Victorious in their last two games, the Michigan Wolverines seek their first win over a ranked opponent as the No. 19 BYU Cougars roll into Ann Arbor Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
After shaking off their season-opening loss to Utah, the Wolverines under new head coach Jim Harbaugh have bounced back with convincing wins over Oregon State and UNLV, with the defense letting up only two touchdowns and an average of 186.5 total yards between the blowouts.
Overall, under Harbaugh’s guidance, Michigan has emerged as one of the top defensive programs in the country, especially against the pass, with only 144 yards allowed per game and two total touchdowns.
But the Wolverines have yet to face a quarterback of BYU freshman Tanner Mangum’s caliber, and according to the Detroit Free-Press the defense is aware it will have to contain the mobile passer in the pocket.
Since taking over as the regular starter the last two games, Mangum’s totaled 664 passing yards and four touchdowns to three interceptions for a 136.0 rating, and has twice led the Cougars on game winning drives in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter this season.
"We've got to contain the quarterback," linebacker Ben Gedeon told The Free Press. "He makes a lot of plays scrambling around."
Mangum’s actually rushed for minus-42 yards, but has ability to elude defenders and extend plays for receivers Mitchell Juergens and Mitch Mathews to break away from coverage. Together they’ve totaled 30 receptions for 429 yards and five scores, with Devon Blackmon chipping in another 14 balls for 171 yards.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, UCLA figured out the best way to defend Mangum last week and squeaked past with a 24-23 win. Mangum went 30-for-47 for 244 yards, one touchdown, and one pick in BYU’s first loss of the season after starting the year with huge wins at Nebraska and over then-No. 20 Boise State.
The Wolverines certainly have the personnel and the proven results to bottle Mangum. Michigan’s tied for 10 th in the nation with 26 tackles for a loss of 78 yards, with senior defensive ends Chris Wormley and Mario Ojemudia totaling 10.5 tackles and 1.5 of the frontline’s 5.0 sacks.
That group will also try to hinder senior Cougars running back Adam Hine, who ripped off a career-high 149 yards against the Bruins, one week after he punished the Broncos for 93 yards and a touchdown.
But it’s not like the Wolverines can’t match BYU’s firepower. Junior running back Tandem De’Veon Smith and Ty Isaac have torched opponents for 367 yards and four touchdowns. Last week against the Rebels, Isaac was the hero with 114 yards and a touchdown off only eight attempts.
The Cougars will have to pay special attention to Smith and Isaac after struggling against the run last week. UCLA blew past BYU’s frontline for 296 rushing yards and two touchdowns at 7.8 yards per carry.
Betting Odds: Michigan -5
Over/Under: 44.5 points
Kickoff Time: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Live Online: Watch ESPN