It's hard to describe just how hard the fall has been for Michigan and Northwestern since the beginning of the 2013 season. Back then, both teams looked like potential Legends Division champions with exciting offenses and the potential to make a run for the Big Ten title. However, the decline has brought us to this game, where each team is clinging to the hope that it might become bowl eligible.
Michigan's program is in limbo right now as Brady Hoke coaches out what will most likely be the final games of his tenure in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines can hope for, at best, a 6-6 record, and they've been demoralized by all of the good teams they've played before. Mistakes have doomed this team, and a talented roster just can't seem to put things together.
For Northwestern, things might be even worse. After a seven-game Big Ten losing streak ruined what looked like a promising 2013 season, 2014 has arguably been even worse. There were some bright spots after a rough start, including wins against Penn State and Wisconsin, but the Wildcats have lost three straight and are coming off an embarrassing 48-7 loss to Iowa.
Things are going from bad to worse in both Evanston and Ann Arbor. Let's see who can (temporarily) stop the bleeding on Saturday.
How to watch, listen, and stream
Game time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN2 (Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, Jeannine Edwards)
Radio: Michigan radio, Northwestern: 87.7 FM The Game or 720 AM WGN in Chicagoland
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Rankings and records: Northwestern is 3-5, while Michigan is 4-5. Neither team is ranked.
Vegas: Northwestern opened as a 2-point favorite and is now a 1.5-point favorite. The over/under is set at 41.
Weather forecast: Partly cloudy, high of 43 and low of 34.
Two things at stake
Bowl eligibility is at stake for both teams. Both are expected to be heavy underdogs in games later this season (Michigan at Ohio State and Northwestern at Notre Dame), so getting to six losses here would really diminish any hope of making a bowl game.
Hoke probably isn't getting off his hot seat, even with a win, but Pat Fitzgerald's seat could get hotter with another blowout loss.
One big matchup
Northwestern offense vs. Michigan defense: Northwestern's offense has been terrible this season, and while Michigan has had its issues at times, it still has a good defense. While turnovers could also make or break this game, Northwestern's ability to score points on the Michigan defense will also be extremely important. If the Wildcats' defense can force some turnovers, the NU offense has to be able to make the most of those opportunities. If it can't, it won't be able to keep up.