ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Mike Hart ran for 95 yards and a touchdown to help No. 2 Michigan pound out a 17-3 rain-soaked win over Northwestern on Saturday.
Hart and the Wolverines' swarming defense kept Michigan on track for a potential No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup at Ohio State on Nov. 18. Next up for Michigan, Ball State next week then Indiana.
The Wolverines (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) were 30-point favorites against the Wildcats, who just a week earlier had collapsed in record-setting fashion by blowing a 35-point lead against Michigan State.
But Northwestern (2-7, 0-5) trailed only 10-3 midway through the third quarter against Michigan when the game turned on a miscue by Wildcats quarterback C.J. Bacher, who was making his second career start.
Michigan cornerback Leon Hall, who had a fumble recovery earlier in the game, intercepted Bacher, setting up the Wolverines at the Northwestern 36. Hart gained 23 yards off left tackle on fourth-and-2 and, two plays later, he ran untouched into the end zone from the 3 to make it 17-3 with 4:05 left in the third quarter.
Northwestern again had a chance to cut into Michigan's lead when Wildcats defensive tackle John Gill recovered Brandon Minor's fumble at the Michigan 24 seconds into the fourth quarter. But Bacher was picked off by Willis Barringer in the end zone.
The Wildcats didn't threaten again and lost their sixth straight.
Bacher, who is the third starting QB Northwestern has used this year, finished 20-of-41 for 204 yards and the two interceptions. He also started a week ago when Michigan State scored 38 straight points to beat Northwestern 41-38.
He had to deal not only with the stingy Michigan defense, but also a steady rain and swirling wind that left the American flag at one end of the stadium wrapped around the pole. The Michigan faithful at the Big House donned their typical maize and blue, but on this afternoon, the maize was a sea of raincoats.
Bacher was knocked out of the game with three minutes remaining and was replaced by Andrew Brewer.
Bacher's backfield mate, running back Tyrell Sutton, had 172 yards on the ground against Michigan State, but found very little room against Michigan's top-rated run defense. He was stuffed by David Harris for a 2-yard loss on his first carry of the game and finished with six yards on seven carries. Northwestern rushed for minus-13 yards.
Northwestern pulled to within 10-3 on Joel Howells' 38-yard field goal on its first possession of the second half.
Northwestern's six first-half possessions ended with two fumbles and four punts.
Bacher threw his first pass of the game into the turf well short of intended receiver Ross Lane and ended that first drive by having the ball stripped by defensive end LaMarr Woodley, who pounced on the ball at the Michigan 48 yard line.