Wilton Speight

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Jim Harbaugh: Wilton Speight starter for now; competition still on

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Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight did not have a terrific showing in the spring game last weekend, but head coach Jim Harbaugh says he is still the top quarterback on the depth chart coming out of the spring. That said, Speight could be under pressure to keep it once the summer rolls along and the 2017 season gets underway.

“It’ll always be (a competition,)” Harbaugh said when speaking to the media, according to a Detroit Free Press report from Mark Snyder. “Still over the course of the whole spring practice, Wilton on our depth chart, he’s No. 1. But it’s a meritocracy. By your effort and by your talent you will be known. That’s a good thing for our football team.”

Harbaugh’s comments are none to surprising. The 2017 season could be a slight step back for Michigan coming off a big step forward for the program in 2016, but Harbaugh has always been one to ramp up the competitive fire in the program. It has not led to a Big Ten division championship yet, but there is no question it has helped get Michigan back on the right track as a program. No position is considered safe under Harbaugh, who will focus on playing the best possible players at every position for a chance to improve as a team and win games. That’s his job, after all.

Speight played 12 games for the Wolverines last season. In those 12 games, Speight passed for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns while completing 61.6 percent of his pass attempts and was picked off seven times. Other options that could replace Speight if a chance is deemed necessary would include senior John O’Korn (who previously started at Houston) and Brandon Peters, who was also less-than-impressive in the Michigan spring game.

Reports: Michigan adding former Harbaugh assistant Pep Hamilton to staff

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The Michigan Wolverines are reuniting head coach Jim Harbaugh with one of his former assistants. Pep Hamilton will reportedly be leaving the Cleveland Browns to head Michigan’s passing game and take on a role as assistant head coach. Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports and Adam Schefter of ESPN were among the first to report the coaching news.

Hamilton was previously a part of Harbaugh’s coaching staff in Stanford and is credited with helping in the development of Andrew Luck at Stanford. Hamilton will fill the vacancy on the Michigan coaching staff left by Jedd Fisch, who has moved on to take on the role of UCLA offensive coordinator. The early indications are this new hire is being received well, especially from Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight.

Consider this Harbaugh’s biggest win against the state of Ohio since taking over the job of head coach in Ann Arbor.

No. 2 Ohio State clips No. 3 Michigan in overtime classic; waiting for Big Ten East continues

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No. 2 Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) battled its way back from a double-digit lead in a game that saw Urban Meyer outcoached by Jim Harbaugh for much of the afternoon, and came away with a wild victory in double overtime that will be remembered for years to come. Ohio State’s double-overtime victory over No. 3 Michigan (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) moved Ohio State one step closer to an appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game next weekend, but the Buckeyes no longer control the fate of the division. Instead, the hopes of a Big Ten East Division crown rest in Happy Valley, where Penn State is taking on Michigan State.

Curtis Samuel ripped off a 15-yard walk-off touchdown run after Ohio State managed to survive by the slimmest of distances on a fourth down play. JT Barrett took the ball and ran for a hard-fought first down on a fourth and one play, down 27-23. Forward progress would come into play to help the Buckeyes stay alive, giving Samuel a chance to celebrate a wild win. And wild it most certainly was.

Barrett took the ball up the middle for a touchdown run on Ohio State’s first possession of overtime, but it was Michigan that would pull out the fourth down dramatics with the game on the line at the end of the first overtime. On fourth and goal, Wilton Speight connected with Amara Darboh in the back of the end zone to keep things going, with a successful PAT to tie the game and force a second overtime. The Wolverines struck first in the second overtime with a 37-yard field goal by Kenny Allen, which set up the situation for all the marbles and bragging rights for a year for the Buckeyes.

Special teams was a disaster for the Buckeyes all afternoon. Tyler Durbin missed two field goals, including a supposed chip shot in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game at 17-17. It missed wide left, just as a field goal try in the first half sailed on the opening offensive series for Ohio State. Punter Cameron Johnston was stopped well shy of a first down on a bizarre fourth-and-seven fake punt attempt from the Ohio state 19-yard line. Michigan’s offense took advantage of the short field position with a Khalid Hill touchdown pass from Wilton Speight five plays later, building a 10-point advantage (17-7) early in the third quarter.

Barrett ended the day with 124 passing yards and a game-high 125 rushing yards. Michigan was limited to 91 rushing yards as a team. Ohio State had just 81 yards of offense in the first half but ended the game with 330-310 advantage in total offense. For Michigan, turnovers were the difference, with three turnovers leading to 14 points, including a first half pick-six.

Special teams also cost Ohio State at the end of the first half. After Malik Hooker picked off a pass by Speight and returned it a short distance for Ohio State’s first score of the game, Jabrill Peppers returned the ensuing kick to the Michigan 45-yard line, giving the Wolverines great starting field position late in the first half to answer. They did just that with a well-run touchdown drive to turn a 7-3 deficit into a 10-7 halftime lead.

With the win, Ohio State now must wait to see how Penn State does against Michigan State this afternoon. If Penn State beats the Spartans, then the Nittany Lions will play for the Big Ten Championship thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker with Ohio State. That will conclude Ohio State’s regular season at 11-1, but the Buckeyes may still be in an excellent position to secure a College Football Playoff berth after entering this weekend ranked second behind Alabama. It is unlikely Ohio State will fall in the rankings and should feel good about their odds of being chosen for the playoffs even as a non-division champion. It would be the first time a non-division (and non-conference) champion would reach the College Football Playoff in its third year of operation.

Michigan should still be an attractive option in the New Years Six bowl line-up, perhaps for the Rose Bowl, but that may also depend on what happens with Penn State. Whatever happens, the Wolverines will be a very formidable foe for whomever they face in the bowl season. And who knows, maybe crazy things happen and Michigan sneaks right back into the playoff picture?

Michigan powers ahead of Ohio State just before halftime

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Malik Hooker picked off a poor pass over the middle under duress from Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown late in the first half. It was the only touchdown of the half for either team,but the Wolverines responded in the final minutes to take a 10-7 halftime lead in Ohio Stadium in a crucial game for Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff scenarios.

After it seemed Ohio State scored a momentum-shifting touchdown, Michigan answered in a big way. Jabrill Peppers returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards to give the Wolverines starting field position at the Michigan 45-yard line, and Speight completed six straight pass attempts to move the ball down to the seven-yard line in the final minute of the half. The Buckeyes buckled down on the next few plays to prevent the Wolverines from pushing across the goal line until third down when Khalid Hill finally pushed one yard for a go-ahead touchdown.

Ohio State whiffed on a chance to pick up points on their first offensive series. Despite working their way 72 yards down the field after starting at their eight-yard line, Ohio State was stopped just inside the red zone and had to settle for a field goal try, but Tyler Durbin pushed his 37-yard try wide left.

Speight had the one costly mistake but has had a solid first half by completing 15-of-20 attempts for 141 yards. Amara Darboh is Michigan’s leading receiver with 47 yards on five receptions. Jake Butt has added 38 yards on three catches as well. Ohio State has managed just 81 yards of offense so far against the Wolverines and will have to find a way to get things going on that side of the football in order to come back, unless the defense can score another touchdown.

A Michigan win would give the Wolverines the Big Ten East Division crown and send them to their first Big Ten Championship Game next week in Indianapolis to play Wisconsin. If Ohio State battles back and wins, it opens the door for Penn State later this afternoon to wiggle their way to Indy.

No. 3 Michigan makes turtle soup of Maryland, 59-3

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No. 3 Michigan (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) had absolutely no problem with their latest opponent, Maryland (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten). The Wolverines picked up a 59-3 victory over Maryland to remain undefeated this season and also assuring Michigan fans another week of steep discounts on steak dinners.

A week after handling Michigan State, it has become more and more clear there is almost nobody in the Big Ten that can slow down Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines. Maryland was down 45-0 before managing to put a measly three points on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. Can we just fast forward to Michigan-Ohio State already?

Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight had a big afternoon, completing 19 of 24 passes for 362 yards and two touchdowns and a rushing touchdown before getting the rest of the game off. Jehu Chesson (112 yards, 1 TD) and Amara Darboh (77 yards, 1 TD) and Jake Butt (76 yards) were Speight’s top targets. De'Veon Smith carried the football 19 times for 114 yards and three scores.

Maryland lost quarterback Perry Hills to an apparent injury in the first half, and Caleb Rowe was unable to lead the offense against Michigan to much success. Rowe was picked off twice and completed just 12 of 23 pass attempts for 203 yards. Hills became the ninth quarterback this seaosn knocked out of a game by Michigan’s defense. An arguably late hit on Hills was uncalled by Big Ten officials in this one.

Michigan may face an interesting challenge next week when the Wolverines leave the state of Michigan for just the second time all season. Michigan plays at Iowa next Saturday night. The Hawkeyes will be coming off a primetime road game at Penn State. Iowa has held four opponents to fewer than 10 points in a game this season, although Michigan will pose the biggest challenge to the Hawkeyes they have faced all season.

Maryland’s quest for postseason eligibility will not likely be very easy the next couple of weeks. Maryland hosts Ohio State next week and travels to Nebraska the following week. Maryland’s bowl hopes may just have to be on the line in the regular season finale at home against Rutgers.