When it comes to running the rock, not many do it better than the Michigan Wolverines. Headlined by the country’s most dynamic running back tandem in Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum, the No. 9 ranked Wolverines’ recipe for success isn’t one of mystery.
Averaging 234.1 yards a game on the ground, the Jim Harbaugh-led Wolverines take your lunch money from the opening whistle and let you know about it too. A throwback style approach that has placed Michigan among the country’s most historic run-strict offenses (Air Force, Army), Haskins and Corum have the Wolverines knocking at the door of the College Football Playoff.
A model of their consistency, with 251 touches combined, Haskins and Corum have yet to put the football on the ground. While each ball-carrier has totaled more than 770 rushing yards through nine games, the duo has amassed 21 touchdowns on nearly 7.0 YPC between the two, presenting CFB’s most dynamic, impactful two-headed rushing attack. Although Corum missed last week's game against Indiana, in which Haskins single-handedly shouldered the load to the tune of 167 yards (6.2 avg) and a touchdown, he’s expected to rejoin his running partner this week as the Wolverines make the trip to Happy Valley in a matchup of Big Ten blue bloods.
The younger of the two backs, Corum, a Marshall, Virginia native, is currently the highest graded ball-carrier in the nation (90.4)—and is only a sophomore. Don’t let his lack of vertical prowess sway you from his overall impact, as his shiftiness and electric open-field ability is an impossible task to wrangle down for a full 60 minutes. A north-south runner with an excellent first step, his increased role in the pass game will remain paramount for the Wolverines offense as they enter the home stretch of their schedule. While the Wolverines have been a one-trick pony so far this season, and surely it’s worked, as they enter the postseason, and potential CFP, the importance to diversify and attempt to hide their run game as much as possible will be key for Michigan to put up points against the country’s most elite defensive units.
Haskins, a drastically unique back to that of Corum, is built in an NFL mold and carries himself like a back destined to produce on Sundays. A senior this fall, the 6-foot-1 power back has room to grow in his functional ability between the tackles when met with athletically inferior linebackers, but he’s a tough, hard-nosed runner with surprising athleticism in the open field, where he’s proven to run through, around, and over defenders to reach open grass. While you could call him the bellcow of the group with 35 more rushing attempts than Corum, Harbaugh’s ability to couple the two backs’ skill sets into an overwhelming wave of ground-and-pound football has made it nearly impossible to limit the Wolverines on their way to an 8-1 record.
Michigan has found itself in an opportune spot with three games left on the docket. With an upcoming matchup against the No. 23-ranked Nittany Lions and a matchup with Big Ten foe Ohio State after they square off with Maryland next week, there’s nowhere to go but up for a program that has dominated each of their opponents this fall. Outside of a loss to Michigan State due to a Heisman-worthy performance from Kenneth Walker III, the Wolverines have quickly become the team to watch in an ultra-competitive conference.
Currently slotted sixth in the second installment of the CFP rankings (two spots behind the Buckeyes) the pressure on Haskins and Corum to lead the Wolverines will remain of the utmost importance. If Michigan is able to punch its first-ever ticket to the CFP, it will come via their dynamic backfield duo.