Michigan vs. Rutgers: Defense needs to rebound

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday's Michigan-Rutgers game at Michigan Stadium (3:30 p.m., BTN / WWJ 950, WTKA 1050).

Scarlet Knights to watch

Chris Laviano, QB: He leads the Big Ten in passing completion percentage (64.5) and is fifth in efficiency (140.8). Laviano is 47-for-65 on first down. He threw for a career-best 386 yards at Indiana, including 105 yards (7-for-8) to help Rutgers rally from a 25-point second-half deficit. Laviano, however, is coming off a tough outing at Wisconsin — 4-for-13.

Steve Longa, LB: He leads the Big Ten and his second nationally averaging 11.4 tackles, and is nine from reaching 100. He's also tied for second in the nation averaging 7.4 solo tackles. How impactful is Longa? He's the active leader in career tackles with 316 and has led or tied the team in tackles in 24-of-34 games. Five times this season he has had 10 or more tackles.

Detroit News predictions: Michigan vs. Rutgers

Paul James, RB: Rutgers is the only Big Ten team with two backs with at least 500 yards apiece — Josh Hicks and Robert Martin, but James is the starter. In the last four games, he's had 24 carries for 193 yards and is averaging 8.0 yards a carry. On 40 first-down carries, he's averaged 6.0 yards.

Intangibles

Shaking off a bad game: It wasn't a stellar performance for Rutgers QB Chris Laviano last week in a 48-10 loss at Wisconsin, finishing 4-for-13. He said if he doesn't right himself quickly, it could be bad news. "It's like quicksand," he said. "You can't move on, and it's difficult."

Revenge in the cards: Michigan S Jabrill Peppers said it was a "heartbreaker" to lose at Rutgers in his home state of New Jersey last season. It was a magical moment for Rutgers fans after the 26-24 victory as they stormed the field. It was, after all, its first Big Ten victory.

Home sweet home: Michigan is 4-1 at home, the only loss coming to Michigan State. In four earlier games at Michigan Stadium, the Wolverines outscored opponents 132-14, including two shutouts. That doesn't bode well for Rutgers, which has been outscored 97-17 the last two games.

Peppers difference: S Jabrill Peppers was named Big Ten freshman of the week after his performance in all three phases last weekend against Minnesota. He has added motivation against the Scarlet Knights because he knows so many of the players.

Rudock's return: Michigan QB Jake Rudock left last weekend's game at Minnesota late in the third quarter with bruised ribs. From all accounts, Rudock has been solid in practice, but it will be interesting to see how he responds from the injury.

Facts and figures

*Rutgers has five non-offensive TDs — two on kickoff returns, one on a punt return, one on a fumble return and one on an INT return.

*Rutgers trailed by 25 in the second half at Indiana with 5:25 left in the third quarter, but rallied for a 55-52 victory. It scored 28 unanswered.

*Through eight games, Rutgers has eight INTs. Last year through 13 games, the Scarlet Knights had seven.

*Michigan's defense is ranked No. 2 nationally in five categories — scoring (11.4 points), total (241.0 yards), rushing (74.6), pass efficiency (92.58 rating) and third-down percentage (21.6).

*The Wolverines have 11 players with 20 or more tackles and 18 with double-digit tackles. Leading are LBs Desmond Morgan and Joe Bolden, tied with 49 apiece.