The Wolverines Are Off To Their Best Start On The Ground Since 1997

It will take far more than a 3-0 start for this Michigan team to be mentioned along side the 1997 Michigan team, but they're certainly off to a good start.
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If you're a Michigan Football fan, the year 1997 likely fills you with images of an epic win over Ohio State, Charles Woodson holding a rose with his teeth and, of course, a national championship victory over Washington in the Rose Bowl. 

While the 2021 team certainly has a long way to go before being mentioned in the same breath as the greatest team in Michigan football history, the early success of this years team has created some interesting comparisons - particularly when it comes to the rushing attack.  

So, how good has the rushing attack been during the first quarter of the season? According to the latest release from UM Associate Athletic Director Dave Ablauf, the team's 1,051 rushing yards are the highest team total through the first three weeks of the season since at least 1997 - a year that ended with a perfect record and a national championship. 

Yes, it's premature to start drawing comparisons between this team and the 1997 national championship team, particularly when the Wolverines have yet to face a formidable opponent.  At the same time, it's never a bad thing when your football program is hitting similar milestones to the most revered team in Michigan football history.

Here's the full list of noteworthy stats through the first three weeks of the 2021 season:

• After wide receiver Daylen Baldwin and outside linebacker Jaylen Harrell started for the first time in their Michigan careers last weekend, U-M is up to 12 first-time starters so far in 2021 (five on offense, seven on defense).

• The 141 points U-M has scored through three games represent the third-highest team total since 1976 (161 points), and the second-highest under head coach Jim Harbaugh (159, 2016).

• With eight touchdowns (seven rushing, one receiving), Blake Corum is tied for the lead among all FBS position players in scoring, averaging 16 points per game.

• Corum also leads the country in all-purpose yards (193.7 yards per game) and rushing touchdowns (seven) and is third in the NCAA in rushing with 135.7 yards per game.

• With 48 carries and six receptions, Corum is averaging a touchdown every 6.75 touches. Including kick returns, Corum averages 10.2 yards per touch.

• He is the first Wolverine since Denard Robinson in 2011 to record three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, and the first running back to do so since his position coach Mike Hart in 2007 (seven straight games).

• He spearheads the nation's No. 1 rushing attack (350.3 yards per game) and No. 3 scoring offense (47.0 points per game) along with Hassan Haskins, who ranks 33rd nationally at 93.7 yards per game.

• The Wolverine offensive line has been the heart of the offensive success, allowing just one sack and five tackles for loss, both No. 3 in the NCAA and No. 1 in the Big Ten.

• Cade McNamara has begun his career with 108 consecutive pass attempts with no interceptions. McNamara has been a 62 percent passer (67-of-108) during that stretch with eight passing touchdowns and two rushing scores.

• In 37 offensive possessions since he took over midway through the Rutgers game in 2020, McNamara has directed 25 scoring drives (21 touchdowns, 4 field goals), giving U-M points on 67.6 percent of all possessions.

• McNamara has touchdown passes of 76 and 87 yards this season, both among the 10 longest passing plays in program history. The latter, a touchdown connection with Cornelius Johnson last weekend, was the third-longest in program history.

• Defensively, Aidan Hutchinson continues to lead the Wolverines in tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He's up to 4.5 sacks on the season after recording another against the Huskies, tied for third in the country.

• The defense ranks ninth nationally in scoring defense, having allowed 34 points through three weeks. These are the seasons in which Michigan has allowed fewer points through the first three games since 1980: 1992 (27 points allowed), 1997 (20), 1985 (15), and 2003 (10). The 2005 and 2017 teams also allowed 34 points through three games.

• The defense has seen 12 different players break up 18 passes and 12 different players record at least a share of a tackle for loss.