As Maryland was kicking off in the third quarter after cutting Michigan's lead to 27-14, ABC's Steve Levy said "it feels like Michigan leads by like 30." It seemed like that, because while the scoreboard tells the final story it doesn't always tell the whole story. The Wolverines were dominating the game statistically, and physically the Terps were never really in it. They found ways to hang around for a while, like a kickoff return for a touchdown to give them an early lead. Despite being out-gained by more than 100 yards in the first quarter, and the Wolverines recording 12 of the game's first 15 first downs. In fact, Maryland didn't cross the 200-yard threshold on offense until its final possession of the game.
Maryland boasted a top 10 rushing offense in the country coming in, but finished almost 100 yards under its average. The Terps had the stingiest third down defense (29%) in the Big Ten coming in, but Michigan was 9-of-13 (69%) on third down. And Maryland was an outstanding 13th nationally in rush defense coming in, but the Wolverines gained 171 yards on the ground against a defense allowing only 104 yards rushing per game so far this season.
In other words, the Wolverines were clearly the superior team physically against Maryland, again. Continuing its trend of dominating the Terrapins under Harbaugh, who is now 4-0 against Maryland by a commanding combined score of 156-34.
And the Wolverines pulled off this dominance despite a season-low five tackles-for-loss by their defense, including none by stars Chase Winovich and Devin Bush. Which speaks to the overall depth on display from the Wolverines, who played without Tarik Black, Rashan Gary, Chris Evans, and Aubrey Solomon. Four guys that would've been ranked among the top 10-15 players on the team coming in. And the Wolverines had several more guys get banged up on Saturday, including emerging defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour, who was carted off in the first half with a lower body injury.
Don't get me wrong, the Wolverines' headline players made plenty of plays, too. Karan Higdon became the first Wolverine since 2010 to have four consecutive 100-yard rushing efforts. Shea Patterson posted Michigan's most passing yards since John O'Korn's one shining moment at Purdue more than a year ago. And tight end Zach Gentry had his first 100-yard receiving game.
Oh, and one week after being minus-85 in penalty yards at Northwestern, the Wolverines were plus-55 in penalty yards on Saturday. And they even got a holding call!
There wasn't much not to like, other than giving up a kickoff return for a touchdown. Albeit that return came from Maryland's Ty Johnson, one of the top playmakers in the Big Ten.
The Bottom Line
This was the ideal warm-up for the gauntlet to come -- Wisconsin, at Michigan State, and Penn State. The stretch of games we all knew coming into the season would likely define what kind of season we'll have. If they're relatively healthy, I believe the Wolverines are more talented than all three. However, we all have the scars from missed opportunities in big games the past few years to know better. These games are going to come down to execution. If the Wolverines execute, they will exorcise some demons and win at least two of these games to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive. If they don't, they'll find ways to lose these games as they so often have in recent seasons.
There's no question Michigan is a talented team. We're about to find out if the Wolverines are a good team.