Michigan Football: U-M might need Jabrill Peppers on offense to upset MSU


There’s no question Michigan football wide receiver Amara Darboh’s one-handed circus catch Saturday became an instant internet gem.

It also brought back memories of U-M Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson’s leaping interception at Spartan Stadium back in the Wolverines’ 1997  national co-championship season.

The play by Darboh, and others this fall, are bringing the type of excitement to Ann Arbor that was expected when Jim Harbaugh became head coach after last year’s losing (5-7) season.

The Wolverines are expected to win easily Saturday night ( 8pm ET) when they travel to Maryland as a consensus 15.5 point road favorite.

Too many new faces for Maryland

Maryland defeated Michigan 27-16 in Ann Arbor last season, but the Terrapins are just a shell of the team they were a year ago.

Missing from the offense is starting QB CJ Brown, who was both the Terps’ leading rusher (539 yards) and leading passer (2,288 yards, 13 TDs) last year.  Also moving on was leading receiver Stephon Diggs (62 catches) who was a 5th-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings.

Defensively, Maryland gave up 48 points to Bowling Green earlier this season and 45 last week to West Virginia. On the plus side, punt-return specialist William Lively leads the nation both with two touchdowns and a return average of 28.1.

With its ball-control offense (even without De’Veon Smith who is battling an ankle injury), and the nation’s No. 6 rated defense, No. 22 Michigan should have no problem with Maryland at College Park.

U-M should beat Northwestern too

A win would likely make the Wolverines a favorite with Northwestern (Oct. 10). Defeating the Wildcats would send Michigan into the game with Michigan State game with a 5-game winning streak and an outside chance to upset the No. 2 Spartans at the Big House.

Realistically, Michigan will need another magical catch by Darboh, a nifty grab by TE  Jake Butt or a long run by one of the backs.

The one weapon Coach Harbaugh hasn’t totally unleashed  is Jabrill Peppers, who thus far has only played safety, nickel, cornerback and returned punts and kickoffs. We’ve yet to see him on offense, except on a meaningless end-of-the-game play.

It’s an option

Sep 3, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Michigan Wolverines safety Jabrill Peppers (5) runs with the ball after fielding a kickoff during the second half against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Utah won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

“That’s when we are taking a knee,” Harbaugh told WXYZ-TV’s Brad Galli on the weekly “Inside the Huddle” feature today. “It’s an option. You always want your opponent to think there’s options. Because there always is.”

Having Peppers play offense is no pipe dream.

“It’s rare that somebody does offense, defense and special teams, the rare three-way player.” Harbaugh told mlive.com.  “It’s exciting when somebody’s capable of doing that. They have some real gifts athletically and they’re really smart, sharp to understand three different systems.”

Those close to the 1997 team saw Woodson as a threat to score from anywhere on the field. That season alone, Woodson scored four times, including two TD receptions, one rushing TD and one punt return. He also tallied eight interceptions and 12 catches.

For Peppers his chance could come anytime. “”It’s just game plan,” he said. “When I go into meetings today, I’ll find out where I’ll be. Other than that, I just do whatever I’m asked to do and be as versatile as I can be.”

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