While Michigan’s dominant win in Madison indicated that this team might be different from its predecessors, the final six minutes in Happy Valley were even more instructive. When the Wolverines fell down by three after a costly turnover, many fans expected to see the same old story unfold: another chance for a key victory choked away at the end.
But this team was not going to let that happen. Hassan Haskins showed no sign of fatigue despite carrying the team on his back all game, and he got the offense up to midfield with just a few minutes to go. Cade McNamara and Erick All did the rest, sealing Jim Harbaugh’s second massive road victory this season. While neither team was ranked at the time, both opponents were unquestionably legitimate, with Wisconsin (4th) and Penn State (15th) currently grading out as some of the country’s best per S&P+.
Michigan’s escape was a big step towards making The Game a division title battle. Ohio State is favored by three scores over Michigan State, and should both the Wolverines and Buckeyes take care of business this weekend, the showdown in Ann Arbor will be the biggest in quite some time. A noon kickoff in Columbus means Michigan will know if it controls its own destiny or not as the proceedings begin in College Park.
No. 6 Michigan Wolverines (9-1, 6-1) vs. Maryland Terrapins (5-5, 2-5)
Anyway, the Wolverines do have a game to play as well this weekend. Maryland is a decent team, but a 56th ranking per S&P+ puts this squad much lower than most Big Ten opponents, and the 73rd-ranked defense will be the worst Michigan has seen since Northern Illinois. That is great news for McNamara, Haskins, and the Wolverine offense, who likely want to keep things bland before next weekend.
The Terrapins give up 187 yards per game on the ground against conference opponents, which is 95th in the nation. The pass defense is even worse at 274 yards and 106th, respectively, meaning Michigan can attack however it sees fit. With some key pieces still getting healthy, this should be a game for simple throws and hopefully some early running back rotation.
On the other side of the ball, the Maryland offense is a little better (38th per S&P+), which is between Nebraska and Wisconsin. This is one of the most lopsided units in all of football, as the Terps have been throwing for over 300 yards a game in Big Ten play and rushing for just 84. Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo have been on a tear, and this looks like a chance to continue blowing plays up in the backfield.
Haskins has been a warrior the past two games with Blake Corum out, but he is going to need some rest at some point. The hope is that Michigan can jump out to a big enough lead to lean on someone like Donovan Edwards and not require 30 more carries from Haskins. Either way, the number one goal is staying healthy while not using up much of the playbook.
Taulia Tagovailoa is a talented quarterback and a good runner, so there are bound to be some frustrating scrambles and deep shots down field. However, Maryland is near the bottom nationally in sacks allowed in conference play which seems like a recipe for disaster against Hutchinson and Ojabo. This matchup is pretty favorable for the Wolverines, even if there are a few annoying moments.