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Michigan showing ultimate respect to Rutgers ahead of Saturday



Nov 5, 2022; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) drops back to pass during the second half in front of Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive lineman Aaron Lewis (71) at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Since Greg Schiano returned as head coach, Rutgers has legitimately tested Michigan in its last three meetings after years of embarrassing blowouts. In 2020 and 2021, RU suffered back to back one score defeats to the Wolverines. A triple overtime loss at home was followed by as good a defensive performance that the program has had in shutting out UM in the second half of a 20-13 loss at the Big House.

Rutgers followed those two performances up with a surprising 17-14 halftime lead last season before Michigan exploded for 38 unanswered points. Despite the final score, a message was sent that the Scarlet Knights no longer fear the Wolverines.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh made it clear this week that the message has been fully received.

“We’re on our toes, I mean high alert,” Harbaugh said on Tuesday in an interview with the Big Ten Network on Tuesday. “This is one that we want to win by any means necessary, win by one point. Every time we go against Rutgers, we know it’s one of those where you, for lack of a better analogy, have to bring your lunch pail.”

If Rutgers is going to challenge Michigan on Saturday, they will do it with the full attention of the Wolverines.

You can’t blame UM for not taking the Scarlet Knights too seriously before Schiano’s arrival. After Rutgers stunned Michigan in 2014, the season former head coach Brady Hoke was fired, the next five meetings were massacres. From 2015 to 2019, the Wolverines outscored RU by a combined score of 256-37. That’s an average score of 51.2 to 7.4.

The way that Rutgers has played Michigan under Schiano has been an example of how the program is not the same it once was before his return. In the past, Michigan just needed to show up before overpowering Rutgers. Not anymore. Harbaugh knows that if his team doesn’t play well, RU is able to take advantage now.

Harbaugh made it clear in the BTN interview that the they look at Rutgers differently with Schiano in charge.

“We’ve been playing them a long time. Coach (Greg) Schiano, we have tremendous respect for,” Jim Harbaugh said. “His team is always gritty, is always tough. They can always run the ball. They play exceptional defense. They play their systems. But then they know how to throw all the trickery and magic. They’re so creative in everything that they do, especially on special teams, especially on offense.

With new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, Rutgers is averaging 31.7 points per game and has the No. 20 rushing offense in averaging 210.7 yards on the ground per game. A major key in this game will be quarterback Gavin Wimsatt and how he handles the biggest test of his career so far.

On Monday, Schiano was asked about the opportunity in front of Rutgers ahead of Saturday’s matchup with No. 2 Michigan. While Schiano scoffed at the idea of any coach being able to truly know if their team was ready for such a great challenge, he went into detail on the approach his team must have.

“Every meeting on the sideline, in between series, everything at halftime, all that stuff is critical to winning and losing,” stated Schiano during his game week presser. “Exciting, you put yourself in position to play these games, and then you’ve got to go play them. You do invest a whole lot before, but then there’s that three and a half, four hours where you’ve got to go get it done, and that’s — you know, are we ready to do that? I can’t tell you that. I hope we are. But if we’re not, then we will be. We’ve just got to keep working at it. But I like this team. I like their mindset. I like the leadership. Let’s go play it.”

The fourth meeting between Rutgers an Michigan as well as Schiano vs. Harbaugh kicks off noon ET on Saturday (BTN) in Ann Arbor. Whether the Scarlet Knights can seriously challenge the Wolverines once again remains to be seen. Either way, Michigan won’t be surprised if they do and will try to make it as hard as possible for them to do it again.

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The Scarlet Faithful is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering Rutgers Athletics owned and operated by co-founder Aaron Breitman. He has been a fan of Rutgers sports since the 1980’s, is a 2000 graduate of Rutgers College and has covered Rutgers athletics since 2015. Aaron is a credentialed media member for the athletic department and a voting member for Big Ten basketball. The Scarlet Faithful provides original content with articles, podcasts and video analysis on a daily basis.

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