Michigan takeaways: Nico Collins grabs spotlight as top receiver
Five takeaways from The Detroit News' Angelique S. Chengelis after Michigan's 39-14 victory over Indiana on Saturday.
Throw to Nico
Nico Collins is 6-foot-4, 222 pounds — a big body with great hands, so it’s no surprise the career performance he had at Indiana with 165 yards on six catches and three touchdowns, including a 76-yard score that he went about 60 yards after the catch. He was targeted seven times and also drew a pass interference. Ronnie Bell had been the Wolverines’ leading receiver in yardage, but with his performance against the Hoosiers, Collins now leads the team with 649 yards, just ahead of Bell’s 627. Collins also leads the receivers with seven touchdowns. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said they have put more on Collins’ plate. “It's good to get Nico on some crossing routes, some slant routes, some deep ins,” Harbaugh said. “He's very good at it, he's a very -- got a big target, big catch radius. So his assortment of routes that he's running has clicked up quite a bit. He's coming through. A lot of the deep balls, they were kind of grabbing them pretty early. He's high-pointing the ball as well as you can, doing a tremendous job on the posts, high-pointing those balls, and he's getting separation. He's just doing a lot of great things as a receiver.”
In the last two weeks — against Michigan State and Indiana — quarterback Shea Patterson has thrown for 750 yards and nine touchdowns. His five touchdowns against Indiana are the most by a Michigan quarterback in regulation and second-most behind Jake Rudock’s six at Indiana in a double-overtime victory in 2015. Before the MSU game, Patterson had completed 57.2 percent of his passes for 1,773 yards and 12 touchdowns against four interceptions. Those numbers are now considerably different. He has completed 59.5 percent of his passes for the season and thrown for 2,523 yards with 21 touchdowns against five interceptions. He was averaging 197.0 yards per game and now averages 229.4.
Nordin a 10
Kicker Quinn Nordin has made his last five field goals over the last three games. He entered the Maryland game three weeks ago 0-for-3 on field goal attempts and now, after the Indiana game, is 5-of-8. After Jake Moody missed from 37 yards at Maryland, Nordin made a 38-yarder. He was 3-of-3 against Michigan State with makes from 28, 49 and 33 yards. Against Indiana, Nordin made a 27-yarder in the third quarter. Does this mean the end of the kicker rotation that involved Moody and Nordin? Maybe. Nordin also made four extra points at IU and has made all 30 attempts he’s had this season.
Where has the run gone?
There’s a trade-off, sure. While Patterson is connecting with receivers and building passing yards, the run game takes a back seat. Maybe there’s been less an emphasis on the run, but against Ohio State on Saturday, Michigan will have to have some balance. After rushing for 303 and three touchdowns against Notre Dame and then 155 yards and three touchdowns at Maryland, Michigan had 83 yards rushing and one score against Michigan State and 87 yards on 29 carries against Indiana for 3.0 yards a carry. Ohio State is ranked fifth nationally against the run, holding teams to an average 91.2 yards — Penn State rushed for 99 in the loss at OSU last Saturday.
Protecting the ball
Remember before the Penn State game when it was all the rage to track Michigan’s fumbles? The Wolverines had fumbled 17 times and lost nine and also had four interceptions heading into that game. Since then, the last five games had had five fumbles and lost one and there have been two interceptions, one in the first half of the Penn State game and one in the second half at Indiana. It’s always important to avoid turnovers, but Michigan will have to be particularly careful against the Buckeyes. The Wolverines had 14 interceptions and their opponents have fumbled 19 times and lost nine.