The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines haven’t truly been put to the test yet, but that is about to change. After three blowout wins in their first three weeks, the Maize and Blue are gearing up for Big Ten play. First up is the Maryland Terrapins.
A lot of people were discussing how Michigan’s non-conference schedule was laughably weak. For those that took a look further into the rest of the season for the Wolverines, there wasn’t much improvement beyond the obvious ones (Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State). Even now, ESPN’s FPI has the Wolverines are favored in all of their games, outside of Ohio State, but that’s a story we have all heard before.
So if we are taking what we know about this Michigan team so far and what we know about the conference at large, what game has the chance to be the most surprising? Which could be good or bad, depending on your definition of surprising? Will it be a game against an opponent that is much closer than expected? Or can Michigan defend its title in its rivalry showdown in Columbus?
For me, I will be looking at a game I think will put Michigan to the test that many don’t expect them to. Michigan played a close one with Rutgers last year in its Big Ten opener. It was homecoming and the Wolverines were back in the AP rankings after an impressive showing in the non-conference. Both teams were undefeated heading into this game and the Scarlet Knights led the Wolverines across nearly every metric outside of passing yards.
I have a similar feeling with tomorrow’s game against Maryland. This will be the first game where I would expect to see Michigan have its main core in the whole game, barring the predicted expected outcome. I don’t expect Maryland to win on Saturday, as I fully believe this Michigan team will be special like last year. I do think this game could be uncomfortable at times and that it could command a lot more of my attention than the games prior.
The Terps are currently undefeated, finding a way to win in their most recent game against SMU. Maryland hasn’t beaten Michigan since its inaugural season in the Big Ten back in 2014. They did beat the Wolverines at home that year, but haven’t had success since. It will be difficult to pull off the upset, but this will be a nice test for Michigan’s defense.
A year ago, Michigan was able to successfully limit Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, holding him to 178 passing yards. Through three games so far this season, Tagovailoa has thrown for 895 yards and six touchdowns with a 77 percent completion rate. Michigan’s defense has done well thus far in shutting down their opponent’s passing game; then again, they were up against some of college football’s worst teams.
It’s not a question of whether or not Maryland will be a test for Michigan, that’s a given. If I were to go out on a limb, this game doesn’t have a lot of factors to rely on, except maybe Maryland’s high penalty totals so far this year. Not much is known about what Michigan can do against Power 5 opponents. Perhaps unknown is the only thing that leaves me wondering if the Wolverines will blow out the Terrapins or have a game decided by one score like last year’s homecoming game.
What do you think? Can Maryland play Michigan close?
Now the floor is yours. What Big Ten game do you expect to be the most surprising for Michigan this season? Share with us your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!