Top 10 Players: Michigan vs. SMU
QB Shea Patterson – The sample size is small, but Patterson is offer to the best start in his career, with his highest completion percentage (68.1), his best touchdown-to-interception ratio (3:1) and best QBR (63.1), and yet there is room to grow, as the junior signal-caller has been limited to 47 pass attempts in the first two games – that ranks 88th nationally. With SMU ranking 113th nationally in pass defense, this could be a week where Patterson goes off.
DE Rashan Gary – After two games, Gary ranks third among Wolverines with four total quarterback pressures. He is first on the team with 12 tackles against the run, and in SMU faces a Mustangs team that ranks among the worst teams in the country in sacks allowed (121st, with eight).
RB Karan Higdon – The senior ball carrier’s 228 yards rushing this season represent the best two-game start of his career and the fifth-best back-to-back tally in his four seasons - his 358 yards against Rutgers/Minnesota in 2017 is the benchmark. He’s seeking his seventh career 100-yard rushing effort and just the third time in his career with consecutive 100-yard performances against a rush defense ranking 76th nationally.
DE Chase Winovich – Returning for his fifth year has proven to be a good idea so far as Winovich leads the team in QB pressures (10) and tackles for loss (3.5). He has had the opportunity to line up outside, inside and in a two-point stance as an outside linebacker (a position he’ll play in the NFL), showcasing his versatility to scouts.
RB Chris Evans – It was an utter failure by the Michigan coaching staff to give Evans the ball just four times in the Notre Dame game as evidence by an 86-yard, two-touchdown effort against Western Michigan. In 11 games in which Evans has had double-digit offensive touches, he has averaged 77.0 yards per game and 5.5 yards per touch.
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones – Michigan’s top target after two games with 10 receptions, Peoples-Jones didn’t even make his first catch as a true freshman in 2017 until week 3, and it took him seven games to accumulate 10 catches. He has been Patterson’s No. 1 option thus far this season, and will look to continue in that role this weekend.
LB Devin Bush – Bush sits second behind Winovich with five QB pressures and has the best sack percentage on the team, recording a takedown of the quarterback on 30 percent of his pressures and 9.4 percent of his team-leading 16 total tackles. Bush’s aggressiveness can still be used against him, but then he makes plays like this ...
CB Brandon Watson – Perhaps the biggest surprise on this list, Watson has been Michigan’s best cornerback so far. He is 3 for 3 in denying pass completions on attempts of 20 yards or more this year, and has the lone interception by a defensive back, with his pick against Notre Dame. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the fifth-year senior take over the starting role from junior Lavert Hill this weekend.
RB Braeden West – The senior running back for SMU ranks third nationally this year with two scrimmage plays of 50 yards or more – a 51-yard run and a 71-yard reception. He is one of only two big-play threats for the Mustangs (receiver James Proche is the other), and leads the team with 204 combined rushing/receiving yards. With 104 yards rushing on the year, he has eclipsed 2,000 in his career (2,034).
QB Ben Hicks – In his third year a starter, the junior signal-caller is closing in on 7,000 career passing yards (6,862) and has connected on 56.5 percent of his 956 total attempts, but he’s been brutal against three Power 5 Conference teams over the past three seasons, completing just 43.7 percent of his 119 passes.