There was no Hurricane Joaquin in College Park, and there weren’t many surprises, either.
The No. 18 Michigan football team rolled to a 28-0 win over Maryland on Saturday, dispatching the Terrapins in businesslike fashion.
Here are five things we learned from the Wolverines’ second consecutive shutout:
1. Shutting out BYU was no fluke.
While the Terrapins’ offense wasn’t as potent as the Cougars’ last week, the Wolverines’ defense was every bit as dominant. Michigan now owns the nation’s second-ranked defense in both yards and points allowed, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.
Maryland quarterbacks C.J. Rowe and Daxx Garman were hurried all game, just like BYU’s Tanner Mangum a week before, and the Wolverines allowed just 105 yards for the second game in a row. They also racked up eight tackles for loss, right on pace with their season average.
Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, who had a sack for the third game in a row, delivered the most telling line about the Wolverines’ defense after the game Saturday. Asked where the defense could still improve, Hurst said: “We had a couple plays where they got first downs. … We’ve gotta look at that and correct it. They shouldn’t have anything.”
If Michigan’s goal is to not give up anything, not even a measly first down, opposing offenses should be very concerned.
2. Drake Johnson is nearing 2014 form.
The redshirt junior running back is recovered from his second anterior cruciate ligament tear, and he’s nearing top shape. He had two touchdowns Saturday — one receiving, one rushing — to pair with 99 all-purpose yards.
If the Drake Johnson of November 2014 can emerge for the Wolverines, he would be an invaluable asset as a change of pace to bruising junior running back De’Veon Smith.
Smith missed the Maryland game with an ankle injury, and his status is uncertain this week. But with Johnson in the fold, Michigan has an agile option to pair with its stable of power backs.
3. Fumble-itis is inevitable.
Until Saturday, no Wolverine running back had fumbled all season. But against Maryland, redshirt sophomore Ty Isaac fumbled twice, and fifth-year senior quarterback Jake Rudock also coughed one up. Isaac recovered one drop, but the backs’ formerly perfect track record now has a blemish.
Some of that can be attributed to the nasty weather in College Park, but mostly, it was a matter of time. One lost fumble by a running back in five games is hardly reason for complaint. Granted, the defense never allowed Maryland to score off a turnover, but as the Wolverines move into Big Ten play, ball security becomes as important as ever.
No. 13 Northwestern, which boasts the No. 1 scoring defense in the country, comes to Ann Arbor this week and will be ready to capitalize on any mistakes Michigan makes.
4. The fly sweep flies for Michigan.
Redshirt junior receiver Jehu Chesson scored his second rushing — yes, rushing — touchdown of the season on a fly sweep. Chesson streaked down the left sideline for 66-yard touchdown, showing off blazing speed.
Two weeks earlier, against UNLV, Chesson scored a 36-yard touchdown on a similar play. Those plays add a much-needed big-play threat to an offense that can be otherwise simplistic.
A simple offense is not necessarily a bad thing, but being able to break a big gain now and then will go a long way as the Wolverines schedule gets more competitive.
5. BOLD PREDICTION: College GameDay comes to Ann Arbor on Oct. 17.
The narratives are almost too juicy to resist. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh could be fresh off a win over No. 13 Northwestern, the second ranked foe Michigan would have beaten this season.
Michigan State will likely still be ranked in the top five, setting up a high-profile stage for a rivalry game that hasn’t been to Ann Arbor since 2012. If the stars align and the Wolverines are 5-1 and the Spartans 6-0, it would be tough to pass for ESPN.
Then again, that weekend will also feature No. 11 Florida at No. 7 LSU, No. 8 Alabama at No. 9 Texas A&M, and No. 17 USC at No. 15 Notre Dame. Those matchups will all be tempting sites, especially since GameDay hasn’t been to an SEC school since Week 3.
Still, between Harbaugh, the in-state rivalry and the major Big Ten East implications it could have, Ann Arbor will be just too enticing to pass up.