Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh likes the progress of Shea Patterson and the offense, after 42-21 win over Maryland, Oct. 6, 2018.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
Looking back at what happened in Michigan’s 42-21 win over Maryland, and a look ahead to Saturday’s Big Ten game vs. Wisconsin:
What we learned vs. Maryland
Patterson finds a groove
Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson continued his productive 2018 season with 282 yards and three touchdowns. Patterson now has 10 touchdown passes, one more than Michigan’s entire 2017 quarterback stable mustered, through six games. His quarterback rating is back over 160, his completion rate is at 68.8 percent and he’s averaging better than 8.6 yards per attempt. Those are all very good numbers for Patterson. Michigan will need him at his best over the next three weeks, but he seems to be ready.
Receivers keep growing
Donovan Peoples-Jones has become Michigan’s best wide receiver on the fly, meaning his chemistry with Patterson on ad-lib plays is terrific. He continues to run crisp routes but also knows when to come back to the ball. Nico Collins caught another deep shot, Ronnie Bell scored another touchdown. And don’t look now, but Tarik Black was walking around the sideline without a boot on his right foot for the first time since he broke it just prior to the start of the season. There’s been a great deal of depth at that position this season.
Michigan did not allow a sack against Maryland on Saturday and gave up just two tackles for loss against the Terrapins. After a rough start against Notre Dame, the Wolverines have allowed just five sacks over the last five games. Patterson had plenty of time to throw last week at Northwestern and did again Saturday against Maryland. Can that hold up against the Badgers next week?
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor.
TV/radio: ABC; WWJ-AM (950), WTKA-AM (1050).
Know the foe: Wisconsin Badgers
The Big Ten West favorite stubbed its toe at the close of non-league play with a home loss to BYU, but has since rebounded with a night game road win at Iowa (never easy) and a home win over Nebraska. Wisconsin is still Wisconsin. The Badgers pound the football with sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor, they line up in heavy personnel packages with fullbacks and tight ends and try to get downhill as fast as possible. Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook is back as a senior starter and has been relatively efficient again. But Wisconsin surprises no one: The Badgers want to own the line of scrimmage offensively and make you earn every inch on the other side. They’re better at it more often than not.
Three things to watch
If there’s one thing about Wisconsin’s defense that hasn’t been up to its regular standard this season, it’s definitely the secondary. The Badgers gave up more than 500 yards of total offense to Nebraska in a win Saturday night. And 407 of those yards came through the air. Safety Scott Nelson got ejected for targeting in the second half and will sit the first vs. Michigan. Safety D’Cota Dixon limped off after a foot injury late and multiple reserves were banged up.
Michigan pass protection
Wisconsin’s pass rush hasn’t helped the secondary, as the Badgers have just five sacks (last in the Big Ten) through five games. Wisconsin’s 25 tackles for loss is also a league low. Michigan’s offensive line has improved over the course of the last five weeks. And Wisconsin still hasn’t busted through. If Michigan can give Patterson time, good things can happen for the Wolverines.
Stopping the run
The main reason why, despite some defensive turnover, Wisconsin’s still Wisconsin comes offensively as the Badgers are rushing for 287 yards per game. Taylor is running away with the Big Ten rush lead again, as he’s already up to 847 yards in just five games. The Badgers’ offensive line has only allowed 14 tackles for loss. This offense can grind with the best of them.
Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.