No. 6 Michigan stayed put in the rankings after its 21-17 win at Penn State last week. While that led to more hand-wringing over whether the Wolverines should be ranked one spot ahead of Michigan State, a team that handed them their only loss of the season, the Big Ten East puzzle is getting closer to sorting itself out.
Michigan will have its opportunity to impress the college football world against Ohio State in two weeks. First, the Wolverines need to handle business when they face Maryland on Saturday in College Park, Md.
Michigan (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) is likely to be without running back Blake Corum once again after he missed the Penn State win with an ankle injury sustained the week before. While at one point coach Jim Harbaugh said Corum was probable to make that trip, he told reporters early this week there was no timeline for the back’s return.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, Corum was one half of a “thunder and lightning” backfield duo along with leading rusher Hassan Haskins, whose total of 985 rushing yards ranks third in the conference. Haskins toted the ball a career-high 31 times for 156 yards against Penn State.
Haskins drew praise from his coach for not only his running skill but also his pass protection and ability to make plays after a catch.
“My feeling after the game was that Hassan is the type of player that wants to — and has the will and ability to — put a team on his back,” Harbaugh said. “And after watching the tape of the game, that was just as conclusive, just as evident.”
Wolverines quarterback Cade McNamara completed 19 of 29 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns at Penn State. With Michigan by down three in the fourth quarter amid a hostile environment, Haskins gained two vital first downs and Erick All took a pass from McNamara 47 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
McNamara was not shy about saying his squad had the intangibles of a CFP team.
“I think our ability to handle adversity (is a championship quality),” McNamara said. “We definitely have enough talent, and I think overall our mentality as a team has shifted and I think this team is ready to finish this season. And I think by the end of it we should be competing for a championship if we do what we’re supposed to do.”
Maryland (5-5, 2-5) visited Michigan State last week and got its offense going in fits and starts, but the defense couldn’t bottle up Kenneth Walker III or Payton Thorne in a 40-21 loss.
Worse, the Terrapins are down yet another receiver. Coach Mike Locksley said standout freshman Marcus Fleming would miss the remainder of the season with an undisclosed injury sustained last week. Maryland had already lost No. 1 receiver Dontay Demus Jr. as well as Jeshaun Jones for the year at that position.
The receiver injury bug has not spread to tight end, a position where Chigoziem Okonkwo has thrived. He has caught 20 passes for 197 yards over the past two games, the best two-game span for a Maryland player since Torrey Smith in 2010.
The Terrapins have two chances left to gain bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016. After holding their senior day game against Michigan, they conclude the regular season on the road next week at Rutgers.
“I know you guys get tired of hearing it, and I get tired of saying it: The competitive nature, the competitive culture that we want is there,” Locksley said. “Our guys play with great effort, and that’s one component of winning. The next piece of it is execution.”
Michigan leads the all-time series 8-1, including a perfect 3-0 mark when playing at Maryland.
–Field Level Media