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Know Your Foe, Week 8: No. 19 Michigan Wolverines

Ah, Michigan, we meet again …

NCAA Football: Michigan at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

University of Michigan

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Enrollment: 44,718 (28,983 undergraduates)
Home Stadium: Michigan Stadium
Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh, third season, 24-7 (.774)
Conference: Big Ten (East Division)

Series History

First Game: October 16, 1993 (Michigan won, 21-13)
Last Game: September 24, 2016 (Michigan won, 49-10)
Overall: Michigan leads 13-7
Current Win Streak: Michigan, 3

Last Season (10-3 overall, 7-2 Big Ten Conference)

The Michigan Wolverines started the season ranked No. 7 in the AP polls and with nine straight wins. At Kinnick Stadium in November, the No. 2 Wolverines fell to the Iowa Hawkeyes by just one point, 14-13, but bounced back the next week to defeat the Indiana Hoosiers.

The following week, the Wolverines fell in double overtime to then No 2. Ohio State, 30-27. In a post-game conference, Coach Harbaugh was critical of the Big Ten officiating crew, earning him a $10,000 fine for violating the Big Ten sportsmanship policy.

A month later, the No. 7 Wolverines faced No. 10 Florida State in the Orange Bowl, with Michigan ultimately losing in yet another close matchup by one point, 33-32.

Michigan lost several key players to the 2017 NFL draft, including safety Jabrill Peppers, defensive end Taco Charlton, cornerback Jourdan Lewis and wide receiver Amara Darboh, among others.

Last Week

Michigan, coming off their first loss to little brother Michigan State, faced the unranked Indiana Hoosiers last week. The Wolverines struggled in the passing game, with quarterback John O’Korn (in for an injured Wilton Speight) throwing for just 58 total passing yards.

Michigan led at the half 13-3 but Indiana kept it close, ultimately tying the game at the end of the fourth quarter, 20-20, sending it into overtime. Karan Higdon had a touchdown run in the first play of overtime to bring Michigan up 27-20. Indiana had a first-and-goal from the one-yard line, but the Michigan defense stopped them cold with a fourth-down interception in the end zone for the 27-20 win.

The only Wolverines who scored in the game were running back Higdon (three touchdowns) and kicker Quinn Nordin (two field goals). Higdon finished with a career-best 200 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries for the Wolverines. For the Michigan defense, Devin Bush led the team with eight tackles, and Rashan Gary had seven. The Wolverine defense as a whole allowed only 80 rushing yards.

Recruiting and Offseason

Michigan’s 2017 class ranked as the nation’s fifth recruiting class (second in the Big Ten) as compared to Penn State’s 2017 class ranked at 15th in the nation and third in the Big 10.

Michigan lost key players to the 2017 NFL draft, including linebacker/safety Jabrill Peppers, defensive ends Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley, tight end Jake Butt, cornerback Jourdan Lewis, running back De’Veon Smith and wide receiver Amara Darboh, among others.


Michigan is eighth in total offense in the conference and 86th in FBS, and has struggled with injuries to key offensive players.

With starting quarterback Wilton Speight out with several fractured vertebrae, John O’Korn is the starter. So far this year, O’Korn has 45 completions of 82 attempts (54.9%) with one touchdown and four interceptions. In last week’s Indiana game, he threw for just 58 total passing yards.

Michigan has also struggled on the line, allowing 16 sacks in six games and allowing 38 tackles for loss. The Wolverines are missing left tackle Grant Newsmen, who had a season ending and life threatening injury last year, but who’s recuperating and working out with the team. Mason Cole is in at left tackle, after moving from center.

Behind kicker Nordin, running backs Karan Higdon and Chris Evans are the leading scorers for Michigan. Higdon has five touchdowns (70 attempts, 401 yards) and Evans has two touchdowns (67 attempts, 252 yards).

Ty Isaac is the leading rusher with 68 attempts for 403 yards and one touchdown. O’Korn is also getting the ball to tight end/fullback Khalid Hill and wide receiver Eddie McDoom (who’s been rushing more than receiving).

Michigan’s wide receiver unit has numerous injuries, with Tarik Black out indefinitely, and with Oliver Martin and Nate Schoenle questionable for this week. This season, Michigan has been relying on Grant Perry, the leading Michigan receiver with 18 receptions for 224 yards and one touchdown. Sean McKeon is right behind Perry with 15 receptions for 181 yards. Also look for Kekoa Crawford, Zach Gentry and Donovan Peoples-Jones to catch here and there.


Although Michigan lost 10 defensive starters, it hasn’t seemed to slow them down. The Wolverine defense leads the Big Ten and FBS in total defense surrendering just 223.8 yards, and is sixth in FBS in team sacks.

Michigan’s defense has also dealt with numerous injuries, with defensive end Donovan Jeter out for the season and defensive end / defensive lineman Rashan Gary questionable for this week’s game. Gary has 13 solo tackles, 18 assisted, 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, and will be a major threat to the Nittany Lions if he’s healthy and playing.

Nose tackle Maurice Hurst is a powerhouse himself, with 29 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, and a forced fumble this year. Defensive end Chase Winovich also has five sacks along with 39 tackles (18 solo, 21 assisted) and 7.5 tackles for loss.

The Wolverine linebacker unit is loaded with talent, in particular linebacker Devin Bush, who leads the team with 49 tackles (25 solo, 24 assisted), six tackles for loss and five sacks along with six passes defended. Linebacker Mike McCray has 39 total tackles (24 solo, 12 assisted), tying Winovich for the second spot on the team and boasts 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Penn State will face Lavert Hill, one of the best cornerbacks in the Big 10, who has two interceptions and six pass breakups along with 11 tackles. Safety Tyree Kinnell also has two interceptions, one sack and 30 total tackles.

Special Teams

Punt returner Donovan Peoples-Jones has 19 returns for a 179 yards and one touchdown. Kekoa Crawford as kick returner has eight returns for 139 yards.

Sophomore kicker Quinn Nordin is 14-of-16 (87.5 percent) on the season with a long of 55 yards, and a total of 59 points, and is the leading scorer for the Wolverines--not too bad for his first year starting.

Michigan has a true freshman, Brad Robbins, handling punting duties.


Check out more on Michigan football at their SB Nation blog Maize N Brew.