Houston transfer John O'Korn came into the season looking like he'd be the starting QB for the Michigan Wolverines after former Iowa QB, Jake Rudock had run out of eligibility. But it was Wilton Speight, the junior, that won the job and has carried Michigan to their 9-0 record thus far. Speight, the 6'6" 240 pound Virginia native, has been spectacular for Jim Harbaugh's team. He's completing 65% of his passes for 2,053 yards, 15 touchdowns, and just 3 interceptions.
He's been the Big Ten's most efficient passer and just got done torching Maryland's pass defense to the tune of 19-24 for 362 yards and two touchdowns. The biggest thing about Speight is he doesn't try to do too much. He has talented pass catchers that get open and he hardly forces the ball into a tight window. He consistently hits receivers deep and is almost always on target with his passes. His numbers aren't really popping off the page at everybody because Michigan has a lot of other players that receive the attention, but as long as he keeps doing his thing, Michigan will be in the race for the national title.
I had Darboh pegged as a second team All Big Ten player coming into this season, but he's looking like he's going to make a case for first team. He's coming off a season in which he caught 58 balls, for 727 yards, and five touchdowns and was a honorable mention all big ten selection by the coaches. His teammate, Jehu Chesson, was named a first teamer by the coaches.
Right now, Darboh has eclipsed his yard and touchdown totals from a season ago. He's caught 42 passes for 741 yards (second to Northwestern's Austin Carr) and 6 touchdowns. He has become Speight's primary option, especially with the deep ball. This Michigan passing offense can be so hard to defend because they have two great receivers in Darboh and Chesson, and they throw out Jake Butt, who is arguably the nation's best tight end.
We haven't seen Desmond King really follow a receiver around the field at all this year and we likely won't see it this week, but if there was ever a time to do that, it'd be this week against Michigan and Darboh.
Two of the nations best defensive backs will be on display in Iowa City on Saturday night. You're quite familiar with one, his name being Desmond King, but Michigan's Jourdan Lewis is no slouch on the other side either. Lewis joined King, Jabrill Peppers, and Will Likely on the All Big Ten first team defense last season.
Lewis leads a defensive backfield that possesses four seniors who have combined for 9 interceptions this season. The safeties, Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill come in at fourth and fifth on the team in total tackles and do a good job of helping out both Lewis and Channing Stribling, the other corner.
The Hawkeyes have had a remarkably tough time passing the ball this season and it gets no easier this weekend when the Wolverines come to town. They are experienced and extremely talented.
Peppers is likely the guy you hear the most of. He does pretty much everything and has had his name involved in the Heisman discussion since the season started (although lets be real, that's Lamar Jackson's to lose). Peppers returns punts, kicks, plays some linebacker, defensive back, and even running back. Harbaugh has found ways to use Peppers to his advantage because he is that athletically gifted.
He averages about 17 yards per punt return and is the best returner in the Big Ten. He's returned 15 punts for 257 yards and one touchdown. He also ranks in the top eight in the conference in kick return yardage as well. He's second on the team in tackles behind linebacker Ben Gedeon with 49 total tackles. He has recorded three sacks and has 17 carries for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
You'll see him all over the field on Saturday and what makes him so dangerous is the fact that he can do all those things at such a high level. The Hawkeyes will need to be aware of where Peppers is at all times on Saturday.
Gedeon is Michigan's senior middle linebacker. He currently leads the team in tackles with 64, 15 more than second on the team. He's tied for first on the team with 11 tackles for a loss and tied for second on the team in sacks with 3.5. Only Taco Charlton is ahead of him with his 4.5 sacks. He doesn't get as much publicity as some of the other defenders on this Michigan team, but he is a real player.
Michigan likes to bring some late blitzes and he's usually the one that comes. He's a smart physical player, but the one area where he may struggle is when it comes to getting sideline-to-sideline. Iowa's offensive line already has their hands full with Michigan's defensive line and it only gets tougher with guys like Gedeon and Peppers coming on late blitzes.null