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One of the Nation’s best air-raid attacks versus a run-first Michigan team with the best defense in the country…this game will be a fun one. Michigan is the defending Big 10 champion for a second-straight season, coming off another big win over Ohio State before defeating Purdue for the conference title and coming into the game with a 13-0 mark for the first time ever. This is the best team Jim Harbaugh has ever had, and much like Caitlyn Jenner, after a few too many glasses of wine at a late lunch, they are running teams over with no remorse. Michigan will enter Saturday with the number 6 run offense in the country, averaging 243 yards on the ground per game. Sophomore running back Donovan Edwards has had no problem filling the shoes of the injured Blake Corum, and you can expect to hear his name a whole lot on New Year’s Eve. Over his last two games, Edwards has rushed for a combined 401 yards on 47 carries for an average of 8.5 yards per carry. In Michigan’s 45-23 win at Ohio St, Edwards rushed for 216 yards on 22 carries, and in the Big 10 Championship, he rushed for another 185 yards on 25 carries (and he added a touchdown…just because). Like your cousin from San Francisco with a rainbow flag in his front yard, Edwards has had quite the coming out party. But will it continue on Saturday? Well, the TCU Horned Frogs are the Nation’s 64th-ranked run defense allowing 149 yards on the ground per game, and that’s in a Big 12 conference that throws more than running. TCU plays every game like it’s a shootout, whereas Michigan controls the clock and wears out opponents. They aren’t exactly known for stopping the run, and they themselves struggle running the football.
TCU plays in the Big 12, which has turned into an air raid offensive conference. This explains why the Horned Frogs run a 3-3-5 defensive scheme. TCU will trot out three linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs when it takes the field in Arizona to take on the Wolverines. The TCU defense is equipped to handle big-play passing attacks, but similarly to ex-Michigan quarterback Tom Brady’s NFL career, the Wolverines have made their bones running the football and making safe passes when they’re available. This season, JJ McCarthy, despite another run-heavy offensive attack, completed 65 percent of his throws for 2,376 yards, 20 touchdowns, and just three interceptions. He rarely made a mistake, and when he did, he bounced back quickly. Throughout most of the year, McCarthy was one of the Nation’s most efficient passers, and he’s proven time and time again to be a big-game quarterback who doesn’t try and make a big play that isn’t there.
Max Duggan. TCU’s senior quarterback and the heart and soul of their team. Max Duggan almost single-handedly played TCU back into the Big 12 Championship and, for that matter, willed the Horned Frogs to a 12-0 regular season. If the Horned Frogs are going to be competitive in this game, Duggan will need to have a better performance than Salma Hayek did in From Dusk’ Til Dawn. TCU should be able to move the ball with Duggan against the Michigan defense. Ohio State and Purdue averaged 474 total yards in the last two games. The Wolverines let opponents beat them in the middle of the field because they knew that they could stop anyone from getting in the endzone. Michigan’s opponents scored 11 TDs in 29 red-zone attempts this season. TCU’s offense has enough weapons to make Donald Rumsfeld salivate at the mouth (Quinten Johnston, Taye Barber, and Gunner Henderson are all top-tier receivers), but let’s talk about what TCU’s passing attack won’t have…time. Michigan’s 7.74% sack rate has been a challenge for every opponent they’ve faced this season, let alone a TCU team that doesn’t have any of the elite offensive lines we see in the Big 10.
Michigan will win this game by sticking to the script: run the ball, establish play-action, and then shut the opposing offense down. Vegas likes Michigan -7.5, and they should win by two touchdowns by controlling the clock and limiting TCU’s air-raid attack. Want to make up for the crappy Christmas present you tried to give your girlfriend. Take Michigan to win and get your free $200 from SI!