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Thursday Morning Brews: Someone great

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The rushing attack has had three strong games. Can it produce against Minnesota?

Rutgers v Michigan Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Happy Thursday, folks. Welcome to Morning Brews. This week’s night game against Minnesota is likely to prominently feature the running game, both because the Gophers are weaker against the run than the pass and because the forecast suggests it will be cold and wet again. In that spirit I’m highlighting the rushing attack in this morning’s Brews and illustrating how it has improved in the past three weeks.

As usual, there’s a song referenced in this morning’s article. There are at least three clues, and clues may be words, phrases, or pictures and may reference lyrics, the artist, or the album. If you think you know this morning’s song, fire away with your guess down in the comments.

Let’s get to it:

NCAA Football: Michigan at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan benefits from resurgent rushing attack, but problems remain

The struggles on offense are well documented. Back on October 10th, following the MSU loss, I documented some troubling trends with offensive production - and in particular the rushing attack. If you want to revisit that article and check the charts you can do so HERE. In that article I said:

What I think is most interesting here is that the crater in second quarter run production exhibited in the first graph is not a product of a reduction in run play calls in the second quarter. In fact, the second quarter has seen the second most rushes called. It’s not that the offense is getting away from rushing in the second quarter, it’s just that the yards per carry drops to a shocking 0.93.

Thankfully, the past three weeks have seen Michigan’s RBs start to figure it out and the rushing attack has rebounded. In the three games since I wrote that article, the Wolverines’ have turned in totals of 271 yards, 103 yards, and 334 yards. Even with a down day against Penn State, the offense has averaged 236 yards per game rushing since the loss to MSU. Over the first five games they averaged just 167.8 rushing yards per game.

That terrible 0.93 yards per carry figure during the second quarter has also improved. It now stands at 2.82 yards per carry. It’s still not great, but the second quarter season average has seen a threefold improvement over the past three games. The second quarter is also now tied with the fourth quarter for the most rushing TDs, with five.

Michigan owes much of this improvement to Karan Higdon and Ty Isaac. Both have turned in strong rushing performances over the past three games and have been the top-gaining rushers over that period. Both gained more than 100 yards last week against Rutgers, and Higdon turned in a gargantuan performance against Indiana (200 yards and three TDs).

Through the first five games, Michigan’s rushing attack average a paltry 3.97 yards per carry. Through the past three games, the Wolverines have averaged 5.17 - which has raised the season average to 4.45 yards per carry. This figure is much closer to the 4.82 yards per carry that the team averaged last season. Michigan also now has two RBs averaging in excess of 5.0 yards per carry. Kareem Walker is a good day away from joining that group as well. He is averaging 4.9 yards per carry on his relatively limited, but nonetheless encouraging, carries so far.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still problems with the offense. Despite a resurgent rushing attack over the past three games, yards per play—a measure of overall offensive production—decreased from 5.43 to 5.35 even with the improved rushing attack. You may recall from my article three weeks ago that Michigan averaged 5.85 yards per play last year. This decrease is due to the passing attack struggling, which will see improvement if Brandon Peters can maintain the form he had against Rutgers.

Speaking of Peters, the improvement in the rushing game will benefit him as well. If the run game is producing, it may cause adjustments to opponents’ defenses. Perhaps they move a safety up into the box, and that creates more opportunities in the passing game for Peters. If the forecast is correct, and Saturday’s game against Minnesota does feature rain, a strong rushing attack will help keep Michigan’s offense going in conditions that aren’t conducive to passing.

What do you think? Is this improvement in Michigan’s running game sustainable? Weigh in with the poll below and down in the comments.

Poll

Can Michigan’s rushing attack continue to be this productive?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Yes, the backs and the OLine have improved
    (343 votes)
  • 3%
    Maybe (explain in comments)
    (20 votes)
  • 36%
    I’ll believe it when I see it. There are some formidable defenses left on the schedule
    (208 votes)
571 votes total Vote Now

Michigan field hockey is on a tremendous 14 game winning streak, and is up to No. 3 in the rankings. During Michigan’s run, they have defeated seven ranked teams and three teams that were ranked in the Top-10. The Wolverines will play Northwestern tomorrow morning at 11 a.m on BTN in the B1G Tournament semifinals. Michigan topped Northwestern in their regular season meeting 1-0 back on October 20th. Northwestern is the fourth seed in the tournament and ranked No. 9 in this latest poll.

I’ll bring this morning’s Brews to a close with the mini-movie from the Rutgers game. As I have said before, the football team’s video crew is putting together some great content this year - and this installment is no exception. The highlights are dominated by the defense and rushing game, but a couple of Peters’ throws made it in. Enjoy.