When Ohio State and Michigan meet on Saturday, the Wolverines could be without their most-talented offensive weapon.
Running back and Heisman candidate Blake Corum, who has collected 1,457 rushing yards and 19 total touchdowns this season, ran 18 times for 108 yards and a score in Michigan's 19-17 win over Illinois last weekend but left late in the first half with an apparent knee injury. He returned for one snap in the second half before leaving the game for good.
On Monday, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said he had “no update” on Corum's status for the battle between the Buckeyes and Wolverines on Saturday. However, offensive tackle Ryan Hayes seemed to imply that the team may be without its star tailback on Saturday.
“I think in a game like this, winning the line of scrimmage, winning rushing totals is always a huge factor in the game for us,” Hayes said. “(Corum) is a great player, but I think everyone else is just going to step up with him out, and I think we're up for the challenge.“
Whether or not Corum will actually be out is still to be determined, but Ryan Day will not take any chances. On Tuesday, the Ohio State head coach said he will prepare as if Corum will be in the lineup for Michigan this weekend.
“He's a great player,” Day said of Corum. “We're going to prepare for him to play. We expect him to play, and we'll just do the best we can. They're a very good offense. They have plenty of running backs – plenty of good players. So while he is very, very good, we'll just continue to prepare for all of them.”
Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles echoed Day’s sentiments, saying he will draw up Ohio State's defense as if Corum will be fully healthy and ready to take the lion’s share of the carries for the Wolverines on Saturday.
“We're not spending any time investigating whether he's playing or not. We're just assuming he's going to play,” Knowles said. “He's an exceptional back. ... Very talented.”
In last year’s matchup between Ohio State and Michigan, Corum collected 87 yards on six carries as a complementary back to Hassan Haskins, who rushed for 169 yards and five touchdowns on 28 carries in the Wolverines’ 42-27 win over the Buckeyes.
To stop Corum this season, Knowles said his players will need to be fundamentally sound, remain disciplined and rely on the teaching the defensive coaching staff installed in fall camp and throughout the first 11 games of 2022.
“It has a lot to do with discipline, understanding angles and taking your shot when you have it,” Knowles said. “But (take shots) with the appropriate angles and play hard within the scheme. It has a lot to do with discipline because if you are out of place, he will make you pay for it.
“It's just a matter of habits and everything you've worked for to this point. All your strength training and all the extra work you did over the summer. That all comes to play when push comes to shove.”
This year for Michigan, Donovan Edwards has been the second tailback on the depth chart behind Corum and has rushed 70 times for 471 yards and four touchdowns. However, Edwards' status is also in question on Saturday, as the sophomore missed last week's matchup with Illinois with an injury and has only played in eight of the team’s 11 contests this season.
Should Corum and Edwards be unavailable for the matchup with the Buckeyes, Harbaugh will presumably turn to freshman C.J. Stokes, who has recorded 53 carries for 296 yards and three touchdowns, and junior Isaiah Gash, who has rushed 19 times for 104 yards and two scores, to take over duties in the Michigan backfield.
Ohio State and Michigan will kick off at noon on Saturday, with The Game being broadcast on FOX. ESPN's College GameDay and FOX's Big Noon Kickoff will also attend the matchup to provide pregame festivities.