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    Wildcats To Be Tested By Third Top-10 Team This Week

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Tim McGarigle and NU's defense faces a stiff challenge on Saturday at ninth-ranked Michigan.
    Tim McGarigle and NU's defense faces a stiff challenge on Saturday at ninth-ranked Michigan.

    Nov. 8, 2004

    Northwestern vs. Michigan Live Game Coverage

    NU FB Game Notes (vs. Michigan)
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    EVANSTON, Ill. -- After notching its first 2004 road win at Penn State on Saturday, Northwestern carries a two-game winning streak to Ann Arbor for an 11 a.m. CT battle with Big Ten-leading Michigan. The Wolverines, who are ranked ninth nationally in both the AP and coaches' polls, are the third top-10 team the Wildcats are facing in a seven-week stretch. ABC is televising the game to a large part of the nation.

    With two weeks left in the Big Ten season, this year's league race has been pared down to four teams. Michigan, the preseason favorite, along with Wisconsin are in the driver's seat with 6-0 conference records. Iowa, another preseason favorite, is 5-1. The fourth team still mathematically alive at 4-2 is fourth-place Northwestern, which was picked to finish no higher than ninth by any preseason publication.

    While a Big Ten title for the 'Cats would require some considerable help, the pursuit for a second straight bowl berth lies squarely on Northwestern's shoulders. Two more victories will make the Wildcats bowl-eligible for the fifth time in the last 10 years. After playing the Wolverines this Saturday, Northwestern hosts in-state rival Illinois Nov. 20 before closing the season with a 12th game at Hawaii on Thanksgiving weekend.

    Michigan, which is coming off an open date, has won seven consecutive games after dropping a 28-20 road decision to Notre Dame on Sept. 11. Similar to the Wildcats, the Wolverines have pulled out some close decisions of late, coming from behind to beat Minnesota (27-24), Purdue (16-14) and Michigan State (45-37 in 3OT) in three of their last four games. In Michigan's latest outing, the triple-overtime win against MSU, the Wolverines overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to extend their Big Ten winning streak to 12 games.

    A pair of freshmen, running back Mike Hart and quarterback Chad Henne, have joined Michigan's talented trio of receivers--Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant and Steve Breaston--to create an offense that is averaging 428.2 ypg since league play began on Sept. 25. Hart is averaging 167.0 rushing ypg (1,002 yards) in six conference games, while Henne leads the Big Ten (league games only) in passing efficiency (141.1 rating). Edwards, a candidate for numerous postseason awards, leads the league in receptions (7.7 pg), receiving yards (110.6 ypg) and receiving TD's (11).

    Michigan's defense ranks 17th nationally in total defense and 18th in rushing defense (104.6 ypg). NU has faced the third- (Wisconsin), 12th- (Penn State) and 30th-best (Purdue) defenses the past three weeks.

    (For the complete set of notes, see the PDF link above.)