It’s game week for UGA in Miami, and that means it’s time to take a closer look at the Michigan Wolverines. The Maize & Blue have fielded some strong teams over the last decade, but the program’s championship hopes kept being derailed by Ohio State each November.
This year, Michigan got over the Buckeyes hump before dominating Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game. 2021 Michigan has fielded an offense that has been the most productive and modern of the Jim Harbaugh era. Harbaugh has let Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis have more control over the attack, and it has paid off in the form of a College Football Playoff berth. Let’s take a look at the key players in this Michigan attack. Georgia is a 7.5-point favorite over Michigan.
- Blake Corum - RB - Michigan runs the ball on 57.3% of snaps, and a big reason why is the two RB’s. Hassan Haskins leads the Wolverines in rushing yards and attempts, but Corum is the guy who is more productive on a per carry basis. He averages 6.7 YPC and has 939 yards this season on just 141 attempts. An ankle injury over the last month of the season held him to 6 carries against Ohio State and kept him from playing against Penn State and Maryland. He only had 5 carries against Iowa in the Big Ten Championship, but he turned them into 74 yards and a touchdown. Haskins the workhorse in this offense, but I think Corum is the guy who scares you the most if you’re the UGA coaching staff. All it takes is one bad angle or one missed tackle for him to take one the distance, and that’s exactly what Michigan needs against this Georgia defense.
- Hassan Haskins - RB - Haskins is the grinder in the Michigan attack. With Corum out for the last third of the season, Haskins took on the type of workload that you rarely see in football today. He had 31 carries for 156 yards against Penn St and followed that up with 28 carries for 169 yards against Ohio St two weeks later. He’s an old-school back who isn’t afraid of contact and sees holes well in the middle of the defense. He averaged 7 yards per a carry this year on 41 attempts in the hole between Center and Left Guard, and 796 of his 1,288 yards have come after contact. He’s a grinder who will fall forward, and Michigan needs that if they’re going to have any chance at driving the field consistently on this UGA defense.
- Cade McNamara - QB - McNamara is the steady force at the helm of the UM offense. He’s not flashy, he doesn’t have a huge arm, and he isn’t a threat with his legs. He is productive. McNamara does a good job of getting Michigan into the right protections and checking into the right run plays. He hits enough deep shots to keep a defense honest and he can put the ball into some tight windows down the field when he’s feeling it, but what he excels at is ball placement on short and intermediate passes. He hits his receivers in stride and gives them opportunities to make things happen after the catch, and he’s hit 75.3% of his 150 attempts on throws from 0-9 yards. He’s a point guard, and his accuracy is what turns short slants into long touchdowns. Most importantly, he only has 4 interceptions on the season. His passing success rate of 44.2% isn’t great, but he moves this offense and creates enough big plays to win games.
- Cornelius Johnson - WR - Michigan spreads the ball around in the passing game, but the unquestioned WR1 is Johnson. Despite having only 3 touchdowns this season, his 609 receiving yards are more than anyone else on the team by a wide margin. Johnson plays almost exclusively on the boundary, and he has the ability to make contested catches in 50/50 situations. His long reception this year is 87 yards so he has good speed, but he is also the guy McNamara will be looking for on third down.
- Erick All - TE - All only has 2 touchdowns on the season, but don’t let that fool you. He has the ability to take over a game like he did when he grabbed 10 catches for 98 yards on the road at Michigan St this year. At 6’4” he gives McNamara a nice target on 3rd downs and he is good when running quick routes against man coverage. Receiving isn’t all that All can do though. His greatest importance for the Wolverines might come in the run game. UM runs a lot of sets with two tight-ends, and his run blocking was exceptional against Ohio State and Iowa. His physical blocking at the point of attack is a big part of Michigan’s physical identity, and Georgia’s linebackers will have to work through his blocks to make tackles on Michigan’s talented blocks.
- Zak Zinter - RG - Michigan struggled with injuries along the offensive line early in the year, but once everyone got healthy and back into their natural positions they excelled. Michigan runs a lot of Counter in the run game, and Zinter’s work pulling at RG is a key part of what Michigan likes to do. His game isn’t particularly flashy, but he’s assignment sound and does a great job of finding defenders and creating a seal when pulling around the edge. A huge matchup in this game is Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, Jalen Carter, and Travon Walker against Michigan’s Guards. If the Dawgs can knock them back before they pull like they did against other pull-heavy offenses at times this year then they will have a lot of success. If not, Georgia’s linebackers and safeties will have to make a lot of plays in one-on-one situations on the edge.
- Andrew Stueber - RT - At 6’7” and 338 pounds, Stueber is the image the mind conjures when you think about Midwestern football excellence. The First-Team All-Big Ten Tackle is big, athletic and smart. In pass protection he is good enough. Stueber does a good job of remaining patient, he rarely falls for fakes and jab steps from pass rushers, and he does a good job of not lunging. In the run game, he is excellent. He climbs well and he moves well out on the edges. Michigan won the Joe Moore Award for the best Offensive Line in the nation, and Stueber is the emotional and mental leader of the unit. The Wolverines averaged 6.8 yards per carry when running behind Stueber this season, and UGA will need to get some push against him to stymie this rushing attack.
I’ll be back on Thursday to look at the key players on the defensive side of the ball for Michigan. Until then, stay tuned to DawgSports for all things Orange Bowl.