Will the Wolverines get the respect they deserve?

Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan football team got their signature win this week. The Wolverines absolutely dismantled the 10th ranked Nittany Lions of Penn State. The positive takeaways are legion, while the negatives are very few; still, Michigan is coming off a week where they were penalized for a 31-10 win over a feisty Indiana Hoosiers team. While it depends on how Clemson does this week, this could be a big enough win to boost Michigan back into the Top Four.

The case for Michigan to go back into the Top Four:

Michigan just took a Penn State team that had the fifth best run defense in the country to the woodshed. Blake Corum is Blake Corum, so no one should be shocked at his 166 yards and two touchdowns. Still, he was the second most productive running back on the team; Donovan Edwards rumbled for almost 11 yards per carry in route to a 173 yard, two touchdown game. The offensive line absolutely dominated one of the best run defenses. There were big plays galore for the run game- even JJ McCarthy ran for almost 60 yards.

The defensive line didn’t put up gawdy sack numbers, but they shut down a Penn State run attack where two running backs would flirt with 100 yards in the same game: Singleton and Allen combined for 35 yards. There was enough pressure on Sean Clifford that he left the game with an injury, but he was ineffective the majority of the game. Honestly, take away one run by Clifford, and the Wolverines only give up three points on defense.

This was a signature win. Were the Nittany Lions a Top 10 team? Maybe not, but they were undefeated and ranked it. Michigan was replaced by Clemson because Clemson had two Top 25 wins. While Clemson beat NCST when the Wolfpack was ranked 10th, Clemson only won by ten points; the Michigan victory was easily more impressive than anything that Clemson has. Clemson’s other top win was a shootout against a 21st ranked Wake Forest that Clemson barely pulled out in double OT. Michigan will need the voters to see Clemson’s victory over now 4-3 Florida State for what it was: a team that was far from dominant in its six point victory.

The case against Michigan regaining 4th

The most obvious case for staying put is Clemson did win today. Clemson does have two Top 25 wins to Michigan’s one. The Florida State win isn’t a bad win, and DJU is finally starting to look like the QB everyone thought he would become. Alabama is a wildcard here as well. There is always an Alabama bias, and the loss to Tennessee on the road is probably the best loss in the country this year. Is there a world where the voters keep Bama in the top five? Say Georgia, Ohio St, Tennessee, Clemson, and Bama.

A lot of this is speculation that has nothing to do with Michigan. What from the Wolverine’s performance today would sabotage them jumping up? The play of JJ McCarthy is the most glaring reason. McCarthy’s decision making is questionable at times, as he misses wide open receivers in the middle of the field, and has a penchant for one really bad turnover a game. At times, McCarthy looked good, and he even showcased his legs more today; still, he has a lot of maturing to do yet.

The other big issue that will hold Michigan back is the offensive play calling. Listening to the announcer today illustrated the issue: the announcers were forecasting the play. Everyone is noticing that the Wolverines have tendencies, which is putting the team in situations where they have no margin of error. The play calling in the Red Zone is also glaring. Michigan had to settle for three field goals when mixing the calls up a little could have easily resulted in 12 extra points.

In the End

The voters have shown that struggling in games will get you dropped. For Michigan, it isn’t so much that they are struggling; the issue is that they have an old school, power football mentality. Maize and Blue football is about using a great offensive line- which it was today, running the ball down your throat- which they not only ran the ball down the Nittany Lions’ throats but chose to run it down the throats of the PSU defense’s mother’s throats as well, and play stingy, hard nosed defense-which again, they did. It isn’t always pretty, but the last two years have shown it to be effective; unfortunately, we live in a society where the flashy deep pass is more admirable than the 4.5 yards per carry attack. Regardless, Michigan has a chance to show that last year wasn’t a fluke and that dropping them in the polls was silly if they can waltz into Columbus undefeated. Until then, Michigan gave the exact answer that you would hope for the lack of respect that the AP Poll showed. Now, it’s up to the voters to not buddy up with Bama- they would have two losses if the refs hadn’t blown the safety call in the Texas game- and to give Michigan it’s spot back.

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