Bye week serves stark reminder that Michigan football can’t overlook Northwestern this week

Wolverines host Northwestern before possible top-10 matchup at Michigan State

Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson #97 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates a late turnover against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the second half at Memorial Stadium on October 9, 2021 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Steven Branscombe, 2021 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich.Michigan football enjoyed a stress-free bye this weekend, but hopefully the players and coaches were paying attention to what happened around the Big Ten.

The Wolverines are a perfect 6-0 on the season and moved up to No. 6 in the country without stepping on the field. Most fans have turned their attention to a potential top-10 showdown with Michigan State in two weeks, but the team had better not adopt that same mentality.

Look no further than Saturday afternoon, when Michigan’s next opponent, Northwestern, put together its best performance of the season.

READ: Michigan has bye week to get healthy before much tougher second-half schedule

The Wildcats hosted a Rutgers team that took Michigan to the brink in Ann Arbor earlier this month and won convincingly. Northwestern held the Scarlet Knights to seven points and outgained them 402-222 in yardage.

Rutgers isn’t much of a barometer for success, but since the last time we saw Northwestern was in a 56-7 blowout loss at Nebraska, the Wildcats’ bye week obviously yielded some improvement. This isn’t a Western Michigan or Northern Illinois scenario. Northwestern needs to be taken seriously.

Don’t believe me? Just ask Iowa -- the No. 2 team in the country 48 hours ago. The Hawkeyes woke up to a seemingly harmless home game against Purdue, which had just lost at home to Minnesota.

Well, Purdue walked into Kinnick Stadium and bullied Iowa, winning 24-7. Spencer Petras threw four interceptions and the Hawkeye defense allowed 464 yards. An Iowa team with College Football Playoff aspirations plummeted out of the top 10.

The circumstances surrounding that Purdue-Iowa game and this week’s Northwestern-Michigan game are eerily similar. Michigan is at home and going into the matchup undefeated. Northwestern, like Purdue, is coming off a disappointing first half of the season.

If Iowa players indeed got caught looking ahead to a matchup with unranked Wisconsin, that danger is tenfold for Michigan as a top-10, in-state rivalry at Spartan Stadium looms.

Michigan is more talented than Northwestern and has more to play for, but the same was true for Iowa. It’s tempting to look ahead to next week’s in-state rivalry, but the Wolverines still have one last hurdle to clear.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.