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Tuesday Morning Brews: Fantasia on a theme

Michigan football has shown a penchant for pairing a consistently resolute defense with a consistently inconsistent offense

NCAA Football: Air Force at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For those of you who haven’t spent any time studying music theory, which I realize is something most people haven’t done these days, a fantasia is an unrestricted and free flowing work (suddenly the title to that old Disney movie makes sense, right?). Fantasia on a theme, interpretations on a theme, or variations on a theme are phrases frequently utilized as titles to a piece of music in which a composer utilizes a theme, a melodic subject, of another composition when creating a new piece. The new piece will utilize the theme as a foundation or touch stone, while building a composition around it.

My reason for titling Tuesday Brews in this fashion is because I find the phrase to be an apt description of Michigan football. The one constant for Michigan football seems to be the defense. The offense has a habit of exhibiting a new deficiency each week as old deficiencies are improved upon; the free flowing and unrestricted interpretation. However, instead of dwelling on the offense’s inadequacies this morning, I wanted to highlight one of the bright spots - Karan Higdon. Higdon appears to have wrested the title of ‘lead back’ away from Ty Isaac with the show he put on last Saturday.

This morning we also bring you news of the first B1G championship of the fall season for Michigan sports, a check-in with Men’s soccer, and a bit of recruiting news.

Without further ado, let’s get to it:

NCAA Football: Michigan at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan has a new feature back, and it’s Karan Higdon

One of the few things working for Michigan’s offense this past Saturday was Karan Higdon running the ball. He tallied 25 carries, 200 yards, and three TDs - the only TDs that Michigan scored against Indiana. Higdon’s day was so impressive that he accomplished something a Michigan RB hadn’t done in ten years. By all appearances, he is the new dude in the backfield for Michigan football.

Now, before I get too far into this, I will concede that I’ve made a call this before. Last month it looked like Ty Isaac was the new feature back, and I said as much in Morning Brews. After racking up 336 yards in the first three games he looked to be the answer Michigan was searching for and had a good shot at a 1,000 yard season. Well, an injury and a fumble later, it appears that he has been supplanted by Karan Higdon. Isaac still leads the team in rushing yards (416), but Higdon is right on his tail with 410 yards. Higdon has also tallied five TDs, to Isaac’s two, and he’s received the most carries in the past three games (47) and the most carries now overall (70 vs 68).

Higdon’s performance this past saturday is also encouraging for the upcoming game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions have the No. 5 pass defense according to the S&P+ rankings, and Michigan’s passing game woes have been well documented at this point. So expect the run game to figure heavily into Michigan’s game plan for Saturday, because it may again be the only thing working for Michigan’s offense in Happy Valley. We’ll see if it’s enough to carry the day.

Michigan field hockey has won ten straight games and has clinched at least a share of the B1G title. Yes, you read that correctly. The No. 3 Wolverines won their first seven conference games, and ten straight overall, to win at least a share of the conference championship, their first since 2011. A win this Friday against Northwestern would earn the team the conference title outright. The Wolverines have three games left in the season before the B1G Tournament begins on October 29th. The NCAA Tournament begins November 11th.

Men’s soccer bounced back from a difficult loss to Notre Dame with a double overtime win against Omaha. Diego Gutierrez opened the scoring and put Omaha ahead 1-0 in the 39th minute. Mohammed Zakyi answered and equalized for the Wolverines in the 61st minute, heading home a curling ball from a Marc Ybarra set piece. The teams then played nearly 45 minutes of scoreless soccer before Zakyi again found the back of the net in the 106th minute. Zakyia was able to get a foot on a rebound after Omaha’s keeper was unable to hang on to a shot into the box by Tristan Jacob. The team is now 8-4-2 on the season.

Michigan football became the first program to reach 500 conference wins in the Big Ten with its victory over Indiana last Saturday. Ironically, Ohio State became the second program to reach the 500 win plateau a few hours later with its win over Nebraska. Michigan is 500-203-18 in B1G play since becoming a conference founding member in 1896. Ohio State is 500-173-24 since joining the conference in 1913. Michigan remains the winningest program in college football history with 940 total wins. Notre Dame is in second place with 905 wins. Ohio State is fourth with 892 wins.

Finally, a bit of recruiting news this morning. Mustapha Muhammad will be announcing his commitment on October 20th, which is this Friday. Muhammad is a 6’4 235 lbs TE prospect, checking in at No. 110 overall and as the No. 5 TE prospect - good enough for a four-star rating in the 247Composite rankings. All 25 Crystal Ball predictions are in for the Wolverines. Also, this past Thursday, Michigan Director of Recruiting Matt Dudek tweeted that he had received “amazing” news via text. Seeing as how there hasn’t been news of a commitment since then, it’s possible that it was Muhammad confirming to Dudek that he would indeed pick the Wolverines. We’ll find out Friday at 6:30 p.m.