Following the Wolverines narrow win over Rutgers on Saturday, concerns over the Michigan passing attack began to dominate discussions within the fan base. While the concerns over Michigan's lackluster passing performances are certainly valid, there are also a handful of reasons for Michigan fans to feel confident heading into this weekends matchup in Madison.
1. Defense Travels
First year defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald seems to be adjusting well to life in Ann Arbor. With significant questions facing the Michigan defense heading into 2021, the Wolverines are currently ranked No. 32 in the nation in total defense through the first four weeks of the season - up 55 spots from the 2020 season (No. 87).
2. Aidan Hutchinson
Speaking of defense, the Wolverines feature arguably the top defensive player in all of college football. After Saturday, senior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson now has 5.5 sacks on the season - which is tied for the No. 1 spot nationally. Week after week, Hutchinson has wreaked havoc with a rare combination of size, speed and elite technique. There might still be some questions when it comes to the Michigan defense overall but Aidan Hutchinson certainly isn't one of them.
3. Running Backs
It was a terrible outing for the Michigan rushing attack against Rutgers, there's no other way to look at it. After averaging over 350 yards per game through the first three weeks, the Wolverines were held to just 112 yards rushing on Saturday. What's worse is that the offensive line that had looked so impressive through the first three weeks appeared to be overmatched by the Scarlet Knight defensive front.
They'll need to find a way to get the rushing attack back on track this week - and they'll need to do it against the nations No. 1 rush defense that is averaging just 23.0 yards rushing per game.
Recent struggles aside, the combination of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins is still arguably the top rushing duo in the nation. On the heels of a subpar performance against Rutgers and with the opportunity to face the No. 1 rushing defense this weekend, I expect Michigan rushing attack to bounce back in Madison.
4. Cornelius Johnson
When senior wide out Ronnie Bell went down with a season ending injury in week one, one name emerged as the favorite to step up in his absence: Cornelius Johnson.
While the passing game has certainly left much to be desired, the one bright spot seems to be that Johnson is finally settling into that WR1 role. Through the first four games, Johnson leads all Michigan wide outs in receptions (8), yards (198) and yards per reception (24.8).
The Wolverines are certainly going to need more than 2.0 receptions per game from their top receiver, but at least they know who that guy is at this point.
5. Skill Guys, Big Plays
They don't get the ball much (for some reason), but when they do, look out!
Sophomore wide out AJ Henning has proven he's a homerun threat every single time he touches the ball. Through four games, Henning is currently averaging 50.0 yards per carry - on just two carries. Henning is also averaging 12 yards per reception but he's only got three receptions through four games in limited reps.
Sophomore wide out Roman Wilson is averaging 26.5 yards per carry on just two carries (jet sweeps), while averaging 21.3 yards per reception on just three receptions.
The true freshman out of West Bloomfield (Mich.) hasn't touched the ball much so far in 2021, but when he does it's electric. During the week three matchup against NIU, Edwards had eight carries for 86 yards and scored twice on runs of four and 58 yards in the third quarter.
The combination of speed, power and athleticism makes Edwards the type of offensive weapon that's just too good to keep on the sidelines for too long.