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Three wins over non-conference teams wasn’t a full measure of how elite No. 4 Michigan is this season.
The start of the Big Ten season, which begins Saturday with a home opener against Maryland, will begin to complete the full picture.
The Wolverines have outscored their opponents 166-17, including a 59-0 win over UConn last weekend. Blake Corum tied a school record with five rushing touchdowns, and the defense had no problem shutting down the true freshman quarterback.
“I just think the guys are excited to attack the next challenge,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “They’re ready for it, they know it’s going to be a step up in competition — the start of Big Ten play.”
Corum strengthened his status as a leader. He had 952 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground last year, and stepped it up a few notches early in the game. Corum has 235 yards (6.9 per carry) in three games with seven TDs.
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“There is no better example of selflessness in the program than Blake Corum. He’s a great worker and a great leader,” Harbaugh said. “He’s always been good. His approach has always been A-plus-plus. And his play speaks for itself.”
JJ McCarthy, who was named the No. 1 quarterback after the second game, completed 15 of 18 passes for 214 yards against the Huskies. Backup and former starter Cade McNamara injured his foot on the play and will be out indefinitely.
Michigan can now turn its attention to a conference group that has also taken advantage of the non-conference slate. The Terrapins are also 3-0, though needed a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to knock off SMU 34-27 on Saturday.
Harbaugh praised the Terrapins’ offense.
“Really good playmakers. Their quarterback is playing great,” Harbaugh said. “They do a really good job of defending him. They make a lot of plays. He makes a lot of plays — in the pocket, out of the pocket.”
Terrapins OB Taulia Tagovailoa has completed 77.3 percent of his passes this season after completing 69.2 percent a year ago. He threw for six touchdowns and rushed for another early in the game.
Maryland coach Mike Locksley said his team should feel stress-free entering the conference opener.
“We have nothing to lose,” Locksley said. “We’re going to face the defending champs. We know we’re going to get a really good team. . . . Keep the game very tight, get into the fourth quarter and you never know what can happen.”
Locksley knows what will happen if the Terrapins don’t play much cleaner than they did against SMU. They were penalized 15 times for 141 yards, but still found a way to win. They won’t be so lucky against a ranked opponent.
“I actually showed them video of every penalty,” he said. “I showed commentary on everything (the media) said… They are still children. I am a father. I have to make them understand that the name on the front of the jersey represents us and we must continue to work to do better.”
Michigan leads the all-time series 9-1 and has won the last six meetings. The Wolverines are 6-1 since the Terrapins entered the Big Ten.
Tagovailoa had 178 passing yards and one touchdown in the Wolverines’ 59-18 win at Maryland last season.