Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker may have taken a slight lead over Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud in the Heisman Trophy race this past Saturday, leading the No. 6 Volunteers to their first win over No. 3 Alabama in 16 years.
In my eyes, however, there’s a clear No. 3 in the race for college football’s most prestigious award that emerged following a big day against a top 10 opponent Oct. 15 — Michigan running back Blake Corum. And after the Wolverines’ 41-17 win against No. 10 Penn State, I believe Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has his best offense in eight seasons in Ann Arbor.
I’d even go so far as to say it’s the program’s best since 2006, the year they entered Ohio Stadium ranked No. 2 and faced the No. 1 Buckeyes in what is now renowned as “The Game of the Century.”
Michigan’s rushing attack now ranks top 10 nationally both in yards per game and yards per carry. For his part, in just seven games Corum has picked up 901 rushing yards, rattling off 6.2 per tote. He leads the country with 13 rushing touchdowns.
His biggest rushing days came at the most important moments. Corum gashed Maryland for 243 yards in a tight 34-27 win for the Wolverines, then notched a 166-yard, two-touchdown outing against the Nittany Lions.
Second-year running back Donovan Edwards has emerged as a solid spell as well, averaging 7.1 yards per carry with 301 yards total.
Then there’s the slow-but-steady emergence of second-year quarterback J.J. McCarthy, a former five-star recruit who boasts a ludicrous completion rate of 77.1 percent in seven games, only six of which he’s started. That leads the nation by 2.3 percent.
Granted, his yards per attempt is at 9.0, which is just 20th in football, but McCarthy should only grow with more experience. He’s a dual-threat too, averaging 5.3 yards per carry with 153 rushing yards this season.
This all without mentioning the team’s deep stable of wide receivers or road-grading offensive line, which won the Joe Moore Award as the best in college football in 2021. The biggest departure from that unit, center Andrew Vastardis, was replaced by a Rimington Trophy finalist from the transfer portal in Olusegun Oluwatimi. That marks him as one of the three best centers in college football — last season.
Now if the Penn State demolishing is any indication, all the pieces are beginning to fall into place for an elite attack. The Wolverines rushed for no less than 418 yards against the Nittany Lions, and McCarthy finished an efficient 17-of-24 passing.
With the Wolverines up to No. 7 in the country for scoring offense — Michigan hasn’t finished top 10 in that category since before the year 2000 — it’s become clear to me that the biggest remaining regular season test for Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and his new attack awaits in week 13.