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Michigan football will probably not have a 1,000-yard passer this year

2017 could be the first year since 1988 that a Michigan passer doesn’t reach 1,000 yards.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Maryland Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s pause right off the bat for some context here - including some context of what my intentions are by bringing this interesting little statistic up.

I don’t think this is really a stain on the quarterbacks Michigan has turned to this year, as it’s more of a convergence of bad luck, injuries, youth in the receiving corps, and so on. I also don’t think this is something to use and say that Michigan has done an ‘unacceptable’ job this year. Injuries and a trio of starting quarterbacks mean that stats tend to get spread around.

Still, this is an interesting anomaly, and a rare situation for Michigan quarterbacks: it’s unlikely now for Michigan to end up with a 1,000-yard passer in 2017, which hasn’t happened since Bo Schembechler was coaching the team back in 1988.

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

Let’s take a closer look at this current situation, though, because there are still three games left in the year and there are always some forms of chaos that could happen to break that 1,000-yard barrier. And Brandon Peters turning into a full-fledged star is one of them.

Overall, Michigan has three QBs with more than 300 yards this season: John O’Korn leads the team with 742, along with one touchdown and five interceptions, and there is Wilton Speight with 581 along with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Brandon Peters is still in third despite his sterling 4-touchdown-to-0-interception ratio, with 329 passing yards.

If Brandon Peters starts against Wisconsin, Ohio State and in Michigan’s bowl, he will need to average 223.7 passing yards per game to break 1,000 yards. In a vacuum, that seems like a reasonable possibility - but consider the opponents, as well as Peters’ production so far. Peters will be facing a top-ten pass defense in Wisconsin, an OSU pass defense ranked 31st in the nation and presumably a good bowl opponent as well, and so far, he has averaged 110 passing yards per game in the three matches he’s seen extended time. So he would need to double his output over the next three games against better opponents to reach that milestone.

If Brandon manages to put up 150 yards against Wisconsin - which most would consider a great game - he would need 261 yards against both Ohio State and a bowl opponent. That’s within reach - still probably not going to happen, but if it does, it will be a great sign of Peters becoming the stud quarterback Michigan fans have hoped for. So this somewhat arbitrary 1,000-yard milestone is actually a good goal - not damning if Peters doesn’t get it, but a great, great sign if he does.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Michigan
If Brandon Peters puts up a 300-yard game in Michigan’s bowl, with good performances against Wisconsin and OSU, he could get to 1,000 yards.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Another possibility for our 1,000-yard threshold is that Wilton Speight comes back healthy against OSU or Michigan’s bowl opponent. If Speight has two games to play, he would need 209.5 passing yards per game to reach 1,000 yards - very doable. However, an OSU comeback would be a remarkable story for a man who injured multiple vertebrae against Purdue, and if he plays only one more time in a Michigan uniform, getting 419 yards is probably too tall a task.

Lastly, it’s possible that John O’Korn takes over the starting job and finds a way to get 258 yards, but that would take a little over 40 passes based on his current production of 6.40 yards per attempt. And O’Korn is looking more like a third-string option behind Peters, Speight if healthy, and potentially even Malzone, who got reps ahead of O’Korn against Minnesota a couple weeks ago. So almost two games’ worth of passes for O’Korn is not likely.

And if Michigan plays multiple QBs, you can bet none of them reaches 1,000 yards. We’ll see what happens over the next couple weeks, and regardless I think Michigan’s bowl game will be a valuable litmus test for Brandon Peters. He has the best chance, in my opinion, to help Michigan avoid a dubious distinction that ultimately matters less than the growth he will carry into 2018.

Still, the race is on, if you care about stats. Or if you care about Peters slamming the door on Michigan’s off-season quarterback competition before the off-season gets here.

In the last 40 years, seasons where a Michigan QB didn’t get 1,000 yards

Michigan hasn’t always been the cradle of quarterbacks - in fact, until the mid-70s or so, a plus-1,000-yard season was considered a good year. Back in the ‘50s, a 300-yard season was a good year. Since 1977, though, there have only been two sub-1,000-yard seasons by a leading Michigan QB.

1984: Chris Zurbrugg split time with a sophomore Jim Harbaugh back in 1984, and the two had similar productivity - around 700 yards each, slightly fewer touchdowns than picks, and the team went 6-6. The offense was in the bottom third of the country, but things would be redeemed in 1985 and ‘86 - top-20 offenses under Jim Harbaugh.

1988: This time, it was the younger QB Michael Taylor splitting time with veteran Demetrius Brown, who had taken over the starting position from Harbaugh the year before. Taylor almost got to 1,000 yards - he had 957 - and Brown contributed another 775. Unlike in ‘84, there was a stronger running game this time and a better offense overall led by 1,400-yard back Tony Boles.


Do you think one of Michigan’s QBs gets to 1,000 yards?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Yes, Brandon Peters
    (183 votes)
  • 1%
    Yes, Wilton Speight
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    Yes, John O’Korn
    (7 votes)
  • 65%
    (470 votes)
  • 6%
    Yes, Alex Malzone - gotta dream big, baby!
    (44 votes)
715 votes total Vote Now