Jim Harbaugh’s team had yet to face a real challenge until this past Saturday. The escaped their first Big Ten match-up with a 34-27 victory over the Maryland Terrapins. Michigan’s title defense in the Big Ten has gotten off to a solid if not spectacular start in 2022. The next eight contests are all conference games. Whether this team can return to the College Football Playoff will be determined over that time. The schedule sets up nicely with just two ranked opponents and only four road games.
Michigan’s Big Ten Title Defense Begins
The Wolverines finally got their hands back on the conference championship trophy a season ago. It was their first Big Ten crown since winning back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004. Harbaugh doesn’t want that success to be a fleeting moment for his program, making Michigan’s title defense in 2022 the top priority. They started off on the right foot in conference play but have a long way to go to repeat as champs.
Blake Corum has stepped up to be the lead guy on offense. The junior tailback has already racked up nearly 500 yards and has scored nine touchdowns through four games. He leads the conference in rushing scores and is in the top four in rushing yards, yards per carry, and yards per game. Corum runs like a bowling ball, low to the ground and barreling through defenders. In their first true test of the season, the Wolverines relied heavily on Corum, and he responded to the challenge. He had 243 yards and two scores on 30 carries against the Terrapins. Harbaugh loves his old-school football, and Corum will no doubt be counted on to put up big numbers all season long. He has proven he is willing to step up and deliver as well.
The Michigan defense was dominant in the first three weeks against inferior opponents. They allowed no more than 250 yards or 10 points in any of those three contests. Maryland did challenge them in the Big Ten opener. The Terps moved the ball well, getting close to 400 yards of offense. However, the Wolverine defense forced three turnovers and made Maryland settle for three field goals on scoring drives. For the season they have 23 tackles for loss and seven forced turnovers.
With the lopsided nature of the first few games, no individual player has really stood out in terms of numbers on defense. This team has had the luxury of big leads and the ability to play a lot of guys so far. Junior Colson and Mike Sainristil were both very active against Maryland. Colson leads the team in tackles from his linebacker position. Meanwhile, Sainristil has made a smooth transition to defensive back after three seasons on offense.
After staying in An Arbor for September, Michigan’s title defense goes on the road for the next two ball games. They travel to Iowa this weekend for what is usually a fist fight of a game with the Hawkeyes. Despite putrid offensive numbers to begin the season, the Hawkeyes are 3-1 and 1-0 in the Big Ten. Defensively, Iowa is allowing just 5.8 points per game. A stingy defense and the first road environment of the season could give the Wolverines some trouble. J.J. McCarthy will need to continue his efficient start to 2022. The sophomore has completed 80% of his passes and has five passing touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Wolverines haven’t been to Iowa since 2016 and have lost on their last three trips there dating back to 2009. They’ll look to end that streak on Saturday.