No. 3 Michigan ignoring distractions, focused on Purdue

Field Level Media

November 01, 2023 at 4:38 am.

Michigan heads into November undefeated and at No. 3 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, which were released on Tuesday.

Yet virtually all the talk regarding the program in the last couple of weeks has been about coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff.

The program is embroiled in a signal-stealing scandal, centering around low-level staffer Connor Stalions, as the coaches prepare for Saturday’s Big Ten game against Purdue at Ann Arbor, Mich.

Harbaugh, who was originally going to be suspended for the first four games this season for allegedly making false statements to the NCAA during its investigation into potential recruiting violations, tried to sidestep the latest controversy.

“We’re in an onward mode,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a one-track mind that I’m modeling, and I see it throughout the program.”

Harbaugh added that the players aren’t dwelling on anything but reaching their ultimate goal of winning a national title.

“Their apparent focus is always the task at hand. Win the next game, get prepared, practice and then go execute,” he said. “They’re in a battle rhythm in that sense. That includes every team you play.”

On paper, the Boilermakers (2-6, 1-4 Big Ten) shouldn’t present much of an obstacle for the Wolverines (8-0, 5-0). They’re saddled with a three-game skid, including a 31-14 road loss to Nebraska last weekend.

The Cornhuskers held Purdue scoreless until the fourth quarter. Boilermakers starting quarterback Hudson Card, who threw a touchdown pass, was limited to 100 passing yards and tossed two interceptions.

Purdue’s running game averaged 3.3 yards per carry. One of the Boilermakers’ touchdowns came on a fumble return.

Purdue has scored 20 points or less in five of its last six games. Now, it faces a defense that hasn’t given up more than 10 points all season.

“If you got an answer how to crack it, let me know,” Purdue coach Ryan Walters said. “There have been a lot of people struggling this year. I think what’s unique about Michigan in its entirety as a program is, yes, they have really good players. They also have a really good scheme on offense, defense and special teams. So they pose problems and try to take away what you’re good at.”

Naturally, some people believe the Wolverines defense had an unfair advantage by knowing some of the opposition’s play-calling. Walters indicated his staff is “very aware of what the allegations are out there” and “we’ll plan accordingly.”

Walters’ defense will have to prepare for Michigan’s balanced attack led by quarterback J.J. McCarthy and running back Blake Corum.

McCarthy passed for a season-high 287 yards and four touchdowns in Michigan’s 49-0 pummeling of in-state rival Michigan State on Oct. 21. The Wolverines had last weekend off.

“Very talented. Can make every throw,” Walters said of McCarthy. “Can get you out of trouble with his legs on the ground. I think that’s where he’s grown this season. Last year he had some questionable decisions at times and tried to make hero plays at times that kind of got them in trouble offensively. You don’t see him making those mistakes this season.”

Corum has piled up 13 rushing touchdowns to go with 605 yards on the ground.

Harbaugh said his team is ready to go after the bye week.

“I think our depth and the health of the team is pretty high right now,” he said. “Couldn’t ask for much better going into this stretch in November.”