Maryland football has a trip to the Big House against the No. 15 Michigan Wolverines on Saturday. To prepare for the Terps’ visit to Ann Arbor, we spoke with Mike Persak of the Michigan Daily. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Jim Harbaugh was brought in to revitalize the Michigan football program. Despite a combined 1-5 record against Ohio State and Michigan State, has Harbaugh been a success through his first four seasons?

Any time you look at the success of Harbaugh so far, it is only fair to look at what Michigan football was before he arrived. They had just gone 5-7 in Brady Hoke’s final year and Harbaugh came in and immediately went 10-3.

Now, I do think that the expectations for the program have risen each season since Harbaugh has been here, and the results have not exactly risen with those expectations. So has he been a success? Yes. But, fairly or unfairly, I think Michigan fans expect to be competing for Big Ten and national championships, and obviously, those goals have not yet been reached.

Michigan had evident quarterback struggles last year but landed Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson in the offseason. How has the offense changed with the key addition?

We heard rumors all offseason that Michigan was going to open up the offense a bit now that they had Patterson under center. Through the first five games, that has kind of happened, though not entirely. They have started to use some RPO-type stuff at times, but the identity of the offense is still the west-coast offense that Harbaugh has always employed. The difference with Patterson is that some of the passing schemes that Harbaugh likes to use are more effective now. Patterson can make every throw on the field, and that has shown itself, especially when he’s forced to scramble and can still hit a guy right in stride.

The new passing dynamic shows up in the stats, as well. Patterson is already on track to blow last season’s passing stats out of the water. So I wouldn’t say the offense looks drastically different schematically, but there is an element of confidence and more playmaking ability that is present this season compared to last.

After an opening week loss at Notre Dame, Michigan has rattled off four wins in a row. How has the team adjusted since the loss?

The most glaring problems Michigan had in the loss to Notre Dame were the offensive line and bad penalties on defense.

Since then, the penalties have persisted, as they’re one of the most-penalized teams in the country, but the offensive line has seemed to improve. In fact, on that second point, I think this past game against Northwestern was the best the offensive line has played this season. All of this does come with the important caveat that Michigan’s opponents have not exactly been the cream of the crop the last four weeks, so it’s still a little unknown whether or not improved play is just a product of dominating lesser teams. Still, the improvement up front has been encouraging.

The penalties are something to watch, though, and we’ll see if they can tighten that up in the next few weeks as the schedule gets much tougher. Overall, though, the defense is playing like it was supposed to. It’s the No. 1 total defense in the country right now. And the offense, apart from last week, has put up big numbers against the weaker opponents, which it should. So, I guess that’s a long way of saying they’ve ripped off these four wins thanks to improved play and a weaker part of the schedule, but there are still certainly problem areas.

Apart from defensive lineman Rashan Gary, who are the key players to take note of on Michigan?

Offensively, I think you’ve got to look at running back Karan Higdon. He’s really been a workhorse on that side of the ball, and like I said, even with Patterson, Michigan still wants to run the ball down opponents’ throats. Defensively, Rashan Gary is a stud, but he has been banged up the last couple of weeks, and we’re not totally sure he’s going to play on Saturday. But that defense really is loaded with talent.

Chase Winovich, the other defensive end, is on pace to have one of the best seasons in the history of Michigan football. Linebacker Devin Bush is one of the fastest linebackers you’ll see in college, and he’s had some outstanding games, as expected. The secondary has had some troubles this season, namely in the first quarter against Notre Dame and Northwestern and the third quarter against SMU, but there’s still a bunch of talent back there.

Michigan wins the game if…

Michigan wins if they can avoid the slow starts they had against Notre Dame and Northwestern, they can stop Maryland’s run game and the offense can get enough out of the passing game so that they don’t have to rely solely on Higdon’s production.

Maryland wins the game if…

Maryland wins if they come out of the gates red hot and scores first, and the defense can get enough pressure on Patterson to make life hard for him. That’s what really plagued Michigan against Notre Dame specifically, but teams haven’t been able to get a great pass rush against Michigan since then, so I think that’s a key to giving the offense troubles.