The Wolverine

December 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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DECEMBER 2022 THE WOLVERINE 65 A fter Michigan bulldozed Ohio State last November to the tune of 41 carries for 297 yards (7.24 per carry) and 6 scores, both the Buck- eyes and Wolverines have had doubts targeted in their direction. For Ohio State, its toughness has been challenged. Even though the Buckeyes are overflowing with five-star and high- quality talent, Michigan ran through, around and over them with little issue last November. Suddenly, Ohio State was labeled "soft" and "finesse" around the country. For Michigan, the question has been whether last season was a fluke or the start of something new. For nearly two decades, Michigan had been the sub- ject of Ohio State's torment. The Wol- verines had not beaten a ranked OSU squad since 2003. Despite Michigan's convincing win last year, Ohio State still has been ranked ahead of the Wolver- ines this entire season. Thus, all year, Ohio State has been striving to prove it has toughened up, and the Wolverines have been working to show that they can beat OSU any- where, anytime and, of course, in any weather. On Nov. 26, both rivals are going to get their chance because it looks like two teams who very much resemble themselves from last season are going to clash in another top-five showdown. So, the question will be: Can the Wol- verines run over the Buckeyes just as they did one year ago? It may be hard to conceive, but Michi- gan has an even better rushing attack this season. Entering The Game last year, Michigan was 26th nationally in yards per carry (5.1). Through 10 games this season, it has vaulted to seventh (5.6) in that category. What has stood out the most has been the Wolverines' consistency in moving the ball on the ground. Led by incoming transfer and Rimington Trophy finalist Olu Olu- watimi at center, Michigan's offensive line has pushed around and worn down opposing defensive lines. The Wolverine front men often generate a few yards of push and create wide lanes for their ball carriers. Junior running back Blake Corum has capitalized on those opportunities with his incredible vision and excellent elu- siveness. And in the rare moments when a hole is not opened, Corum has used his monstrous quads to fall forward and churn out extra yards. As a result, Co- rum (227 caries, 1,349 yards, 5.94 yards per carry and 17 TDs) is a Heisman con- tender. Corum is also a Heisman contender because of how frequently Michigan has run the football. In fact, Michigan is slightly more reliant on the ground game this season. In 2021, the Wolver- ines were 21st in run rate (59.65 per- cent). Through 10 contests this year, they are 10th (62.26 percent). Although this is in part due to how effective Corum and the offensive line have been, it is also in part because, similar to last year, Michigan's pass- ing offense has stalled somewhat. In Michigan's previous four games and five of its last six, U-M has not thrown for more than 167 passing yards or ex- ceeded 7.4 passing yards per attempt. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy's accuracy has waned, and his connection with his receivers, particularly on deep balls, has sputtered. It looks like Michigan is planning to bulldoze Ohio State to another win this season. Notwithstanding that Ohio State hired a new defensive coordinator in Jim Knowles and has renewed its focus and energy in stopping Michigan's run game, the numbers do not look much different from a year ago. In 2021, the Buckeyes were 11th in yards allowed per carry with 3.1. Through 10 contests in 2022, they are also 11th in yards allowed per carry with 3.1. The difference is that, unlike last season, Ohio State has not faced a top- tier rushing attack prior to The Game. In 2021, the Buckeyes faced only one team better than 35th in rushing yards per carry: Oregon (13th), who torched Ohio State with 7.08 yards per carry in a win in the 'Shoe. In 2022, none of Ohio State's first 10 opponents are better than 35th in yards per carry. In fact, six are tied for or worse than 86th, and four are tied for or worse than 119th (out of 131 FBS schools). Unlike Michigan's rushing attack, which has succeeded against many quality run defenses, Ohio State's run defense has been untested. Even 10 games into 2022, it is still unknown whether the Buckeyes have actually improved when the opponent tries to pound the ball, or if it is a mirage. The advantage would seem to go to the Wolverines. They have done it be- fore. This Ohio State defense has yet to do it, and it will not be known if this unit can until the ball kicks off for The Game. That is when both teams will have the chance to prove their doubters wrong, with everything (a Big Ten East title, a College Football Playoff bid and a po- tentially unbeaten record) on the line. ❏ INSIDE THE NUMBERS   DREW HALLETT Can U-M Run Over Ohio State Again? Staff writer Drew Hallett has covered Michigan athletics since 2013. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @DrewCHallett. Big Ten opponents often have been caught looking at junior running back Blake Corum from behind. Through 10 games, he has recorded 227 carries for 1,349 yards (5.94 per carry) and 17 rushing touchdowns. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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