It took exactly three weeks into the 2021 season for the Michigan Wolverines to make the transition from Big Ten underdog to Big Ten favorite, at least according to the latest FPI released from ESPN.
After a dominant 3-0 start, the Wolverines are suddenly predicted to win the remainder of the games on their schedule - including that final game in November. Needless to say, a 12-0 season would be more than enough for frustrated Michigan fans to reconcile their differences with head coach Jim Harbaugh and wipe the slate clean.
While I'm sure it's fun for Michigan fans to imagine the possibilities, they've also seen this movie before - and it typically ends in heartbreak. There's a long way to go before the Big Ten conference is settled but, if you're a Michigan fan, you've got to love what you're seeing from the Wolverines so far.
Michigan made it three in a row to start the 2021 season, putting together another dominant performance on the ground against Northern Illinois on Saturday. True freshman Donovan Edwards found the end zone for the first time in his Michigan career, finishing the game with 86 yards and 2 touchdowns on 8 carries. In total, the rushing attack of Corum, Haskins and Edwards combined for a total of 373 yards and a whopping 7 touchdowns.
Here are some other notable stats from Saturday, courtesy of Mgoblue.com:
• Michigan improved to 18-6 in non-conference play under head coach Jim Harbaugh with today's victory. Michigan is 35-1 all-time against the Mid-American Conference.
• After averaging 339.0 yards per game through the first two weeks of the season, Michigan finished Saturday's matchup with 373 yards of rushing.
• Cade McNamara has attempted 108 passes in his career without throwing an interception.
• Blake Corum entered the game with the NCAA's top average in all-purpose yards per game (221.5), and he produced 138 yards on Saturday 125 yards rushing, 13 yards receiving).
• The reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, Corum tallied his third straight 100-yard rushing game to start the year. The last Wolverine to rush for 100-plus yards in three consecutive games was Denard Robinson (Sept. 10-24, 2011). The last time a player accomplished that feat in the first three games of a season was 2010, (also Robinson) in five straight games from Sept. 4-Oct. 2, 2010. The last running back to record 100-plus yards rushing in three consecutive games to start the season was (seven straight games, Sept. 1-Oct. 13, 2007).
•Corum has now totaled seven rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown.
• In his first career start, wide receiver Daylen Baldwin set a new Michigan best with three receptions.
• Corum and Haskins have both rushed for a touchdown in three consecutive games to open the season. The last Wolverine running back to accomplish the feat was Karan Higdon to start the 2018 season.
• McNamara and Johnson connected on an 87-yard touchdown pass toward the end of the first half, a career-long play for both players. This is the first 80-plus-yard touchdown reception by a Wolverine since Jeremy Gallon's 84-yard touchdown against Ohio State (Nov. 30, 2014).
• The McNamara and Johnson touchdown connection is the third-longest receiving touchdown in program history, with the only longer receiving TDs being 97 yards (Mario Manningham, Nov. 10, 2007) and 90 yards (Derrick Alexander, Oct. 23, 1993).
• The Wolverines offense scored a touchdown in each of its five drives during the first half, racking up 328 yards of total offense.
• Freshman running back Donovan Edwards punched in his first career touchdown from four yards out and added a 58-yard touchdown. Edwards finished the game with career highs of eight attempts and 86 yards.
• Michigan's offense put up 28 points in the third quarter for the first time since doing so against Oct. 24, 1992 vs. Minnesota.
• The Wolverines offense scored a touchdown on each of its first nine drives, leading to a total of 63 points, the highest point total since the Wolverines scored 78 points at Rutgers (Oct. 8, 2016).
• U-M was efficient in the red zone, going 6-for-6.
• Defensively, U-M limited NIU to just 108 yards of total offense in the first half and a 0-for-7 mark on third down. The Wolverine defense allowed 208 yards of total offense, including only 46 yards passing for the game.
• Gemon Green recorded his first career interception in the third quarter, setting up the eighth Michigan touchdown of the game.
• AJ Henning had his first career punt-return opportunity, which went for 25 yards, setting up Michigan for a touchdown on the opening drive.
• The Wolverines did not punt in the game, marking the first time since Nov. 5, 2016 against Maryland.