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Get to Know the Opponent: Michigan

It’s rivalry week, what else do you need to know?

NCAA Football: Michigan at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s rivalry week! Nothing about what is going on is normal, so why wouldn’t we be gearing up for what is often the most talked about and heated game of the year after just one game. Normally we can work up to this one, but not this year.

Meanwhile, Michigan State is coming off its first loss to Rutgers since they joined the Big Ten, and Michigan went out and kicked a ranked Minnesota team in the teeth last week. So not the ideal week leading into this game.

Obviously, the Spartans are just lulling the Wolverines into a false sense of security. Yes, that is exactly what is happening. Onto the opponents from a few counties over…

School: University of Michigan

Nickname: Wolverines

Conference: Big Ten (East Division)

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh (sixth season)

Record: 1-0

All Time Series: Michigan leads 71-36-5 (Michigan has won two in a row, and three out of last four)

Team Stats

We only have one game to work with here, a 49-24 win over Minnesota on the road last week. So we will have to just basically take that for what it is worth at the moment, because it is tough to compare one game of stats against teams that have played four or more games.

As was just mentioned Michigan put up 49 last week on Minnesota. This was against a Minnesota defense that ranked 36th nationally in scoring defense a year ago, and was a top-10 team in total defense. Things obviously change from season to season, but that is still pretty impressive.

The Wolverines ran the ball 31 times for 256 yards and five touchdowns last week. That is an average of 8.26 yards per carry. Minnesota was 23rd in rushing defense a year ago. The Spartans held the Scarlet Knights to 2.59 yards per carry on 41 attempts last week, so overall that’s a solid job, although they did have a few decent runs.

Michigan threw the ball 25 times against the Gophers, completing 15 passes (60 percent) for 225 yards with one TD and no interceptions. Despite the low attempts and total, that is still nine yards per attempt. MSU held Rutgers to 170 yards on 30 attempts (19 completions) for an average of 5.67 yards per attempt.

All that works out to 8.59 yards per play for the Michigan offense last week. For reference, Alabama’s offense leads the nation among teams that have played multiple games at 8.18 yards per play, followed by BYU at 7.82 yards per play. So yeah, that was a good week for Michigan’s offense.

On defense Michigan allowed 24 points to a team that averaged 34.1 points per game last year.

Minnesota ran the ball 41 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns, for an average of 3.15 yards per rush. This is one yard per attempt lower than the Gophers average from a season ago. I won’t even tell you what MSU averaged against Rutgers last week but if you need a good scare for Halloween, feel free to look it up.

Through the air the numbers were pretty ugly for Minnesota last week, as the Michigan defense held them to 197 yards on 31 attempts (18 completions), with one score and one pick. That comes out to 6.35 yards per pass attempt. Last season the Gophers were sixth in the nation at 10.2 yards per attempt.

Michigan’s defense also forced two turnovers, while their offense did not turn it over.

Players to Watch

Joe Milton was 15-for-22 for 225 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 10.2 yards per attempt and did not throw an interception. He also had a team high eight rushes for 52 yards and a touchdown, an average of 6.5 yards per carry. This game will be his first action in the rivalry.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Hassan Haskins led the Wolverines in rushing last week with 82 yards and two scores on six carries for an average of 13.67 yards per attempt. Zach Charbonnet added 70 yards and a touchdown on four carries, an average of 17.5 yards per rush.

The trio of Milton, Haskins, and Charbonnet ran the ball 18 times for 204 yards (11.3 YPC) and scored four touchdowns.

Through the air Ronnie Ball led the team with four catches for 74 yards. No other pass catcher had more than two receptions. Wideouts Roman Wilson and Giles Jackson had two catches each, as did tight end Erick All. The lone receiving touchdown was caught by senior tight end Ben Mason.

On defense, Kwity Paye had two sacks last week, and Carlo Kemp and Michael Barrett added a sack each. Paye was second on the team a year ago with 6.5 sacks.

Paye also led the team with three tackles for loss a week ago after leading the team with 12.5 last year. Carlo Kemp and Michael Barrett also got in on the TFL action last week.

Josh Ross had the interception from the linebacker spot last week and added a team high nine tackles.

One interesting spot was from the field goal unit. Jake Moody attempted three field goals against Minnesota and missed all three. He was a perfect seven-for-seven on extra points, though.

So that’s Michigan after one week. Hopefully those numbers come down back to a reasonable average after this game, because if they stay up where they were against Minnesota, it’s going to be a scary Halloween afternoon for Spartan fans.