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Opponent Offense Preview: Michigan Wolverines

A powerful and efficient rushing attack awaits the Huskies in the biggest game of all.

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

The Players

With Michigan, it all starts with the running backs. Specifically, Blake Corum. The senior isn’t quite the same home run hitter he was before his season ending knee injury last year, but is still one of the nation’s best. This season he’s churned out 1,111 yards (surprisingly, less than Husky RB Dillon Johnson) and an eye popping 25 touchdowns on 237 carries (4.7 yards per carry). As a player, he’s a powerful runner with great feel for his blocking and good vision. He’s very good in tight spaces and can make defenders miss, or run them over with his stout frame. The other key running back is Donovan Edwards, who has also been dealing with some lingering injury concerns. He was their big play threat last season, but hasn’t found the same gear this season, with just 3.5 YPC (compared to over 7 in the 2022 season). But when he’s on, he is very good at picking the cut back lanes and ripping off huge chunk yards. He’s been much more involved as a receiving threat this year, with 30 receptions, which is fourth on the team.

At quarterback, Michigan has the 6-3 junior, JJ McCarthy. He’s an extremely athletic player who can beat you with both his arm and his legs. His arm talent is very evident as he can rip the ball downfield and squeeze it into tight spaces. He can manipulate the pocket with his feel and athleticism and when he rolls out he’s got the speed to turn the corner and get upfield. He throws extremely well on the run, and perhaps better than when he’s in the pocket. On the season he’s thrown for 2,851 yards (9.1 YPA), 22 touchdowns, and just 4 interceptions, all while completing 73% of his passes. He’s somewhat protected by a run heavy scheme, but he’s certainly the best quarterback Michigan has had in quite a while.

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images

His main receiving target is the speedy senior Roman Wilson. The 6-0 192 pound senior is their deep threat and allows them to stretch the field vertically with this 16.3 yards per catch. He has quick acceleration and good straight line speed. On the season he has 735 yards and 12 touchdowns. The two other main receiving threats are the TE Colston Loveland and WR Cornelius Johnson. Loveland has 585 yards and 4 touchdowns and is a very good run after the catch player for a tight end. Johnson has good size at 6-3 and is a strong intermediate possession receiver who excels at making contested catches. He’s second on the team in receptions and has nearly the same receiving yards as Loveland.

Rose Bowl Game - Alabama v Michigan Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images

Michigan’s offensive line has taken a small step back since losing All-American G Zak Zinter, causing some reshuffling, but this is still one of the best and most physical offensive lines in college football. They’ve given up 18 sacks, but have played some great defenses this season like Iowa, Penn State, and Ohio State.

The Scheme

In true Jim Harbaugh style, this is an offense that wants to run the ball and grind their opponents into dust. They excel at holding the football and churning out long drives - they rank 13th in time of possession. They run the ball about 59% of the time. This is a team that ran it 32 straight times to close the Penn State game. While Texas’ run schemes with Sark at the helm were a bit more on the exotic side, Michigan runs a slightly more vanilla gap scheme. Also unlike Sark, they have the patience to stick with it and won’t abandon the run while it’s working. They aren’t afraid to bring three TEs onto the field and go old school smash mouth on teams, especially on third and short situations.

This is an extremely efficient, if not terribly explosive offense. Michigan has just 19 plays of longer than 30 yards this season, which ranks 112th nationally. But, they are 6th in points per drive and 8th in success rate, even though they have played some very strong B1G defenses.

The End

While this is a team that wants to lean on its run game, JJ McCarthy is more than capable of beating a team with his arm and athleticism. That said, until the Alabama game - in which he threw for 221 yards and 3 TDs - he only threw for one touchdown in the month of November. Michigan is likely licking their chops looking at this Husky defense and the success Texas had running the ball. Not only has that been their key to success on offense this year, it’s also their best defense against Washington and keeping the ball away from Michael Penix Jr. & Co by limiting possessions.

Poll

How many points will Michigan score on Monday night?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    0-7
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    8-14
    (10 votes)
  • 12%
    15-21
    (69 votes)
  • 40%
    22-28
    (234 votes)
  • 29%
    29-35
    (171 votes)
  • 14%
    36 or more
    (81 votes)
571 votes total Vote Now