Game Prediction: Maryland-Michigan

Michigan is coming off a nail biter last week at Northwestern. The Wolverines trailed 17-0 after allowing the Wildcats to score on each of their first three possessions. But the defense held firm after that and gave their offense a chance. Shea Patterson and the rest of the offensive unit found some life and mustered enough offense to squeak out a 20-17 win in Evanston.

Maryland, on the other hand, is coming off of a bye week. The last time the Terrapins took the field was two weeks ago in their first Big Ten game of the year. They dismantled P.J. Fleck and his unbeaten Minnesota Golden Gophers, 42-13.

Both teams are off to solid starts to their season. Michigan currently sits at 4-1 and 2-0 in Big Ten play. Maryland is 3-1 and 1-0 in conference play. But they have gotten to this point via different avenues.

These teams boast high scoring offenses as the Wolverines come into this game averaging over 37 points per game while the Terps are averaging just under 34 points a contest. The Wolverines are more balanced when they have the ball as they average over 200 yards per game in both the passing and running game. Maryland averages over 258 YPG on the ground while only 141 through the air.

But on the defensive side of the ball is where the biggest differences occur. Michigan comes into this week with the No. 1 ranked team in the country in total defense. They are giving up 14.8 PPG and after giving up 24 to Notre Dame in the season opener have given up an average of 12.5 PPG. Maryland has a solid defense but have had games where they have given up 29 (vs. Texas) and 35 (vs. Temple).

Michigan, with their toughest part of the schedule coming up after this game, will need to get their offense fully figured out after destroying weaker teams in Western Michigan, SMU and Nebraska. They struggled on the road against the Wildcats last week and will need to find a groove before they play Wisconsin next week, Michigan State the week after and Penn State two weeks after that game.

In their only loss of the year versus Temple, the Owls had a balance offensive attack as they racked up 264 yards through the air and 165 yards on the ground. Even though they struggled on the road last week, I think being in the friendly confines of the Big House will allow this offense to show its full capability.

Patterson, I believe, will show that last week may have just been an off week. He threw for 196 yards and no touchdowns. He will come out strong in this one and look at it as a tune up for the Badgers next week. Look for Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones to have solid games against the Terps.

Patterson’s backfield mate, Karan Higdon, will look to continue the success that he had the last week. He rushed the ball 30 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns. For the Wolverines to be successful, Higdon will have to keep putting up stat lines like that one.

Maryland, while they have a solid offense, rely almost exclusively rely on their dynamic duo of running backs to produce points. Senior Ty Johnson has rushed for 300 yards and two touchdowns while freshman Anthony McFarland rushed for 291 yards on 27 carries for two TDs.

Their quarterback, Kasim Hill, hasn’t been bad as the signal called for the Terps, but he hasn’t exactly been good either. He has completed 55% of his passes on the year for 516 yards and three touchdowns.

Now time for the prediction. While both offenses have the playmakers to score points, I think only one team will light up the scoreboard in Ann Arbor. Michigan will want to show the world that their anemic offense against Northwestern was a fluke and to prep for the Badgers next week. Patterson and Higdon will both have good games with Patterson going for over 225 passing yards and multiple scores while Higdon will rush for over 120 and a score.

Maryland will score because they have a nice tandem in Johnson and McFarland, but they can only do so much against a defense like Michigan’s. The spread is sitting at around Michigan minus-18, but I think they will ultimately cover that. The offense will show signs of life while the defense, led by the likes of Devin Bush and Chase Winovich.

The Terrapins haven’t beaten the Wolverines since 2014 and are on a three game losing streak versus Jim Harbaugh and Co. I believe Michigan will win and make it four in a row against the Terps.

Michigan 34, Maryland 14.

 

 

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Game Prediction: SMU-Michigan

This Saturday, SMU travels to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan. This will mark the second ever meeting between the two schools. The first one came back in 1963 with U of M coming away victorious 27-16.

The tale of the tape for both of these squads are vastly different. Through two games, the Wolverines, sitting at 1-1, have averaged 33 points per game while giving up 13.5. The Mustangs, on the other hand, have only averaged 17.5 points while allowing 44 per contest and are currently 0-2 on the season.

Michigan is averaging 379 yards of total offense through their first two games. They are also holding their opponent to 255 total yards, which was lowered after only allowing 208 yards to Western Michigan in their 49-3 rout of the Broncos last week.

SMU, through their first two contests, is only averaging 249 yards of total offense while allowing opponents to rack up 461 yards per game. Both of their games have also not been competitive. They trailed North Texas 36-0 through three quarters before losing 46-23. In their game against the TCU Horned Frogs they actually led 9-0 after the first quarter before losing 42-12.

The Mustangs, if they want to compete in this one, will have to rely on the arm of junior quarterback Ben Hicks. Last year as a sophomore, Hicks threw for over 3,500 yards, 35 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions while leading SMU to a 7-6 record.

This year has been a different story so far. Hicks, through two games, has struggled mightily with his accuracy. He has completed only 48% of his passes (30-62) and thrown two touchdowns to one interception.

Besides Hicks, this SMU offense doesn’t have much going for them. Their leading rusher, senior running back Braeden West, has only 104 rushing yards on the season. The team as a whole is averaging only 67.5 yards per game on the ground.

As for the Michigan offense, after struggling in their season opener in South Bend, found their groove last week against the Broncos. Shea Patterson completed 70% of his passes for 125 yards and three touchdowns. He even threw two of those TDs to receivers (one to Nico Collins in the second quarter and another to Donovan Peoples-Jones in the third). Those were the first TD receptions by a Wolverine receiver since September 2017 against Cincinnati.

But the real juggernaut of the offense was Karan Higdon. He rushed 13 times for 156 yards and one touchdown. He could’ve easily topped the 200-yard mark had the game been close. The game being such a blowout paved the way for the depth chart to get carries from multiple faces.

Chris Evans, who only had two carries against Notre Dame, rushed ten times for 86 yards and two scores. Tru Wilson even got into the game and was productive. He toted the rock six times for 54 yards. The Wolverines as a team ran for 308 total yards on the ground and averaged 8.8 yards per attempt.

Now onto the prediction for this week. Michigan comes into this one as heavy favorites with the current line sitting with the Wolverines (-36). While I expect this one to be a blowout, I do believe the Mustangs will cover the spread.

This game should allow the U of M offense to continue to gel and get ready for their Big Ten opener next week against Nebraska. I believe Patterson will continue to improve and find more of a rapport with his receivers. The ground game behind the legs of Higdon and Evans should continue to churn out yards behind an offensive line that is still working out the kinks.

The defense, behind studs like Rashan Gary and Devin Bush, should eat up this SMU offense. I believe they will pressure Hicks into an interception or two and will bottle up the ground game.

Michigan 45, SMU 13.