The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines have one of the most efficient running games in the country, averaging about 5.6 yards per rush attempt. RB Blake Corum currently leads all other running backs in touchdowns, earning his tenth one of the season against Iowa last week. Earlier this season, he rushed for five in Michigan’s game against UConn to tie a program record for rushing touchdowns in a single game.
While the current offense operates under “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, there is something to be said about holding back one of the most efficient passing games in the country. While that might not seem like Michigan’s style, they do rank amongst the top when it comes to offensive efficiency in both passing and rushing.
Michigan has played with well-balanced offenses through five games, though they lean on the backfield to generate the most production. But can the offense be doing more? Or should it be doing more with the passing game?
Way back in the preseason, I figured Michigan could have some of the best receivers in the nation. Now here, entering week six of the 2022 season, I feel like that group has been underutilized. So then how does Michigan and its receivers stack up to some of the other top programs in the country?
I will state the obvious, as looking at yards per catch for a receiver isn’t the best metric for comparison. I myself could appear on a field and catch one 25 yard pass and be one of the most efficient receivers in the country. But for the purposes of looking at pass oriented offenses and wanting Michigan to open that door some more, I will use it. I will be looking at three schools that rank above Michigan currently in the AP poll to compare.
Michigan WR Roman Wilson is currently the highest ranked receiver across the likes of all Ohio State, Alabama and Georgia players in yards per catch. Wilson averages 18.7 yards per catch off of 12 receptions and 224 yards.
In comparison, Ohio State WRs Emeka Egbuka has averaged 17.1 yards per catch off of 30 receptions for 512 yards and Marvin Harrison Jr. has averaged 16.9 yards per catch off of 24 receptions and 405 yards. For the case of Alabama, WR Ja’Corey Brooks averages about 17.9 yards per catch off of 10 receptions and 179 yards. Georgia TE Darnell Washington is also close to Wilson, averaging 18.4 yards per catch of 184 yards and 10 receptions.
Even with similar receptions and yardage numbers, Wilson is still able to be more efficient than some of the receivers from other top tier programs. It’s a given that this metric is in direct response to quarterback play, especially surrounding Georgia, Alabama, and Ohio State. All of these teams rely heavily on their ability to throw the ball.
Now we probably saw that Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy is currently the most proficient passer in the nation right now with a 78.6 percent completion rate. All of this is due to the ability to throw for adequate yardage in fewer attempts — that, and perhaps working in tandem with an incredibly efficient ground attack. Since McCarthy is so proficient, should he utilize his arm a little more?
For myself, I thought there would be more wow factor to the passing game this year, as looking at total passing yards compared to other quarterbacks, Michigan’s looks a little sad. Then once it’s broken down, I wonder then what it would look like to expand the passing game since it already operates so well.
For example, seeing Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud throw for 1,376 yards and 18 TDs looks quite nice. Same for Bryce Young and his 1,202 yards and 14 TDs or Stetson Bennett with his 1,536 yards. When you consider what it takes to get there (which is jacking up the number of pass attempts), this really isn’t Michigan’s style. Stroud and Young have each logged 134 pass attempts, respectively, and Bennett has 167 . Yet McCarthy with his 828 passing yards and 84 attempts has produced a more efficient passing game through the same number of games. So with that in mind, what should Michigan’s offense do?
I think a great chance to see what Michigan’s passing game can do during this weekend’s game against Indiana. The Hoosiers have allowed over 200 rushing yards twice this season, with one of these instances was against Illinois. Since the ground game is already pretty much a given, it begs the question of what we could see from McCarthy and his receivers.
So perhaps while I initially felt that I expected more from Michigan in terms of passing yard production, I have now come to the conclusion that the Wolverines already operate a highly efficient offense, so there isn’t necessarily a need to expand further. What do you think? Should the passing game be more open because it is already efficient? Or should it continue as is because of the efficiency of Michigan’s offense has shown through nearly half a season?
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