The Michigan Wolverines are on the road today to play the Maryland Terrapins (3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network). Maryland started off the season 4-0 and looked like it could have a promising season, but are now 1-4 in its last five games, with the lone win against an Indiana team that is winless in Big Ten play.
This game does have some classic characteristics of a trap game; it’s a road game before the biggest game of not only the season, but maybe Jim Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan. Michigan could be looking ahead, but this team has been focused and level-headed all season long. The Wolverines should come in focused, should take care of business and win comfortably. Here’s how they do it:
Don’t look past Maryland
It’s okay for the Wolverines to recognize the Ohio State game is next week and to know how big of a game that is, but they also have to stay focused on Maryland for now and not get too far ahead of themselves. After all, if they drop this one, the Ohio State game won’t mean nearly as much as hopes of a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff birth will be out the window. Zone in on the Terps, take care of business, head back to Ann Arbor with a W and get ready for Ohio State.
Win the one-on-one battles on offense
Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis talked this week about how Maryland runs a lot of man coverage, which the Wolverines haven’t seen a lot of this year. The receivers are going to have a lot of one-on-one battles with defenders, so winning those matchups will be key to having a successful attack through the air. The Maryland passing defense hasn’t been very good this season, ranking 12th in the Big Ten. Michigan has a lot of talented receivers who should be able to win those matchups.
Feed the backs
I don’t expect running back Blake Corum to be back this weekend, but no matter who is in the backfield, give them carries. This has been Michigan’s identity all year long, and it’s going to want to run the ball again a lot.
Hassan Haskins has had big games the last two weeks and will likely be taking the vast majority of the carries again this week. Maryland’s run defense is ranked second-last in the Big Ten, only behind Northwestern, who the Wolverines ran over for 294 rushing yards. Look for Michigan to attack Maryland in a similar way. Haskins should get a lot of carries and have another big day.
Slow down Maryland’s passing game
Really, the only concerning part of Maryland’s game is its passing attack. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is a very capable quarterback and the Terps can put up some big numbers through the air. Their passing attack ranks third in the conference behind only Ohio State and Purdue. This was a big focus for Michigan in practice this week and if it is able to slow down the Terps through the air, Maryland won’t be able to find much success on offense. Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo’s pressure will likely play a large factor in this area of the game.