After silencing a lot of doubters last weekend, the Michigan Wolverines are 10-0 with all of their goals still in front of them.
Maize n Brew staff members are back to discuss last weekend’s big win, preview the game this weekend, provide some bold predictions and much more.
Michigan won its first huge test of the season at Penn State last weekend, 24-15. The offense was very run-heavy, and not necessarily on purpose. Sherrone Moore admitted they had to change up the game plan following a rough first two possessions, which was ultimately the right decision. But how did you feel about the lack of passes in the second half?
Von: Despite what my Twitter timeline was saying, I was actually perfectly fine with the pass game taking a backseat. J.J. McCarthy was going to get killed had they kept trying to throw the ball as much as they attempted to in the early portion of the game — particularly on the first two drives. Karsen Barnhart was being put on ice skates and the Wolverines needed to make adjustments in order to win the game. Major, major kudos to Sherrone Moore for having the guts to abandon the pass game — which has been Michigan’s recipe for success offensively all season — and leaning on Blake Corum, Donovan Edwards and the run game to be the “guardians of victory,” as Jim Harbaugh likes to say.
Matt: I was moderately bothered by the lack of a passing game in the second half. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to be too upset about a top-10 win on the road against James Franklin. However, some of the run calls in third-and-long situations were infuriating to me in real time. I completely understand the need to go to a run-heavy offense due to Penn State’s prowess at rushing the passer. However, with a Heisman caliber quarterback, I thought Michigan could have, and should have, slung the ball a little more in the second half, especially on third down.
Dan: I was fine with no passes, because they didn’t need it. The heavy package was working and Penn State’s offense was horrible. They burned clock and it felt like the Nittany Lions always had a long field to play with. Moore trusted the defense, which clearly paid off.
Andrew: I do not care. All season, the question facing this team was, “Can they run the ball to win?” I would say 30+ straight runs, 227 yards at five yards per carry, and a big resounding W against the nation’s former top rushing defense — AT HOME — is about as loud an answer as you can hope for.
Erik: I was not overly concerned about the lack of passing, but rather confused. Penn Sate has a vey good secondary and it is no secret mistakes and turnovers can cost you the game. The Wolverines know the ball is generally safe in the hands of Corum and Edwards and if they needed to lean on them to win a game, they were going to make it happen. I do think Michigan could have got the pass game going a little more, but long sustaining drives that eat up clock and wins tough road games is not something I’m going to complain much about.
Shifting over to the defense...it was smothering all game long. Drew Allar only threw for 70 yards and coughed up the ball once, leading to a Michigan field goal. The running back duo of Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton performed decently, but had one explosive rush the whole game. Whether it be a specific play, player or drive, what stood out to you the most on defense last Saturday?
Von: There are a few that stick out in my head, with the biggest one being the tackle Kenneth Grant made on Kaytron Allen. Had he not ran up the field to tackle him, Allen very well may have scored a touchdown and changed the entire trajectory of the game. Another one that stands out to me is this third-and-short stop Mason Graham and Ernest Hausmann made. There are several others I could point out (Michael Barrett tackle on first-and-goal, Rod Moore tackle for loss on second-and-one), but these two specifically were big defensive plays that, had Penn State done a bit more on, could have changed how the game went.
Matt: We’ve heard all season long how Michigan could have tons of players drafted in the upcoming NFL Draft. Yet against Penn State, it felt like a youth movement was the driving force behind Michigan’s success. Will Johnson, a sophomore, shut down every Penn State receiver he faced. Kenneth Grant and Mason Graham, also sophomores, shut down the interior. Even Rayshaun Benny, a redshirt sophomore, had arguably his best game as a Wolverine. Michigan will undoubtedly lose a ton of talent on defense after this season, but make no mistake, the cupboards are not bare.
Dan: Kenneth Grant was a boss last Saturday. It was more than just that ridiculous chase down — he was plugging gaps and stuffed a few runs at or behind the line of scrimmage. He dominated that football game.
Andrew: The secondary was outstanding. Even when Penn State ran a flea-flicker late in the fourth quarter hoping to capitalize on its run-heavy game plan, nobody bit on it. Discipline, technique and aggression were on full display from every Michigan defensive back in their best, most dominant performance of the season.
Erik: I think Michigan’s ability to get stops in short yardage situations was huge. Penn State was relying on getting four or more yards on first down all game. Each time they were faced with a third-and-three or longer, you could see the concern grow for their offense. I was a little irritated with the defense giving up that trick play pass to Allar, but you’re not going to stop them all. Coming down the stretch, Michigan will have to watch for anything and everything as both Maryland and Ohio State are going to open up the playbook.
Michigan will hit the road for the final time this season and play against a mediocre Maryland team. With their eyes set on win No. 1,000, the Wolverines should be ready to roll. What are you looking for the most in this one prior to The Game a week from now?
Von: I’m looking to see how the offensive line does in pass protection. McCarthy only threw the ball eight times for 60 yards last weekend, and a big part of that was due to poor pass protection from his offensive line. I’ll be curious to see if the unit can bounce back from a below-average showing against a pretty good Terrapin pass rush — they have 28 sacks this season, which is tied for 18th in the country.
Matt: The pass protection by the offensive line needs to improve. Obviously, Maryland’s edge rushers are a sizeable downgrade from Penn State’s last week. However, I want to see Michigan’s offensive tackles regain some confidence before facing Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau next weekend. Last Saturday showed Michigan can run the ball on anyone. However, the passing game will need to be a larger threat against Ohio State. I’ll be looking for a clean pocket for J.J. McCarthy all game long.
Dan: I want Michigan to just roll. Let’s not have a setback in between the two biggest games of the year. Just take care of business against a Maryland squad that has struggled over the past few weeks. A very similar Maryland team played Michigan tight last season, so hopefully they can just dominate like they have in every game so far.
Andrew: Solely, winning, but if we want to dive into specifics, it is getting quarterback J.J. McCarthy back into a steady rhythm. Ohio State was watching the Penn State game, and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is going to throw a myriad of blitzes and simulated pressures at McCarthy from his right. The Wolverines had adequate counters on the ground against Penn State, but having answers both on the ground and through the air will help make this Michigan offense more explosive, balanced and dangerous.
Erik: I will be looking at the pass defense. Taulia Tagovailoa won’t light the world on fire, but he has a lot of experience under his belt. Michigan proved against Penn State it is able to shut the run game down, but wasn’t tested much through the air. With OSU’s more balanced offense coming up, Michigan’s secondary is in need of a good test against a pass-heavy team. If they are able to shut Tagovailoa down and force a turnover or two, I will feel more comfortable about the secondary’s ability to get stops in The Game and beyond.
Throw out a bold prediction for tomorrow’s game.
Von: Michigan’s secondary comes down with three interceptions — Will Johnson, Makari Paige and Josh Wallace all snag a pick.
Matt: Michigan’s starters don’t play in the fourth quarter again. The Wolverines have been remarkably healthy this season before taking a beating last weekend (Blake Corum’s face, J.J. McCarthy’s limp, etc.). I think Michigan will race out to an early lead, keep the third quarter scoreless streak alive, and sit starters for the entire fourth quarter again.
Dan: Michigan’s secondary gets multiple interceptions as Taulia Tagovailoa has to throw the ball a ton while trailing.
Andrew: Maryland scores more points against Michigan than Ohio State for the second consecutive year.
Erik: I think Michigan builds off the performance at PSU and continues to work on the run game. The Wolverines eclipse both 200 yards through the air and on the ground en route to their 1,000th victory.
What’s the final score and why?
Von: I’ve got Michigan winning this one, 42-10. This game will provide a good tune-up for the Wolverines prior to The Game next weekend.
Matt: Michigan, 38 Maryland 13. The Terrapins have an above average offense, but just haven’t been able to put it together defensively. I don’t see Michigan having any problems scoring points. Taulia Tagovailoa will lead a few nice drives, but will have just as many back-breaking turnovers.
Dan: Michigan 41, Maryland 7. Michigan shouldn’t have any problems in this one. Tagovailoa has an interception in each of his last three games, and was sacked six times against Penn State, and again vs. Northwestern. Michigan’s defense suffocates the Terps, and the Wolverines pile on to a big win.
Andrew: 45-14, Michigan. This Maryland team is too shaky on the offensive line to develop any consistency and balance against this Michigan front seven. Defensively, Maryland’s secondary is going to be sliced and diced by quarterback J.J. McCarthy as he rediscovers his rhythm as a passer entering “The Game.”
Erik: I think Maryland is able to get a little going through the air. After getting burned on a play or two, Michigan’s defense settles in and bottles up the pass game. The offense continues to lean on the run, but play more balanced than they did against PSU and try to fine tune some things before their season finale matchup against the Buckeyes. Michigan wins, 34-13.