Michigan enters the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl with the No. 2 scoring offense in
the Big Ten, averaging 36.8 points per contest with 55 touchdowns scored.
The Wolverines employ an aggressive style, working in the trenches to chip
away at opposing defenses.
Michigan is most comfortable delivering body blows early on that become
knockout punches in the latter stages of the game. Using a downhill running
scheme and a dynamic aerial attack, which spreads opportunity throughout
an athletic group of pass-catchers, the Wolverines are a multi-threat attack
with weapons across the field. Eleven Wolverines earned All-Big Ten honors
on offense, including a pair of first-team honorees in senior running back
Karan Higdon (coaches and media) and senior tackle Jon Runyan (coaches
After carrying the ball more than 20 times once in three seasons, Higdon,
a co-captain, had 20-plus carries six times this year to help propel onehalf
of a balanced offensive approach. Michigan is averaging 214.3 yards
rushing and 212.9 yards passing per game so far, illustrating the Wolverines’
commitment to a balanced attack.
Higdon leads the way in the run game, averaging the 15th-best rushing
output in the country with 107.1 yards per contest. He is one of three U-M
backs averaging better than five yards per carry, joined by Chris Evans (5.4
yards per carry) and Tru Wilson (6.0). That trio has combined for more than
75 percent of the team’s 2,572 rushing yards with 15 rushing touchdowns.
Higdon has scored 10 touchdowns, elevating himself to a top-15 rank in alltime
U-M rushing yards and touchdowns after starting the season outside
the top-20 in both areas. Fullback and short-yardage specialist Ben Mason
is second on the roster with seven rushing touchdowns. Five of his seven
scores this year came on one-yard plunges, and his longest touchdown run
this season is five yards.
The Wolverines boast a proficient
passing attack as well. Quarterback
Shea Patterson ranks second in the
Big Ten and 21st nationally with a
pass efficiency rating of 154.3, which
would rank No. 8 all-time for a single
season at U-M. Patterson is also on
the verge of setting the single-season
program record for completion percentage at 65.2 percent.
Patterson has connected with nine different pass-catchers for touchdowns
this season: four wide receivers, three tight ends, one running back and one
fullback. He has totaled 2,364 yards passing with another 268 rushing, adding
23 touchdowns, including 21 passing
scores. Patterson averages 8.2 yards
per attempt and has generated three
or more touchdowns in six of 12 starts
as a Wolverine, with at least one pass
play of 35-plus yards in nine contests.
Wide receivers Donovan Peoples-
Jones (39 receptions) and Nico Collins
(33) and tight end Zach Gentry (30)
have all caught 30 balls or more. Both
wide outs are over 500 yards receiving
(541 and 552 yards, respectively), and
Gentry is knocking on the door with
475 yards. Since Jim Harbaugh began his tenure at Michigan, only Jehu
Chesson (nine touchdown catches in 2015) and Amara Darboh (seven in
2016) have recorded as many or more touchdown receptions in a single
season than Peoples-Jones (seven) and Collins (six) have through 12 games.
The U-M offensive line has surrendered just 18 sacks in 12 games (1.5 per
game) while helping to block for Higdon to become Michigan’s first 1,000-
yard running back since 2011. They also helped him maintain a streak of
seven consecutive appearances with at least 100 yards rushing (including
six Big Ten games), just one game shy of the program record at U-M.
Michigan has scored in the red zone to a tune of 87 percent this season
(48-of-55) and is also operating at a 49-percent clip on third down (84-of-
170). The Wolverines average 34:46 of ball control in each game, compared
to an average to 25:14 for opponents. Michigan’s approach of adjusting
throughout the contest and grinding down opponents as the game wares
on shows up in the quarter-by-quarter scoring breakdown: the Wolverines
are outscoring opponents 224-114 in the second half, including a margin of
100-36 in the third quarter.
Karan Higdon and Shea Patterson
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