Over the last month, U-M's rushing attack averaged 214.8 yards per game and 4.80 yards per carry. On the surface, that may not seem like much - after all, there are 46 teams in college football averaging better than 4.8 YPC this season.
But a deeper dive shows that the Wolverines might be peaking after an opening month in which Michigan averaged 130.5 yards rushing per game and just 3.48 yards per carry in September.
Michigan began October rushing for 120 yards and averaging 3.64 yards per carry in a 10-3 win over Iowa. Hardly brag worthy. Yet, a look at the Hawkeye defense this season shows a unit that has surrendered 100 yards or more just twice in eight games. U-M's 120 yards ranks second behind Penn State's 170, but its 3.64 yards per rush is the best average by any running game against Iowa this year.
In fact, if you look at each of Michigan's four games in October you will find that the Wolverines found success either completely unexpected by their opponent (like Penn State and Notre Dame) or to a degree greater than anything any other ground game had been able to achieve (Illinois).
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Later this week, offensive line coach Ed Warriner is set to speak to the media, and he can go into greater detail about the changes the Maize and Blue have made in recent weeks to spark their running game.
One of the buzz phrases he used after Michigan compiled 295 yards rushing on the road at Illinois was "pin and pull" which victorysports.com defines: "The pin and pull scheme involves rules for offensive linemen to pull if they’re uncovered by a defensive lineman. This allows for more offensive lineman to get involved in both inside and outside zone runs."
Essentially, it allows for these Michigan offensive linemen to execute man/power-blocking principles they became so comfortable with when U-M ran pro-style under Jim Harbaugh from 2015-18. It allows provides one final blocker for the running backs to follow through a hole, often negating a linebacker that can blow the play dead at the line of scrimmage.
U-M's interior linemen - senior left guard Ben Bredeson, junior center Cesar Ruiz and senior right guard Michael Onwenu - thrived a year ago as pullers on power runs and their comfortability in a tweaked offensive system this year has led to greater execution over the Wolverines' past four games.
That's good, as the Maize and Blue are set to take on defenses in November that rank 44th (Maryland, 3.80), 23rd (Michigan State, 3.32), 48th (Indiana, 3.87) and third (Ohio State, 2.54) nationally in yards per carry allowed.
A year ago, Michigan averaged 4.98 yards per rush in a three-game stretch in which it obliterated Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State. U-M continued to have success against Rutgers and Indiana but then fell off in a 62-39 loss at Ohio State.
With a game plan reliant on a strong rushing attack and solid defense, the Wolverines averaged just 2.81 yards per carry in the first quarter at OSU and in the deciding third quarter (when Michigan got outscored 17-0), the Maize and Blue averaged 2.00 yards per carry on eight attempts.
Michigan's challenge in November: continue to find success running the ball while building on the passing game elements U-M showcased in its last six quarters against Penn State and Notre Dame. In other words, put it all together. That's their only chance against the Buckeyes this year.