mertz is a new starter this season and junior right tackle Eric Olson has 14 career starts.

When Michigan has the ball

Defense is what Northwestern has made its calling card this season, matching comparably with Michigan in most categories. The Wildcats rank fifth nationally and second in the Big Ten in total defense (247.4 yards allowed per game), 26th and fifth against the run (117.4 yards allowed per game), seventh and second against the pass (130 yards allowed per game), third and second in pass defense efficiency (83.35), and first and first in scoring defense (seven points per game).

Northwestern has a good set of defensive ends in senior Dean Lowry, senior Deonte Gibson, and junior Ifeadi Odenigbo. Lowry leads the defensive line with 4.5 tackles for loss to go along with half a sack. Gibson and Odenigbo lead the team with 2.5 sacks apiece. The interior of the line consists of senior C.J. Robbins and sophomore Tyler Lancaster. Lancaster ranks third on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss and also has a half a sack.

The linebacking corps is led by rising star sophomore middle linebacker Anthony Walker, who has 44 tackles, 8.5 for loss, a half a sack, and two fumble recoveries. His 8.5 tackles for loss ranks third in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin’s Joe Schubert and Penn State’s Carl Nassib. Junior Jaylen Prater is a first-year starter at the weak side and has 23 tackles, while senior SAM linebacker, Drew Smith, who started seven games last season, also has 23 tackles in addition to two fumble recoveries.

The secondary is one of the nation’s best with a ton of experience between corners Nick VanHoose and Matthew Harris as well as safeties Traveon Henry and Godwin Igwebuike. VanHoose is a fifth-year senior who was an All-Big Ten second team selection by the media a year ago. He has 37 career starts and has nine tackles and five pass breakups so far this season. Harris, a junior, started all 12 games last season and leads the team with three interceptions and six pass breakups this season. Henry, a senior, started 10 games in each of the last two seasons and ranks second on the team with 29 tackles in addition to three for loss and one sack. Sophomore safety Igwebuike started five games as a redshirt freshman a year ago and has 27 tackles and three pass breakups so far in 2015.

The other third

Junior kicker Jack Mitchell has made 10 of 13 field goal attempts with a long of 49. Last season, he made 14 of 18, so he’s solid. Sophomore punter Hunter Niswander, however, ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten with a 38.9-yard punt average. Vault handles the kick return duties and has done so very well so far, averaging 31.6 yards per return, which ranks 14th nationally. He had a 98-yard touchdown return against Duke in Week 3. Senior receiver Miles Shuler is the punt returner with an average of 18.5 yards per return.


Last season’s low-scoring affair was a product of decent defenses, but mostly just bad offenses and it was tough to watch for fans of either side. Tomorrow’s matchup will also be low-scoring, but that’s because it will be a battle of defensive titans that rank first and second nationally in scoring defense and both in the top five in total defense.

What separates these defenses is that Michigan has held two straight Power 5 opponents to just 105 total yards each in the past two weeks, while Northwestern gave up 359 yards of offense to Ball State. While Michigan’s defense is equally good in both phases, Northwestern is great against the pass, but vulnerable to the run, and that’s where Michigan’s offense excels. No one knows at this point whether or not De’Veon Smith will play, but if he does, expect him to split carries with Drake Johnson to give the offense a nice one-two punch of Smith’s hard-nosed power running and Johnson’s vision and burst. Expect Jim Harbaugh’s offense to allow Jake Rudock to take what the defense gives him with underneath passes all day long and not take many chances against Northwestern’s strong secondary.

Defensively, Michigan will focus on stopping Jackson just as it has done to running backs all season. Thorson completes just 56 percent of his passes and has thrown for 105, 152, 70, 256, and 128 yards in Northwestern’s five games. The 256 was against Ball State’s weak defense and the 152 was against FCS school Eastern Illinois, which means against Power 5 competition, he hasn’t thrown for more than 128 yards in a game. Don’t expect that to change tomorrow.

A low-scoring game is guaranteed with neither offense able to have much success. But Michigan will be able to sustain longer drives and pull out the win.

Michigan 17 – Northwestern 6

Tailgate Tuesday: Flat iron fajitas

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

Tailgate Tuesday_Week6

Tailgate Tuesday is our weekly collaboration with Joe Pichey from MmmGoBluBBQ. These tailgate recipes will be posted each Tuesday throughout the football season and most of the time will be themed around that week’s opponent. Meat Church, a Dallas, Texas based BBQ joint sponsors this feature by providing their killer rubs for use in the recipes. Buy them here

Previously: Frog legssmoky spiced beaver nutsbuild the perfect tailgate smokerpig shots, lamb shank, or visit our whole library of recipes here.

The flat iron steak is quickly gaining in popularity and for good reason. This cut is from the shoulder or chuck area and has some fantastic marbling throughout. While I typically go for the ribeye or t-bone, this is a close second when I’m firing up the grill. It is extremely versatile and flavorful and can be very tender when cooked properly.

I first discovered this steak when I was up in the Chicago area visiting some friends. We pulled out the Weber grill and and lit the coals. Several of the BBQ’ers were Northwestern Wildcat alum and swore by two things. The first was just how menacing and intimidating purple is on the football field. The second was how great the flat iron steak is. One out of two ain’t bad, right? I decided to give this one a go with Meat Church’s crazy tasty fajita rub and was not disappointed. Whether you are serving it as the main dish, steak style or slicing up for tacos, you will love this cut of beef.


1-2 lb. flat iron steak
Pico de gallo
Queso fresco


Prior to lighting the grill, set the flat iron steak out on the counter and allow it to come up to room temperature. This typically takes about 30-45 minutes.

Fire the grill up for medium, direct heat. As the coals are heating up, season the steak with Meat Church Fajita Rub. This is a good size hunk of meat, so apply generously.

Flat Iron Fajitas 1-2

Place over direct heat and allow to cook for approx 3 minutes. After 3 minutes rotate the steak 180 degrees to get some great grill marks. Repeat on the other side. After six minutes on each side, you should have a medium rare steak. If you like your steak a little more well done, leave it on a little longer. A good instant read thermometer is very helpful on thicker cuts of meat. I love the Thermapen for these cooks. If you don’t have one, get one. They are a must.

After 10 minutes, add some avocado slices to the grill. These will cook very fast, so don’t walk away. All we want is to add some nice grill marks and remove, otherwise the inside will start to wilt. Wilted avocados are not very tasty, trust me. Toss on some tortillas and we are in business. Once the steak has cooked for approx 10-12 minutes, remove from the heat and let rest for five minutes. I let mine go to an internal of 130 degrees, or medium rare.

Flat Iron Fajitas 3-4

Once it has rested for 5-7 minutes, thinly slice against the grain. This will help keep the tenderness.

Add the meat, avocado, queso fresco, and pico to a warm tortilla and enjoy. The meat is super tender and has great flavor. You will not be disappointed. This cut is less expensive than your typical ribeye and about the same as a good flank steak.

Flat Iron Fajitas 5-6

I hope you give this one a try and let me know what you think. This has huge flavor and can be cooked during halftime. What else can you ask for? GO BLUE!!!!

Visit Meat Church to purchase their new Bacon BBQ rub or any of their other great rubs and seasonings. You can follow them on Twitter at @MeatChurch and you can also follow Joe at @mmmgoblubbq.

Five Spot Challenge: Northwestern

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015


Congratulations to brad6923 for winning Week 5 of the Five Spot Challenge. His deviation of 109.6 beat gvanneste by 20 points. He was third closest to Michigan’s third down percentage (29.4 percent), 15.6 away; second closest to Maryland’s second half yards (37), 13 away; and tied for third closest to Michigan’s total rushing yards (198), two away.

Myrick55 correctly predicted Michigan’s rushing yards, while Sustersueblue was just one away and bigboyblue,, dtenpin22, and brad6923 were each two away. Gdub18‘s prediction of 25 yards was just one away from the yardage gained on Michigan’s first possession. Week 3 winner, Freezer566, was the closest to Michigan’s third down percentage, just 10.8 away, while ericcarbs was just one away from Maryland’s second half yards. DBenney09 was the closest — 12 away — to Will Likely’s total return yardage.

For the second time this season a contestant correctly predicted the final score, and for the second time it was the winner, so it didn’t even help. Brad6923 picked Michigan to win 28-0. Seven contestants predicted Michigan to score 28 points, and gvanneste was close with his 28-3 prediction. The 30 contestants picked Michigan to win by an average score of Michigan 33 – Northwestern 8.

The weekly results have been updated.

This week, Michigan hosts Northwestern for what is sure to be a defensive battle. Michigan and Northwestern are the top two defenses in the nation through five weeks and both feature below average offenses. Here are this week’s picks.

First Look: Northwestern

Monday, October 5th, 2015


After last season’s “M00N” game between Michigan and Northwestern — which may have been the worst game of the season to watch as a fan of either team — and both teams’ 5-7 finishes, most didn’t expect such a hyped-up meeting this season. But that’s where we find ourselves five weeks into 2015 as Northwestern stands 5-0, ranked 13th nationally, and Michigan is 4-1, ranked 18th. It’s one of just two games across the country featuring two ranked teams — Utah versus Cal is the other — and the winner gets to make a case for being a major Big Ten title contender. Let’s take a first look at how the two teams compare.

Northwestern Team Stats & Michigan Comparison
Northwestern | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 25.4 | 27.8 89 | 74
7.0 7.6 1 | 2
Rushing Yards 1,244 1,007 587 357
Rush Avg. Per Game 248.8 | 201.4 14 | 35
117.4 | 71.4 26 | 5
Avg. Per Rush 4.4 | 4.9
3.7 | 2.3
Passing Yards 711 956 650 563
Pass Avg. Per Game 142.2 | 191.2 118 | 96 130.0 | 112.6 7 | 3
Total Offense 1,955 1,963 1,237 | 920
Total Off Avg. Per Game 391.0 | 392.6 79 | 77 247.4 | 184.0 5 | 2
Kick Return Average 31.6 | 24.8 3 32 18.7 | 17.8 32 | 19
Punt Return Average 12.0 | 8.7 38 | 62 -1.6 | 7.5 2 | T63
Avg. Time of Possession 33:43 | 34:20 11 | 6
26:17 | 25:40
3rd Down Conversion Pct 49.0% | 42.0% 10 | T46
20.0% | 19.0% 2 | 1
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 4-24 | 5-43
T13 | T17
9-51 | 11-83
T71 | T45
Touchdowns Scored 14 17
3 | 5
Field Goals-Attempts 10-13 | 6-8
5-7 | 1-3
Red Zone Scores (14-17) 82.3%|(16-17) 94% 74 | 12
(6-10) 60%|(5-6) 83% T6 | T71
Red Zone Touchdowns (5-17) 29.4%|(12-17) 71% (1-10) 10%|(4-6) 66.7%

Michigan and Northwestern are nearly identical statistically so far this season with great defenses and average offenses. Michigan’s offense averages 2.4 more points and 1.6 more total yards per game than the Wildcats, but Northwestern has a seven percent better third down conversion rate. Northwestern gains more of its yards on the ground (47.4 more per game) but Michigan averages 49 more passing yards per game. One area in which Michigan has excelled is putting the ball in the end zone when it’s in the red zone. Michigan has punched it in 12 of 17 times, while Northwestern has done so just five of 17 times. Against good defenses, that might make the difference.

Defensively, Northwester and Michigan are No. 1 and 2 nationally in points allowed per game, with the Wildcats allowing 0.6 points fewer. But Michigan’s defense ranks second nationally in total defense, allowing 63.4 fewer yards per game, and Northwestern’s defense is just 26th nationally against the run, allowing 46 more rushing yards per game than Michigan’s defense does. The two are also the top two defenses in the country in stopping third downs with Michigan allowing just 19 percent conversions and Northwestern 20 percent.

Michigan-Northwestern starters comparison_Offense

While Jake Rudock hasn’t produced much this season, Clayton Thorson has done even less with his arm, throwing for 245 fewer yards. But he’s also thrown for half as many interceptions as Rudock. Northwestern has a workhorse at running back in Justin Jackson, who has nearly doubled De’Veon Smith’s rushing yards — although Smith missed the last game due to injury — but the Wildcats also have three other ball carriers with at least 137 rushing yards. Only Smith and Ty Isaac have that many for the Wolverines. At receiver, Michigan has the advantage, especially with Jake Butt, and on the offensive line, Michigan has a 98 to 61 advantage in career starts.

Michigan-Northwestern starters comparison_Defense

Both teams have great defenses, but Michigan’s defensive production seems to be spread out among more contributors, while Northwestern’s is a bit more centralized to its starters. Almost across the board, Northwestern’s starters have more tackles than their Michigan counterparts, but as a team, Michigan has recorded 40 tackles for loss to Northwestern’s 31 and 11 sacks to Northwestern’s nine. Michigan suffered a huge loss on Saturday when defensive end Mario Ojemudia went down with an Achilles injury, leaving Royce Jenkins-Stone big shoes to fill.

Overall, it’s about an even a matchup as one can find, at least on paper. Michigan opened as a 12-point favorite according to Las Vegas, but that number is sure to come down as Saturday approaches. Stay tuned for more coverage throughout the week.

Rahk on: Michigan 56 – Northwestern 54

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

MAAR vs Northwestern(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

On Muhammad Ali’s 73rd birthday, Michigan’s freshman guard who bears his name delivered the knockout blow to Northwestern. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, starting in place of Spike Albrecht who was out with a respiratory infection, recorded a career high nine points and five rebounds, but none was more important than his three-pointer in the final minute that served as the game-winning basket in Michigan’s 56-54 win over the Wildcats on Saturday night.

Michigan also started the game with a three, this one by Derrick Walton Jr, and jumped out to a 25-11 lead just over 10 minutes into the game. But the lead would be short-lived as Northwestern outscored Michigan 21-6 the rest of the half. Vic Law put the Wildcats on top with a jumper at the buzzer. Northwestern led 32-31.

Four Factors
Michigan Northwestern
42.2 eFG% 47.1
23.1 OReb% 28.6
5.3 TO% 20.5
19.0 FTR 11.5

The second half began the same way the first half ended as Northwestern scored seven of the first ten points and took a 39-34 lead. Max Bielfeldt hit a jumper and then a three to tie the game at 39 with 13:13 to play.

The rest of the game went back and forth, neither team able to pull away by more than four points. A Zak Irvin three — his only basket of the game — put Michigan ahead 53-49 with 3:48 left, but Michigan was held scoreless for the next two minutes and 51 seconds. A three by Scottie Lindsey cut the lead to one with just over a minute left, but Abdur-Rahkman hit the dagger, a three from the right wing. Alex Olah followed with a jumper, and after a Caris LeVert miss, Northwestern had one final chance to force overtime. But Bryant McIntosh missed a layup in the closing seconds and Michigan hung on for the win.

Michigan shot just 34.5 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from downtown and was out-rebounded 38-29. But the Wolverines made four more three-pointers and committed nine fewer turnovers than their counterparts. Michigan converted 12 Northwestern turnovers into 19 points.

LeVert led Michigan with 18 points on 7-of-19 shooting and also led the team with six rebounds and seven assists. But he left the arena on crutches with what John Beilein said after the game was likely a sprained ankle. Walton was the only other player in double figures with 14 points on 4-of-6 three-point shooting. Rahkman added nine and Irvin six. Olah led Northwestern with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

Michigan makes its first trip to Piscataway, N.J. on Tuesday to face Big Ten newcomer Rutgers (10-9, 2-4) at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised by Big Ten Network.

Final Game Stats
02 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman* 4-7 1-3 0-0 1 4 5 2 9 1 1 0 1 26
32 Ricky Doyle* 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 10
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 4-11 4-6 2-2 0 5 5 2 14 0 0 0 3 40
21 Zak Irvin* 1-6 1-4 3-5 2 2 4 0 6 2 1 0 1 37
23 Caris LeVert* 7-19 2-4 2-3 0 6 6 1 18 7 1 1 0 38
03 Kameron Chatman 1-3 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 9
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 1-6 1-5 0-0 1 0 1 0 3 1 1 0 0 15
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-2 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 10
34 Mark Donnal 0-2 0-1 0-1 1 0 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 11
44 Max Bielfeldt 2-6 1-3 0-0 2 0 2 1 5 0 0 1 1 19
Totals 20-58 9-23 7-11 9 20 29 11 56 10 3 2 6 200
Northwestern 22-52 5-20 5-6 8 30 38 16 54 12 12 2 1 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Northwestern

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Michigan (10-7, 3-2) vs Northwestern (10-7, 1-3)
Saturday, Jan. 17 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 8:15 p.m. EST | Big Ten Network
66.1 Points/gm 65.2
(388-926) 41.9 Field Goal % 43.1 (395-916)
(139-392) 35.5 3-pt FG % 34.4 (115-334)
(208-284) 73.2 Free Throw % 72.9 (204-280)
12.2 FT Made/gm 12.0
31.8 Reb/gm 35.3
12.7 Assists/gm 14.6
10.2 Turnovers/gm 11.5
62.8 Points/gm 62.4
(394-894) 44.1 Field Goal % 41.3 (375-907)
(115-325) 35.4 3-pt FG % 35.9 (98-273)
33.8 Opp. Reb/gm 32.7
6.2 Steals/gm 3.2
1.7 Blocks/gm 4.0
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (14.8), Zak Irvin (14.4) Points/gm Bryant McIntosh (12.4), Tre Demps (12.2)
Caris LeVert (4.8), Derrick Walton Jr (4.5) Reb/gm Alex Olah (7.2), Vic Law (5.0)


After winning both games last week, Michigan got demolished by Ohio State in Columbus on Tuesday and is in danger of falling to .500 in conference play with a loss tonight. Northwestern comes to town with an identical 10-7 overall record, but the Wildcats have just one Big Ten win so far. Michigan is going to have to play itself into the NCAA Tournament at this point, which means games like this are must-wins the rest of the season. Let’s take a look at Northwestern.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Bryant McIntosh 32.9 12.4 32.9 42.2 85.7 2.7 4.5 2.9 0.3 0.2
Tre Demps 31.9 12.2 38.7 28.7 64.1 3.6 2.6 1.2 0.1 0.4
Alex Olah 27.9 10.3 46.8 35.0 72.5 7.2 1.5 1.8 1.7 0.4
Vic Law 24.5 6.6 36.2 20.5 80.6 5.0 1.5 1.6 0.6 0.4
Sanjay Lumpkin 27.4 6.4 57.4 36.4 71.0 4.8 1.2 0.8 0.3 0.8
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
JerShon Cobb 21.9 5.8 35.9 31.6 68.8 2.8 1.5 1.0 0.1 0.3
Nathan Taphorn 9.2 4.3 59.1 52.0 66.7 4.4 0.4 0.4 0.0 0.1
Scottie Lindsey 11.4 4.2 45.3 44.0 72.7 2.1 0.4 0.6 0.3 0.2
Dave Sobolewski 8.0 2.1 37.5 38.9 81.8 0.6 0.5 0.2 0.0 0.3
Gavin Skelly 8.4 1.9 50.0 00.0 54.5 2.4 0.4 0.4 0.8 0.3
The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 14 Houston Baptist W 65-58
Nov. 17 at Brown W 69-56
Nov. 20 North Florida W 69-67
Nov. 22 Elon W 68-67 OT
Nov. 25 Miami (Ohio)* W 55-46
Nov. 26 Northern Illinois* L 42-61
Dec. 3 Georgia Tech^ L 58-66
Dec. 6 at #23 Butler L 56-65
Dec. 14 Missouri Valley State W 101-49
Dec. 17 Central Michigan L 67-80
Dec. 20 Western Michigan W 67-61
Dec. 22 UIC W 63-46
Dec. 27 Northern Kentucky W 76-55
Dec. 30 at Rutgers W 51-47
Jan. 4 #4 Wisconsin L 58-81
Jan. 11 at Michigan State L 77-84 OT
Jan. 14 Illinois L 67-72
Jan. 17 at Michigan
Jan. 22 Ohio State
Jan. 25 at #14 Maryland
Jan. 31 Purdue
Feb. 3 at Nebraska
Feb. 7 at #7 Wisconsin
Feb. 10 Michigan State
Feb. 15 Iowa
Feb. 18 at Minnesota
Feb. 21 Penn State
Feb. 25 Indiana
Feb. 28 at Illinois
Mar. 3 Michigan
Mar. 7 at Iowa
*Cancun Challenge, ^ACC-Big Ten Challenge

The only common opponent so far this season is Illinois. Michigan beat the Illini 73-65 in overtime to open Big Ten play, while Northwestern lost to their in-state rival 72-67 on Wednesday. The Wildcats don’t have a good win yet this season, having lost to the only ranked teams they have played, 23rd-ranked Butler, 65-56 on Dec. 6 and seventh-ranked Wisconsin 81-58 two weeks ago. They also lost their ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup to Georgia Tech, 66-58.

The Series

Michigan leads the all-time series 108-56 and has won the last six matchups. Michigan also leads 62-20 in Ann Arbor. Last season, Michigan beat Northwestern 74-51 in the teams’ only meeting. The last time Northwestern beat the Wolverines was a 74-60 decision in Evanston on Jan. 18, 2011, and the last time Northwestern won at Crisler was on Jan. 10, 2010.


• Caris LeVert is the only player in a Power 5 conference (and one of six nationally) to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, and blocks

• Northwestern is the second-lowest scoring team in the Big Ten, averaging 65.2 points per game. Michigan is the third-lowest.

• Northwestern ranks 11th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (43.1 percent) and field goal percentage defense (41.3 percent)

• Northwestern ranks 9th in the Big Ten in three-point shooting (34.4 percent) and 13th in three-point shooting defense (30.8 percent)

• Northwestern ranks last in the Big Ten with just 55 steals (3.2 per game). The next closest team, Wisconsin, has 91 (5.1 per game). Michigan ranks 6th with 106 (6.2 per game)

• Northwestern ranks last in the Big Ten in turnover margin, averaging 0.94 more turnovers than their opponents per game

• Alex Olah ranks third in the Big Ten with 7.2 rebounds per game

Blown out: #3 Arizona 80 – Michigan 53

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

UM vs Arizona(Rick Scuteri, AP)

Following back-to-back home losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, a reeling Michigan squad had the unenviable task of traveling to Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday to face the third-ranked Arizona Wildcats. And unlike the close game Michigan played against Villanova in the Legends Classic three weeks prior, the Wolverines were wiped off the floor by Arizona, 80-53.

Arizona scored the first two points of the game, but Michigan answered with a Zak Irvin three-pointer. Arizona big man Kaleb Tarczewski responded with a jumper and Michigan never led again. The Wolverines were able to hang around in the early going thanks to a three by Kameron Chatman to tie the game at six, but after a Chatman free throw and Derrick Walton jumper, Michigan went on a three-and-a-half minute scoring drought. It allowed Arizona to jump out to a 20-9 lead before Walton scored again.

Four Factors
Michigan Arizona
37.3 eFG% 46.4
16.7 OReb% 41.0
21.2 TO% 25.7
29.4 FTR 33.9

A Caris LeVert three got Michigan within six, but that was as close as Michigan would get the rest of the way. Arizona took a 36-25 lead into the half.

The Wildcats put to rest any hope of a second half comeback, scoring the first 12 points of the half to break the game open. Irvin scored Michigan’s first basket of the half over five minutes in, but Arizona answered right back with a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson three. The Wildcats continued to widen the lead, getting as high as 36 points with four minutes to play, and finishing with a 27-point win.

Irvin was Michigan’s only player in double figures with 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting. He made 2-of-6 three-point attempts. LeVert, Chatman, and Ricky Doyle each scored eight, while Walton contributed seven. Chatman led the team with four rebounds, while Walton led with five assists.

As a team, Michigan shot just 35.2 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from downtown. Arizona shot 58.2 percent and 35.3 percent from three-point range. Arizona out-rebounded Michigan 40-26. The Wildcats were led by Stanley Johnson’s 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting and had four others in double figures. Tarczewski and Gabe York each scored 15, while Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley chipped in 10 apiece.

Michigan fell to 6-4 on the season and has a week off before it hosts SMU (6-3) next Saturday. The Wolverines will close out the non-conference portion of the schedule with Coppin State the following Monday before beginning Big Ten play on Dec. 30. Michigan faces an uphill climb to make the NCAA Tournament and will certainly need to win the next two to have any chance.

Final Game Stats
03 Kameron Chatman* 3-8 1-4 1-2 0 4 4 4 8 2 2 0 3 19
34 Mark Donnal* 2-2 1-1 0-0 1 0 1 2 5 0 0 0 0 10
10 Derrick Walton Jr* 2-7 0-2 3-7 0 3 3 0 7 5 0 0 1 34
21 Zak Irvin* 6-13 2-6 0-0 2 0 2 2 14 0 1 0 0 24
23 Caris LeVert* 2-9 2-5 2-2 0 3 3 2 8 2 5 0 1 35
02 Spike Albrecht 1-3 1-3 0-0 0 3 3 1 3 3 0 0 1 26
12 M-A. Abdur-Rahkman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 0-3 0-3 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 12
32 Ricky Doyle 3-5 0-0 2-2 1 2 3 3 8 0 1 0 0 23
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-4 0-2 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 1 1 11
Totals 19-54 7-26 8-13 6 20 26 18 53 12 12 1 7 200
Arizona 32-55 6-17 10-20 9 31 40 15 80 19 11 3 5 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview & Sam’s 3 thoughts: #3 Arizona

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Michigan (6-3) at #3 Arizona (8-0)
Saturday, Dec. 13 | Tucson, Ariz. | 5:15 p.m. EST | ESPN
74.2 Points/gm 76.0
(206-453) 45.5 Field Goal % 49.8 (235-472)
(75-176) 42.6 3-pt FG % 36.8 (50-136)
(107-139) 77.0 Free Throw % 67.5 (164-243)
13.4 FT Made/gm 18.2
32.8 Reb/gm 35.6
13.9 Assists/gm 14.8
8.8 Turnovers/gm 11.6
63.9 Points/gm 60.1
(189-419) 45.1 Field Goal % 39.6 (183-462)
(61-154) 39.6 3-pt FG % 34.5 (48-139)
30.5 Opp. Reb/gm 29.1
6.0 Steals/gm 8.9
2.3 Blocks/gm 3.9
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (18.6), Zak Irvin (16.1) Points/gm Stanley Johnson (13.8), Hollis-Jefferson (12.7)
Caris LeVert (5.6), Derrick Walton Jr (4.7) Reb/gm Hollis-Jefferson (6.7), Stanley Johnson (6.4)


A college basketball season is often likened to a roller coaster ride. There’s plenty of ups, plenty of downs, lots of twisting and turning, and sometimes sick stomachs. If Michigan’s season is anything like Millennium Force, the Wolverines are nearly touching the sidewalk. Just one week ago, Michigan welcomed the New Jersey Institute of Technology to Ann Arbor, only to be stunned by the team matching up with a top-25 squad for the first time ever. A few days later, the Wolverines looked to bounce back against Washtenaw county co-habitants Eastern Michigan, but again left the home crowd in a state of shock after what can only be described as a rancid offensive performance.

Today, the going gets a lot tougher, as the Maize and Blue face their first true road test against the third-ranked Arizona Wildcats (5:15pm, ESPN). Michigan is already at the bottom of the hill, but a third straight loss could see the cart begin to rattle off the rails. A win, of course, would do wonders for the young squad trying to figure it all out. Here are my three thoughts on today’s battle.

1. Battle at the 4: If Michigan is to have any hope today against Arizona’s stacked roster, they are going to need something out of the four spot. For my money, the Wildcats’ 6’7″, 220-pound Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is one of the most fearsome college players in the country, and though he doesn’t even start for Sean Miller, he is an absolute wrecking ball, averaging 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 26.4 minutes per game. The sophomore can jump out of the gym, drive to the rim with no concern for safety, and crash the glass with an intensity rarely seen on the basketball court. To make matters worse, the four has been Michigan’s biggest cause for concern in what has been a shaky start to the year.

True freshman Kameron Chatman, who most thought was destined to play at Arizona before he surprisingly committed to Michigan last fall, is a talented player, but has a long way to go before fully grasping John Beilein’s offensive and defensive concepts. Chatman has been beat far too often on off-ball defense, has looked lost at times offensively, and appears to be struggling with his confidence. In Tuesday’s loss to EMU, Chatman made a nice move to drive baseline and would have had an easy layup or dunk with one more dribble, but instead decided to skip pass over to Spike Albrecht behind the three-point line, resulting in yet another empty possession for the Wolverines. When Chatman has been off, Albrecht has come in to give Michigan a smaller but more veteran two-point lineup.

Today, I’m not sure how feasible that will be with Arizona’s size. In addition to Hollis-Jefferson, the Wildcats also run out 6’7″, 245-pound super freshman Stanley Johnson, 6’9″, 230-pound Michigan wrecker Brandon Ashley, and 7’0″, 245-pound behemoth Kaleb Tarczewski. A Michigan lineup featuring both Albrecht and Walton, who are each dealing with injuries, could see one of them giving up six inches and 50 pounds if Miller takes advantage with substitutions of his own. Today, Chatman needs to grow up a little bit and focus on defense, box out, and play with confidence.

2. Mix it Up: This piece of advice goes for both ends of the court today for the visiting Wolverines. Against Eastern Michigan, Michigan was baffled offensively against the 2-3 zone for almost the entire 40 minutes, and only managed 42 points on 43 shots. Of those 43 shots, only a handful were good looks around the basket, and nearly half of them came from long range, where Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin combined to make all four of Michigan’s triples. I can guarantee that if Michigan only makes 19 percent of their threes again today, it is going to be an ugly loss. Arizona will not play much zone, but Michigan still needs to vary their offense and look for a variety of shots. Whether that means working the back door, focusing more on the pick-and-roll, or even trying to mix in some pick-and-pop with Mark Donnal, the Wolverines need to keep the Wildcats honest to open up the looks both inside and outside. Look for Beilein to draw up a couple plays from the get-go to try to get some open looks from downtown for LeVert, Irvin, and Walton. If they knock them down, the confidence should rise and Michigan will have a fighter’s chance.

Defensively, the Wolverines could also stand to throw some different looks at Arizona. NJIT’s offense ripped through Michigan’s porous defense to the tune of 72 points on 64.7 percent shooting from deep and 55.2 percent from inside the arc. Arizona’s size and strength down low has the potential to destroy Michigan’s inexperienced centers and wings defensively, and if the Wolverines play uninspired man defense again, they will wish they had never gotten on the plane to Arizona in the first place. In last year’s thrilling home loss to Arizona, Michigan was torn apart by Ashley, Tarczewski, and future NBA Lottery pick Aaron Gordon down low, allowing them to combine for 46 points on 57 percent shooting inside the three-point line and 20 rebounds. Today, look for Michigan to double down on all of Arizona’s big men while also mixing in some 1-3-1 on occasion to give the Wildcats a little to think about.

3. Dominate the Easy Points: Points are hard to come by, especially when facing a team like Arizona that has the size, athleticism, and savvy to shut down anyone. Beilein’s Michigan teams, on the other end, have been the best scoring team in the country for two years running, but it looks like early attrition to the NBA has finally started to show for the Maize and Blue. Michigan has gone through some long scoring droughts against Villanova, NJIT, and Eastern Michigan already this year, and a few minutes with doughnuts on the scoreboard against Arizona will spell doom. The Wolverines really need to put their heart and soul into each possession on both sides of the floor, but will especially have to take advantage of every “easy points” situation. For me, easy points include free throws and fast breaks. The Wolverines need to make their free throws and win the battle at the charity stripe, and can absolutely not afford to leave points on the table when presented with an odd-man fast break situation off turnovers.

Prediction: As evidenced by these three keys, Michigan will need to do a lot right and hope Arizona does a lot wrong to come out with a head-turning win. The Wolverines need to hit shots, play with intensity on defense, and act like they are competitors on the big stage. Unfortunately, I think Arizona’s size down low and experience at the guard spots will be too much to handle for the visitors, but it will be closer than many expect. I like the Wildcats today, 68-63.