The number one team in the country, according to both major polls, may not be the number one team in their conference. While poll voters give the nod to Ohio State, their arch-rival Michigan is the Big 10 team hitting on all cylinders and the team playing like a championship contender.
With their 38-0 shutout of Number 13 Northwestern on Saturday, the 18th ranked Wolverines moved to 5-1. Michigan’s performance was the third consecutive shutout, the first time the Wolverines had accomplished such a feat since 1980. No team in Division 1-FBS had done this since 1995.
Michigan’s only loss was a season-opening 24-17 defeat at Number 5 Utah. Since that loss, Michigan has won 5 in a row, outscoring their opponents 160-14, including 97-0 in the last three games, two of those against ranked teams.
Last week, they went to College Park and shut out Maryland, 28-0, after destroying then- Number 22 Brigham Young, 31-0.
Ohio State hosted Maryland on Saturday and after a struggle, they began to look like themselves on offense during the second half, pulling away from the Terps for a 49-28 victory. The Buckeyes, however, did allow Maryland running back Perry Hills to rush for 170 yards against them.
Michigan started the season unranked, but full of optimism for the near future with the arrival of new coach Jim Harbaugh. With nearly zero experience at quarterback, Harbaugh was able to help lure former Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock to Ann Arbor for his final year of eligibility.
Rudock, a former star at Ft. Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas High School, completed his degree at Iowa and joined the Wolverines in much the same fashion as Everett Golson came to Florida State from Notre Dame. After throwing four interceptions in his first two games, Rudock is now adjusted to the Michigan offense and his teammates.
The defense is suffocating as three consecutive shutouts would attest. Right now, they look like they can stop anyone.
The next test will provide a gauge as to where they are. Fourth-ranked Michigan State comes to Michigan Stadium next Saturday for the Wolverines’ “other” rivalry game.
Fans of both the Spartans and the Buckeyes likely thought Michigan was at least a year away from respectability, but Harbaugh has his team ahead of schedule. Ohio State must also travel to Ann Arbor for the regular season finale.
If Michigan continues to play as they are, it is not out of the question they could be the team from the Big 10 seeking a top-four ranking and a place in the college football playoffs. No one in the conference is playing at anywhere near the level of Michigan.
When polls come out on Sunday, look for Michigan to be at or near the top 10.