5 things I'd like see from Michigan this weekend against Maryland
Michigan has been impressive at home this season, and the Wolverines hope to add to that success this week with a home game Saturday against Maryland. The Wolverines are a 17-point favorite and the game starts at Noon ET (TV: ABC).
In Michigan’s three home games thus far, it has outscored its opponents 150-33 and dominated on both sides of the ball. Maryland is better than Western Michigan, SMU and Nebraska, but the Wolverines should still dominate.
Here are five things I want to see from Michigan this weekend against Maryland:
1. Defense needs to pitch a shutout in the first quarter
The most concerning thing about Michigan so far this season is that its elite defense has gotten shredded early twice, once by Notre Dame in the opener that led to a loss and then last week against Northwestern, where they fell behind 17-0 after three Wildcats possessions. That trend has to stop, and the best way to do that against Maryland is dominate early. A zero on the scoreboard at the end of the first quarter will be a positive sign. Chase Winovich has been great all year, so expect another big game from him this weekend, especially if the banged-up Rashan Gary isn’t good to go.
2. Offensive line makes it happen on third-and-short
Michigan’s offensive line has struggled at times to open holes on third-and-short situations and this week they’ll get another big test against Maryland. The Terps have been great, leading the Big Ten on third-down defense at 29 percent. It’s important for Michigan to keep drives alive on Saturday, and to be productive with points almost every time they have the ball. That would be a step in the right direction.
3. Shea Patterson continues to make big plays under pressure
Quarterback Shea Patterson made some big plays last week in leading Michigan to a come-from-behind victory. He’ll need to do more of the same this weekend. Maryland hasn’t let teams run much against them this year, but a few teams — Texas and Temple, most notably — have been able to post big numbers through the air. This should be a good opportunity for Patterson to put up some big numbers, provided the offensive line gives him time to throw.
4. Karan Higdon keeps showing all-conference talent
Karan Higdon has been great so far this year. He’s proven his big-play capability and he’s also proven that he can pound the rock all night long, like he did last week against Northwestern when he carried it 30 times for 115 yards. He has 479 yards already through five games and is averaging an impressive 6.3 yards per carry. Maryland’s run defense is pretty good, so Higdon will have to work hard to have another big day. Expect it, though. He’s been that good.
5. A few big plays on special teams to flip the field
Michigan beat Maryland 59-3 in Ann Arbor two years ago and won 35-10 on the road last year. This hasn’t been much of a rivalry so far, but the Terps are definitely getting better, and they’re more athletic than they have been. Where Michigan might have a big edge is special teams, and flipping the field a time or two — especially early in the game — could have a big impact on the outcome of the game.