The 2023 Michigan Wolverines have had a lot of different things said about them, from dominant to dastardly (potential NCAA Violations). In the end, the story of the 2023 Wolverines will come down to 2 games, and those 2 teams (Ohio State & Penn State) just faced each other in a tough matchup.
2023 Michigan Wolverines: The Story So Far…
If you just look at grades (PFF), you’d say they faced teams that had glaring holes but that weren’t terrible. Michigan held every opponent so far to 10 points or fewer, hence dominant. They played multiple games without their head coach (suspension to start the season). There have been plenty of reasons this team could have had rough patches and lost a game they shouldn’t have (but they haven’t).
JJ McCarthy has played lights-out, completing 78% of his passes for 1,792 yards, 18 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. Blake Corum has looked very much like his pre-injury self, rushing for 611 yards and 13 touchdowns. Donovan Edwards has been significantly quieter but as the weather gets cooler and they need to pound the rock, we could see a big uptick in his usage. This team is utilizing many different receivers, with their top 4 pass catchers being 2 wideouts (Wilson and Johnson) and 2 tight ends (Loveland and Barner).
On defense, this team has 7 defenders graded 81 or better, and have gotten 25 sacks (11 of them coming from 3 players). Edge rushers are strong on this team, Josaiah Stewart, Jaylen Harrell, and Derrick Moore have done well as pure pass rushers and are solid in run defense. The secondary does well in coverage and outside of safety Quinten Johnson they are pretty sure tacklers as well.
Their regular season will most likely come down to two games, November 11th at Penn State, and the final game of the regular season on November 25th at the big house against Ohio State. They do have matchups against Purdue and Maryland as well, which they should have no reason NOT to win those ones in a similar fashion to what they’ve done through the first 8 games of the year.
2023 Michigan Wolverines: Ohio State & Penn State
Stacked with what could be some strong NFL-caliber talent on both sides of the football, this Wolverines team will have tough matchups against Ohio State and Penn State, both of whom have defenses graded highly. The big question will be, can this strong Wolverine defense force some turnovers to help the offense? Can Michael Barrett, Josaiah Stewart, Derrick Moore, and Jaylen Harrell continue strong pass-rushing campaigns, to help keep the opposing quarterbacks on their heels?
When you look at the defensive leaders in points allowed per game (Thanks ESPN), this is shaping up to be some really compelling football come mid-November.
Verse Penn State:
Drew Allar‘s improved from 2022 to the present, though he didn’t have a huge sample size last year so it was potentially inevitable that he did. He will need to utilize more than just one wideout (Lambert-Smith is seeing double the targets than the next highest target getter Theo Johnson). Though when you have multiple running backs that are NFL-caliber players, your game plan can really focus on attacking the opponent’s weakness, unfortunately against Michigan, they will need to pull out all the stops and use all their weapons.
Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen have done well, can break big runs, and help keep the Wolverines’ defense honest. You can’t just load the box to stop the run because Lambert-Smith and Johnson can move the chains and also break big plays. I think Dante Cephas could be a dangerous piece to the game plan, he’s only had 9 catches but the Kent State transfer has playmaking ability, great jumping, and quickness that I could see him have a strong game.
Verse Ohio State:
Ohio State should stay undefeated coming into the final game of the season, facing their hardest opponents already. Both opponents have strong run games and a strong WR1 with plenty of playmakers they can use to challenge opposing defenses. We all know Harrison Jr and Egbuka are the best 1-2 punch in college football. TreVeyon Henderson can beat you rushing or receiving but then you factor in that they have 3 running backs that they utilize (Chip Trayanum and Miyan Williams as well), shaping up this matchup to be fun to watch.
The biggest questions in this game revolve around can Ohio State can utilize all these weapons to keep Michigan guessing. Putting my fandom aside, I could see Michigan having challenges with both because these are the best matchups they’ve had. Can the other games they’ll have played be enough of a warm-up? Absolutely, but can they be enough?