In a showdown that could be decided by which powerhouse can successfully move the ball on the ground, the health of the running backs will be in the spotlight when No. 3 Michigan plays No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.
The Wolverines (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) rely on Heisman Trophy candidate Blake Corum, who has rushed for 1,457 yards on 5.9 yards per carry with 18 touchdowns, but he left the Illinois game last Saturday in the third quarter with a knee injury.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Tuesday that he had no injury update although that could be some gamesmanship because Corum told the Detroit News on Sunday, “It’s good. I’ll be fine. I’ll be back.”
The Buckeyes (11-0, 8-0) have the two-pronged attack of Miyan Williams (783 yards, 6.7 per carry, 13 touchdowns) and TreVeyon Henderson (571, 5.3, six), but they have rarely been used as a tandem in the game.
Henderson has missed three games due to injury and was hurt in the first half against Maryland last Saturday. Williams did not play versus the Terrapins, has sat out two other games and left another early.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day on Tuesday said he is hopeful they’ll be ready for Michigan.
“We’d like for them to practice, but if they miss a little bit we’ll adjust accordingly,” he said.
In their absence, freshman Dallan Hayden has filled the void. He rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns against Maryland and 102 yards and one score versus Indiana in the previous game, averaging 5.4 yards per carry in each contest.
“To see the way he stepped up last week was tremendous and encouraging,” Day said.
When asked if a healthy Hayden is better than Williams and Henderson if they’re not 100 percent, Day said, “I think it’s definitely worth a conversation.”
Michigan backup running back Donovan Edwards and edge rusher Mike Morris also were unavailable against Illinois — Harbaugh did not have updates — but Corum is the key.
“He’s a great player, but I think everybody else is just going to step up with him out and I think that we’re up to the challenge and we will do that,” Michigan left tackle Ryan Hayes said Monday on the possibility of Corum being out.
If Corum plays, he’ll be looking for a Heisman moment, as will Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, who has completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 2,991 yards with 35 touchdowns and four interceptions. Michigan is No. 1 in the nation in total defense (241.3 yards per game) and second in points allowed (11.7).
The Wolverines’ 42-27 win in Ann Arbor, Mich., last season broke an eight-game losing streak to the Buckeyes, who are 17-3 versus Michigan since 2001.
“Looking up at the scoreboard, personally in my mind, not only did we fail our number one goal, I felt like I let them (past Buckeyes) down in that game,” Ohio State left tackle Paris Johnson said.
The Wolverines have lost nine consecutive games in Ohio Stadium since 2001 in the heated rivalry, but this is their first trip there since 2018 because the 2020 game was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s through a strong opponent that you figure out how good you are,” Harbaugh said. “I think you’re going to find we’re made of the right stuff.”
–Field Level Media