Wednesday, October 7, 2015

No. 13 Northwestern/No. 18 Michigan preview: Harbaugh embraces the challenge Northwestern brings

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh knows the challenge that awaits his squad against No. 13 Northwestern Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

With Northwestern's defense ranked in the top five in total defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Harbaugh knows what will be expected from the opposition.

"They play with great effort, great discipline and a tremendous scheme," Harbaugh said in Tuesday's Big Ten conference call. 

"You see the way they are coached and the effort the players play with, it is a great team defense and they play the same way on offense— very physical and disciplined."

Harbaugh also complemented the Wildcats' ability to play at a high level on both sides of the ball.

"They take care of the football and it shows up throughout their team and its impressive and we understand it is a great challenge for our team," Harbaugh said.

"It is something we are very excited about—fair, honest, healthy competition with Northwestern and it is a very worthy opponent and will be a tough task for us."

Players To Watch For- Running Back De'Veon Smith:

If De'Veon Smith can give it a go on Saturday, his presence on the field could go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.

In four games this season, Smith leads the Wolverines with 331 rushing yards on 69 carries and a touchdown, to go along with four receptions for 35 yards and a TD.

Linebacker Joe Bolden:

Joe Bolden leads the way for Michigan's stout defense with 32 tackles.

Against Maryland on Oct. 3, Bolden finished with six tackles and one TFL.

Tight End Jake Butt:

Jake Butt put together his best performance of the season last week at Maryland with four catches for 61 yards. 

Michigan's chances of winning on Saturday might hinge on how much of an impact Butt makes in blocking schemes and the number of targets courtesy of quarterback Jake Rudock.

All-Time Series:

Michigan leads the all-time series 56-15-2 over and have won nine of its last 10 games against Northwestern. 

Game Planner:

No. 13 Northwestern Wildcats (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at No. 18 Michigan Wolverines (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten)

Location: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI

Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

TV/Online: BTN/BTN2Go

Line: Michigan (-12)

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.