Ann Arbor, MI

Michigan Wolverines

The Lantern
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Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (97) talks to teammates before a play against Western Michigan during the first half Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan

2020 record: 2-4

Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh

2021 record so far: 1-0

Record vs. OSU since 2010: 1-9

What’s happened so far in 2021

Michigan defeated in-state foe Western Michigan handedly in the opening week, downing the Broncos 47-14 behind a staggering 335 rushing yards. Unfortunately, former All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and captain senior wide receiver Ronnie Bell suffered a season-ending knee injury. Bell pounced for a 76-yard touchdown on his lone reception of the game and impressed with a 31-yard punt return, so his athleticism will be mightily missed. Head coach Jim Harbaugh stated in late July that Michigan aims to take down its rivals and the Wolverines will “do it or die trying.” It may be a bold statement, but Harbaugh and Michigan want to emerge back into the conversation among contenders in the Big Ten East Division. Junior quarterback Cade McNamara went an impressive 9-for-11 through the air against Western Michigan, connecting on a pair of touchdowns and 136 yards. The Wolverines’ defense forced several quarterback hurries and allowed over 300 yards of offense against Western Michigan.

Key offensive player

With the loss of Bell sure to leave a hole in the offense, Michigan may look toward senior running back Hassan Haskins to step up and fill the void. Haskins and fellow ball-carrier sophomore Blake Corum split duties with 13 and 14 rushes, respectively, in Week 1 against Western Michigan, each punching in a score. Haskins rushed for over 600 yards in 13 games just two seasons ago, not lacking experience or knowledge in the Wolverines’ system. Especially with McNamara set to take over the reins of the starting job under center, Haskins could be a player Michigan relies on to run the ball.

Key defensive player

Up front, look out for preseason All-American senior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. But behind him, graduate linebacker Josh Ross seemingly did it all for Michigan in 2020. Ross led the Wolverines in tackles and had his hand on a sack and interception during the abbreviated season, and tied for a team-high six tackles in the season opener. The 6-foot-2, 224-pound linebacker was also voted a captain among Wolverines and is a former All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. Ross also led to two quarterback hurries against Western Michigan, so he can be a threat in both ground and aerial attacks.

Weaknesses

When the lights are bright, Michigan has a tendency to falter. Sure, the Wolverines are winless against the Buckeyes during the Harbaugh era, but they’ve won just one bowl game and gone 11-16 against Top-25 teams since the head coaching change. The issue lies on the defensive side of the ball for the Wolverines. Opponents are increasingly scoring more points per game against Michigan in five-straight seasons. In 2020 alone, Michigan recorded the third-fewest sacks and tied for the fewest interceptions and allowed the third-highest yards per game. Senior defensive back Vincent Gray and Hutchinson provide a veteran presence and already have two pass break-ups and a sack, respectively. Coaches say players can never get enough reps, so experience may be the key to righting the ship.

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