Michigan will bring confidence to Camp Randall
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON--Minutes after his team closed out the month of October with an embarrassing 42-13 loss at Penn State, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was asked what the future would hold.
The Wolverines were 2-2 in the Big Ten, seemingly already out of the East Division race, and 5-2 overall.
“We endure and be better,” he said. “We are going to regroup and come back.”
After three consecutive victories, the Wolverines (8-2, 5-2) appear poised to spoil the playoff hopes of Wisconsin (10-0, 7-0), which is 10-0 for the first time in program history.
But is the Wolverines’ winning streak the result of improvement across the board or largely the result of playing Rutgers, Minnesota and Maryland?
Those teams are 7-14 in Big Ten play and 13-17 overall.
“All the focus is on Wisconsin,” defensive tackle Maurice Hurst told the Detroit Free Press after the Wolverines extended their winning streak to three games with a 35-10 decision over host Maryland last week. “That’s a huge game on the road.
“We want to keep things rolling, make sure we’re practicing hard and do what we’re supposed to do.”
Michigan’s formula in the last three weeks hasn’t been complicated:
Run the football. Give the quarterback safe, high-percentage throws. And let one of the better defenses in the nation terrorize the opponent.
Michigan rushed 51 times for 334 yards (6.5-yard average) and four touchdowns in a 35-14 victory over Rutgers.
Michigan rushed 37 times for 371 yards (10.0-yard average) and four touchdowns in a 33-10 victory at Minnesota.
Michigan rushed 38 times for 160 yards (4.2-yard average) and three touchdowns in the 35-10 victory over Maryland.
"I really think this might have been our best ballgame," Harbaugh said after the victory over Maryland. “All three phases, there was so much good.
"Three-and-outs by our defense. Special teams blocked a punt. ... Offensively pretty sound. No turnovers. We were able to make the big play. Very efficient.
"Effort was great and we were finishing down after down. It was really solid football.”
Redshirt freshman Brandon Peters has given the Wolverines solid quarterback play during the streak.
Michigan lost starter Wilton Speight to injury in Week 4 at Purdue and backup John O’Korn was inconsistent. He was 3 of 6 for 13 yards, with an interception, early against Rutgers when Harbaugh made the move to Peters.
Peters completed 10 of 14 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown against Rutgers and has started the last two games.
His primary job at Minnesota was to hand off and watch his backs run through cavernous holes but he completed 8 of 13 attempts for 56 yards and a touchdown. He was 9 of 18 for 145 yards and two touchdowns at Maryland.
His passing yardage (329) isn’t off the charts but he has completed 60.9% of his attempts (28 of 46) and has four touchdowns and no interceptions.
“(He) is really going through his progressions well,” Harbaugh said. “Calmly, coolly, collected.”
Penn State rolled up 506 total yards in the victory over the Wolverines but the Nittany Lions’ scheme is dramatically different from UW’s.
Michigan has allowed a combined 699 yards during its three-game winning streak, an average of 233 yards per game.
The Wolverines are No. 2 in the Big Ten in yards allowed per game (254.8) and third in points allowed (16.4 per game).
“It’s a very good defense and it will be a challenge,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing and certainly understand the different ways that they defend you.
“You’ve got to be on and the smallest details matter. ... They are playing at a high level.”