The offensive line is still a work in progress
Chris Bryant stepped into the guard position nobly, but there were still growing pains, as he completely whiffed on one pass block and wasn't exactly a dominant pass protector throughout the rest of the game. Michigan even moved tackle Taylor Lewan around to help in the running game. Is this the right combination on the line? Yes, but more on that in the positives.
..and so is Devin Gardner
Gardner didn't turn the ball over for the first time in a long time. He also didn't throw the ball with too much accuracy, connecting with receivers on passes that could have turned into long catch-and-runs had he not put the ball behind them. Maybe I'm nit-picky. Maybe I'm never going to be satisfied. Or maybe, just maybe, Devin Gardner has the kind of potential to be really good and I'm frustrated that it's taking longer for him to get there than we expected.
No turnovers! NO TURNOVERS! I'm laughing hysterically!
Michigan didn't cough up the rock once. Gardner didn't throw any terrible interceptions. No one gave Minnesota the ball on a muffed return or fumble. I've never been so happy to see the number zero on paper.
The defense in general
The unit continues to bend but not break at the beginning of contests, eventually learning the offense its playing against before squeezing the life out of it. Michigan didn't turn the ball over and it only ended up giving up 13 points as a result of it.
How awesome could this unit be when Jake Ryan returns? It obviously depends on how close Ryan is to the Ryan of 2012 when he comes back to the field. Michigan's defense goes from great to almost elite if the SAM linebacker comes back capable of rushing the passer like he did a year ago; it takes a minor step forward if he comes back but is a half-step slower.
Devin Funchess and Jehu Chesson
Everyone is talking about Devin Funchess' plays on the outside, and rightfully so. Al Borges did a wonderful job of moving the 6'4" tight end around on the field, giving Devin Gardner all sorts of defensive backs to pick on by simply darting the ball Funchess' way. The average Big Ten cornerback is probably 5'11", and Borges is finally starting to take advantage of it.
That might not even be the most exciting development on the offense. Jehu Chesson's touches continue to rise, making 3 catches against the Gophers for 33 yards. It's clear that Chesson is still raw, but the more he gets the rock the harder this offense is to defend. Michigan has the opportunity to pair Jeremy Gallon with Funchess and a 6'2" receiver capable of simply running past people in Jehu Chesson.
Chris Bryant and gashing run plays
The running game looked improved against Minnesota, although it remains inconsistent. I think Michigan took a big step forward by removing Miller from the equation to make room for Bryant, who was recruited to do exactly what Brady Hoke wants to do: pound the rock. The line needs more time to mold, but the Wolverines have their starting five.
This game didn't change expectations too much. This team still needs Jake Ryan to make plays when he returns, and it still needs the offensive line to mesh together. Al Borges' new found ability to move his most gifted pass catcher around gives me some hope, as does the emergence of Jehu Chesson, but all of this needs to be taken with a grain of salt until Michigan faces a truer test.
Here's to hoping that Devin Gardner and his offensive line are up to the task in Happy Valley.