Across Enemy Lines: Q & A with The Michigan Daily

By The Daily Illini sports staff

Editor’s Note: Every week The Daily Illini football staff will chat with a sports reporter from the opposing team. This week, our staff talked with Jake Lourim who is the co-managing sports editor for The Michigan Daily.

The Daily Illini: How does this team stay focused after the type of blowout they had against Rutgers?

Jake Lourim: I’ll be interested to see that, actually. The Rutgers game on Oct. 8 was not competitive — the starters came out at halftime — and then Michigan had a bye last week. So the first team really hasn’t played significant snaps since Oct. 1. Like many other coaches, Jim Harbaugh tries to maintain a relentless focus on the next game, and this Saturday we’ll get to see how effective that is.

If I had to guess, though, I’d say there won’t be any letdown. The game will be back at Michigan Stadium on homecoming. The Wolverines will be well-rested after their first time off since a brutal fall camp. And they inched up another spot in the rankings to No. 3, so the College Football Playoff is a more realistic possibility than ever. That has to help in terms of motivation.

DI: What are Jabrill Peppers’ realistic Heisman chances/is he more of a game changer on offense or on defense?

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JL: I think it’s a little early to know Peppers’ exact Heisman chances, but the field has helped him, in my opinion. Over the past few weeks — as Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson lost to Clemson, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson struggled against North Carolina State and Stanford running back Dylan McCaffrey suffered an injury — the other competitors have seen their stock fall, while Peppers’ has continued to rise. He’s playing more offense every week (which I think is essential for the Heisman) and will garner more of the spotlight if Michigan keeps winning. Another important contender is Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, and if things keep going the way they’re going, the edge between Peppers and Barrett might go to whoever wins the game on Nov. 26.

As for Peppers individually, to be honest, I think he’s more of a game changer on special teams. He’s an elite defender, but the Wolverines have a few of those. And he might be their best offensive weapon, but he doesn’t play a ton of offense. On special teams, he’s out there for every punt and kick return and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. If he doesn’t get the chance, it’s because the other team kicks away from him, which usually results in a short punt anyway. I think that’s the biggest difference Peppers makes.

DI: Harbaugh vs. Lovie is a rare CFB matchup between two former super bowl coaches. Do you think that’s on Harbaugh’s mind at all?

JL: It’s tough to tell. Harbaugh often claims to approach every opponent the same way, but I’m sure he has at least made note of it. He didn’t express any memories of coaching against Lovie Smith in the NFL, but Tim Drevno, his offensive coordinator who coached with him in San Francisco, pointed out Wednesday that Harbaugh’s 49ers did play Smith’s Bears in 2012. Harbaugh doesn’t appear to have any noticeable beef against Smith, though.

The scheme clash might be an interesting dynamic. The NFL presence on Michigan’s team is very apparent, from the preparation routines to the heavy use of fullbacks and tight ends. I’ll be interested to see whether both head coaches’ NFL backgrounds shows up in how the game plays out at all.

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