The sure thing wasn’t so sure, and the question mark is no more. Two experiments were on display with one showing success and the other a dismal failure. Michigan was everything we hoped for and everything we feared. In the end, the Wolverines walk away with a 51-7 victory and a 1-0 record.
Offense: C QBs: C OL: B WR & TE: B RB: A-
Yes, a team that put up double digit points each quarter is getting a C. I might let you talk me into a C+, but I stand by C. There was too much hype about this team’s offense; there was too much hype about the wide receiver room; and there was too much angst and confusion over the QB1 situation. Despite all of the weapons and hopes of being a juggernaut, Michigan is the same old Michigan: run, run, run, oh crap we might need to pass.
The biggest disappointment on offense is that they had to settle for three field goals. One of these field goals came after a near pick six that nearly ended in a return pick, which was overruled by instant replay. The offense had some big plays, but it also had some poor moments where they struggle with cohesion on the line. The offensive line is supposed to be one of the best in the country and had short stretches where they couldn’t open holes. Some of this can be explained by the fact that Michigan abandoned the pass game after McNamara’s shaky start.
Harbaugh’s decision to not pass more is concerning. Michigan sports a host of dynamic wide receivers and some solid backs that can catch. Also, Michigan might have two of the ten best tight ends in the country. Despite this embarrassment of riches, no player caught more than two passes on a day Michigan once again had more rushing yards than passing. Michigan needs to be able to mix up their play calling more. Running the ball exclusively just allows teams to load up on the front, which happened at points in the game.
The biggest experiment in college football is the split McNamara-McCarthy battle. It turned out awfully for Michigan. McNamara was an emotional wreck and threw the ball worse than he ever did last year. McCarthy spent most of his time running the ball or handing it off, which is no change from how he was used last year. Can Michigan survive with a scared veteran QB and a non-passing QB? Why did the third string QB pass more than our QB of the present and future? Hopefully, this gets ironed soon.
Defense: A DL: A + LB: B Secondary: B+
I was tempted to go A- due to some early struggles to defend the Air Raid Offense, but the look on Cade Millen’s face sealed the A. Despite Millen completing 80% of his passes, the poor guy is going to need long term therapy. The Michigan line just kept coming and coming. The Wolverines nearly recorded double digit sacks and had numerous hurries. Credit to Millen as he would break a tackle, but he would then be met by multiple more defensive linemen. So much for Michigan being weak at the front after Ojabo and Hutchinson went pro. The defense even managed a couple of takeaways, one of which want to the house.
One of the experiments that actually did work was the Mike Sainristil to defensive back. Sainristil was active in multiple plays in the first half and looked like what you would expect out of a senior. Credit to the coaching staff and Sainristil for this transformation. There is a little work in the secondary and linebacker rooms as Colorado State found ways to sneak into middle of the field off of drag routes and Millen was able to scamper for a few good runs- linebackers have to be a little better here. The secondary did have the deep ball mishap in the 4th, but the score came against the second string. Still, this was a massive win for a defensive that came in as a question mark.
Special Teams: A+
Joe Taylor showed why he is one of the best kickers in the country as he showcased a perfect day on six extra points and three field goals. He turned all of his kickoffs into touchbacks. Punter Brad Robbins was a winner for his 47 yard average and for sporting one of the best mustaches in the game (frankly, special teams will get an A+ every week that the stache stays). The punt team allowed a total of zero yards on two returns. The punt return had a close moment with a silly decision that almost ended up in a fumble, but CSU had touched the ball first. All in all, this was about as close to a perfect day as one could get.