Good morning, Michigan Wolverines faithful, and welcome to the most chaotic, stressful, anxiety-filled week of the year. A week with unpredictable stressors, drunken arguments and vitriol unrivaled by any other week on the calendar.
Thanksgiving aside, it is Ohio State week and remember
to unleash Hell upon any and every Buckeye fan in your family or within screaming distance. When you see scarlet and gray offer them a ‘Go Blue’ and maybe a finger of recognition. This is Ohio State we are talking about, the villain of all villains. Welcome them all to the smoking section because we want all the smoke this week. This is no time to have patience.
But in order for this week to have the familiar importance and meaning of old, the Wolverines firstly had to take care of the Maryland Terrapins. Ohio State defeated Michigan State in the early game in a manner that can only be described by passages found in the book of Revelation.
Now, if Michigan could defeat Maryland, next week’s clash with the Buckeyes would set up a theoretical four-game playoff scenario between the two rivals for the Big Ten East, Big Ten Conference Title and two College Football Playoff games.
Michigan handled the Terrapins 59-18 and the offense racked up 503 yards (352 through the air, 151 on the ground) of total offense. Freshman running back Donovan Edwards contributed 10 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown, while receivers took turns making acrobatic one-handed receptions.
Quarterback Cade McNamara was an efficient 21-of-28 for 259 yards and two touchdowns in just under three quarters of action. Running back Hassan Haskins crossed 1,000 yards on the season and scored two touchdowns behind a dominant offensive line performance.
Remember the red zone issues last month? In six trips against the Terps, the Wolverines scored five touchdowns, and would have gone 6-for-6 on touchdown if not for a chop blocking penalty. Kicker Jake Moody did assure the trip would not be empty.
Defensively, Michigan held its ninth opponent to fewer than 20 points (no team scored less than 24 points in 2020). There was growing concern after giving up back-to-back touchdown drives in the third quarter, but the Wolverines responded like they always have this season.
Michigan cornerback DJ Turner secured a pick-six, Maryland turned the ball over on downs, punted twice, and the clock expired on their final possession.
Lastly, the special teams made an impact with their second punt block of the season, this time courtesy of senior walk-on Matt Torey. Furthermore, the unit scored on a kick return touchdown via a throwback pass from linebacker (and former high school quarterback) Michael Barrett to wide receiver A.J. Henning.
Saturday marked the first time since 2015 against Northwestern that Michigan scored in all three phases of the game. In a complete team performance, Michigan proved that they are peaking at the right time.
We learned Michigan is ready for Ohio State, the Big Ten Championship and the College Football Playoff. But being ready for something and taking the next step of actualization are two completely different things.
We’ve all been ready for tests to only second guess why so many answers have been “A” on our way to a middling final score.
This is the third time under head coach Jim Harbaugh that Michigan has entered The Game with a 10-1 record (2016, 2018). Those teams appeared ready, too, but both games resulted in the Wolverines again falling short.
So why is this team any different?
Following a 2-4 2020 campaign, Team 142 began this season unranked, predicted to win five games by the pessimists and eight by the optimists. Hell, I’m the most optimistic person I know and I only predicted nine wins.
The reality is, this team has been counted out since August and this week will be no different. Ohio State opened as a 7.5-point favorite and its offense might face criminal charges for what it did to the Spartans.
But, The Game isn’t about who was better last week or who has been better the last 10 years or the last 20; it’s about being better for 3.5 hours on Nov. 27.
Michigan has shown growth from game No. 1 to game No. 11 and the Wolverines are ready to prove us wrong one more time, or die trying.