ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It seems as if every time you look up at the television, Michigan’s offense is scoring points.
It might be a touchdown catch by wide receiver Amara Darboh.
It might be QB Wilton Speight leaping into the end zone.
It might be Kenny Allen kicking a field goal — after missing two field goal attempts Oct. 1 against Wisconsin, Allen is 6 for 6 in his last three games.
It might also be the fact that Michigan is in a stretch where it’s playing against some of the Big Ten Conference’s more downtrodden teams — Rutgers, Illinois, Michigan State and Maryland are all in the bottom five in the conference in scoring defense.
Whatever it is, Michigan is on pace to have one of the most prolific scoring offenses in school history.
“For the whole offense, all during the offseason, we talked about finishing in the red zone,” Darboh said. “Not just coming out with three points. We talked about receivers making big plays, scoring touchdowns, and I think that was a big thing, going into the season, that we wanted to do, was score more points. That was also about guys taking initiative to do that.”
The Wolverines (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten Conference), who play at Iowa on Saturday at 8 p.m., average 48 points a game, and are fourth in the nation in total points scored (432).
“It was a goal,” Darboh said of Michigan’s offense. “It wasn’t talked about, but we talked about finishing, executing and making sure we put points on the board. We knew we had a talented defense, so if we score, we know our defense is going to get stops. That’s how you win games.”
Michigan, which is third in the College Football Playoff rankings, is on pace to score 576 points in 12 games this season. The Wolverines haven’t done that since 1904, when it scored 567 points. Consider: 1904 was about 25 years before Bo Schembechler was born, about 16 years before women fully earned the right to vote in the United States, about three years before the Chicago Cubs won back-to-back World Series and about 108 years before the Cubs won their most recent World Series last week.
Nebraska scored 624 points in 1983 to set the modern-era record for points scored in a 12-game season, but that schedule included a bowl game, a 31-30 loss to Miami on Jan. 2, 1984 in the Orange Bowl.
NCAA records for points in a season
|Number of games||Points||Team||Year|
Fielding Yost’s “Point-A-Minute” offenses at Michigan from 1901 to 1905
|Season||Record||Points scored||Points against|
Yost offered an explanation for his team’s productivity in the 1901 Michigan Daily-News Football Yearbook:
From Michigan’s record book:
From 1901-05, Michigan compiled a 56-game unbeaten streak, a string that still ranks second in the NCAA record books. During this stretch of 50 months when the Wolverines compiled a record of 55-0-1, Michigan outscored its opponents 2,821-40, beating four teams by triple-digit margins. Often forgotten is the fact that Michigan played excellent competition over those years. The winning percentage of its 56 opponents was a combined .695 when their games against U-M are excluded. Of the teams Michigan played from 1901-05, 44 of the 56 finished with winning records on the season, while six teams would have compiled undefeated seasons without the loss to the Wolverines.
Could Michigan’s offense this season rival Yost’s “Point-A-Minute” offense?
Simple math could subtract from that idea; Michigan has 432 points in 540 minutes of play this season, so that’s about 0.8 points a minute.
Even coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t want to elaborate earlier this season when Michigan scored 114 points in its first two games, a 63-3 win against Hawaii and a 51-14 win against Central Florida — an average of just under a point a minute.
“Um … you know, it’s so far, so good,” Harbaugh said Sept. 12.
But will we see a feat on a similar scale this season? In the course of racking up blowout wins in a largely unbalanced schedule, Michigan is on pace to score 576 points (though — and this is firmly tongue-in-cheek — those three missed field goals in Michigan’s 14-7 win Oct. 1 against Wisconsin could throw a wrench into that productivity).
But it’s not just the benefit of a weaker schedule. Michigan has plenty of players to pick from to flex its offensive muscle, as opposed to the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons, when Denard Robinson was the centerpiece of Michigan’s offense.
Michigan has a nation’s best 36 rushing touchdowns … and four backs to choose from. Speight has become one of the Big Ten’s most precise quarterbacks — he leads the conference in pass efficiency (158) — and is in sync with his receivers. And Michigan aims to steamroll its way not only through its regular-season schedule, but into a bowl game, and has its sights set on the College Football Playoff.
“These kind of opportunities don’t come around every single year where you’re undefeated, you’re playing really good football, so we’re not going to take that for granted,” Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers said after Saturday’s 59-3 win against Maryland. “We’re not going to relax a little bit. We’re not going to start patting ourselves on the back. We’re going to continue to work and if anything we’re going to work even harder going forward because we know how much is on the line.”
Michigan’s game-by-game results from 1901 to 1905:
|Buffalo||128-0||Notre Dame (in Toledo, Ohio)||23-0|
|Carlisle (in Detroit)||22-0||Ohio State||86-0|
|At Ohio State||21-0||Wisconsin (in Chicago)||6-0|
|Iowa (in Chicago)||50-0||Oberlin||63-0|
|Ohio Northern||65-0||P&S (Chicago)||72-0|
|Indiana||51-0||At Ohio State||31-6|
|Ferris State||88-0||AMS (Chicago)||72-0|