Bob Wojnowski and John Niyo are joined by former running backs Nick Hill of MSU and Chris Howard of UM to talk about this weekend's big games, and Matt Charboneau breaks down his AP Top 25 vote. Detroit News
Michigan has three regular-season games remaining, including back-to-back road games, first at Maryland on Saturday and then Wisconsin before returning to Ann Arbor for the season-finale against Ohio State on Nov. 25. How will Brandon Peters do in his first road start? Will the offensive line pass protect better? Has the defense shored up things to prevent big plays? Wait a minute. You’re asking the questions, not me, so here goes with this week’s mailbag:
Question. Do you expect more passing this week from Peters even if run game is working? He needs the experience, and first drive against Minnesota had creative pass plays (never seen before from this team). — @PaulHSpitz
Question. Do you think Harbaugh and Drevno trust Peters enough to open up the offense (i.e. passing, play-action, etc)? Seems they could take a page out of Sparty’s playbook from last week. — @bradburn59
Answer. Paul, even if the run game is working, they have got to be game-planning for Peters to get more involved in the pass game. Remember, it’s not just about Peters but this is also about getting the receivers more opportunity to work on separation, running crisp routes and timing with the redshirt freshman quarterback. And Brad, yes, Harbaugh and Drevno trust Peters and there were plays called in the Rutgers game and even on that first series last week against Minnesota that showed proof of that. The Terps are coached by defensive-minded D.J. Durkin, who undoubtedly has a good plan for Michigan, where he was defensive coordinator Harbaugh’s first season, but he doesn’t have the personnel yet.
They are 13th in the conference in pass defense, 11th in rush defense and last in scoring defense and don't have a threatening pass rush. It’s possible the three of us could complete a pass against this defense.
Q. Will Harbaugh implement a passing attack against Wisconsin and OSU? Or satisfied with the ground game? @ProfessorJVH
A. Professor, maybe this blends with the first question, and I also think you already know the answer — professors are funny like that. It’s possible everyone is reading too much into last week’s run-heavy play-calling against Minnesota. It was working, Peters remained off the ground after taking three sacks, he didn’t turn the ball over, Karan Higdon inched (yarded?) closer to 1,000 yards and they got the win. But … that obviously can’t be the game plan going into Wisconsin and Ohio State where a balanced offense, perhaps skewed more to the run, will be needed.
Q. Peters was roughed up last Saturday when he tried to pass. Any talk of including pass protection in list of OL improvements? @markl2021
A. Mark, Mark, Mark, are you being a bit sarcastic? It made me laugh, so if that’s what you were going for, bravo. Pass protection has to be at the top of the list, and that’s really where it’s been all season. It was most glaring last week when freshman — keep that in mind, freshman — Cesar Ruiz opened the door for Peters to get pummeled. The offensive line will not get super challenged by Maryland’s front seven, though, because it hasn’t developed much of a pass rush.
Q. After back to back wins against lesser opponents, where there is still a lot of room for improvement, does Michigan have a chance to win the Wisconsin and OSU games? Personally I don’t think either will be a win. @brady_peck
A. Brady, before the season I picked Michigan to win at Wisconsin, the one big road game I thought they could pull off. The Badgers just suffered a key injury at receiver, and while they’ve been rolling this year, the schedule resume isn’t all that impressive. Still, Camp Randall is a tough place to play and could be intimidating if Peters gets the start there, but momentum is a funny thing. If Michigan piles on against Maryland — and yes, clearly the last three opponents aren't the best — confidence could be at an all-time high this season. I did have them losing to Ohio State and will stick with that, giving the edge to J.T. Barrett, as long as he shows against Michigan State he has shaken that Iowa game.
Q. Is there a mathematical chance Michigan can win the East? What has to happen? @ProfessorJVH
A. Professor, just an FYI — I hate math questions. There’s a chance although slim. Michigan has to win its final three games, Michigan State has to lose twice and Penn State has to lose again. That’s how I have it figured.
Q. Why is it everyone feels so relieved when we stomp on a lesser opponent, as if we can do that every weekend now (i.e. rushing yards), then are upside down when we get crushed by a quality opponent? We are “beat the weaklings”’ good, not “beat anyone who matters” good! @michmike69
A. Mike, just because you have a rational approach doesn’t mean everyone else does. Play nice with the other kids! But why not feel good about beating a lesser opponent? I’ve always wondered why that’s a bad thing since that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? If you’re referring to the crushing at Penn State and the sky-is-falling response, well, I think part of that is because the defense was ranked No. 1 heading into that game, and Michigan fans felt that was an advantage that could keep them in the game, even win it. You're right, though, this is not a team ready yet to beat the top teams in the conference. Work in progress, as they say.
Q. With more reports of Wilton Speight progressing well and healing from his injury, has there been any reports on Tarik Black’s progress? @15bshall97
A. Brian, aside from what appears to be some teasing by Black — and also by Speight — on social media, no one is saying for sure what his status might be. There was a photo on Halloween of Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Black was in some sort of cast, and then recently he posted something that appeared to be hinting about his return. With the receiving corps thinning a bit, it would be a boost for the Wolverines if he’s healthy enough to come back.
Q. Do we dare ask Coach Harbaugh if he is enticed by the rumored interest from the Bears and Colts? Is Ann Arbor big enough for him? @skwogler
A. Chris, no one is stopping you from asking him. Go for it! I kid, I kid, sort of. I don’t think it’s worth asking. He seems happy here, his family is happy, his parents live next door, and he’s building a program at his alma mater. Not saying he will never, ever get the itch to return to the NFL. I don’t know if he will, but for now, he seems perfectly comfortable at Michigan.
Michigan at Maryland
Kickoff: 3:30 Saturday, Maryland Stadium, College Park, Md.
Records: Michigan 7-2, 4-2 Big Ten; Maryland 4-5, 2-4
Line: Michigan by 17