clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What We Learned: MSU Week

It was a devastating loss that'll be defined by an unfathomable play, but there was much more to it than that bobbled snap. Can Michigan hang with the big boys? Should fans be excited about the future? Yes and yes.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports


Really? Do I have to write this? Okay, before I go on, I must say that I have looked forward to writing this column each week. This time, it's different though. Yeah, Michigan lost, but it isn't that Michigan lost. It's the way that they lost. As a kid, I would have cried. But, as a Michigan and Detroit fan, I have developed pretty thick skin. Even so, this loss was a punch in the gut. I was at the game, and, after the play, I just stood up and stared at the field for a solid five minutes with my jaw dropped. This one will take some time to get over, and it doesn't help when the final play is shown over and over, everywhere you look.

This team is so much better than they were the last few years. There were 146 plays in this game, and JUST ABOUT EVERY OTHER ARTICLE THAT YOU READ will focus on the last one. So I'll balance it out by talking about the first 145. The good news is that the days of getting pushed around and manhandled by MSU are over. Who would have ever thought Michigan would hold their own on both sides of the line of scrimmage in this matchup given the last few years? Michigan won the rushing battle and got to the quarterback more frequently than MSU. We've seen the negative rushing totals from previous years. We've seen the "no offensive touchdown for Michigan against MSU" streak go on and on. We've seen MSU be able to score at will on this team. But yesterday showed that those days are over.

Michigan's defense never allowed a run longer than 11 yards, and MSU averaged only 1.8 YPC. Michigan found ways to move the ball on offense, which they hadn't done in recent years against MSU. The offensive line gave Rudock time to throw all day. Michigan absolutely wrecked MSU on special teams as well, until the final play. These are all things that would have never happened in recent years, and they're happening now with basically the same roster that Michigan had last season.

Michigan's deficiencies were on display. Wouldn't it have been nice to have a big time go-to receiver on Saturday? A guy like Braylon or Manningham? Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh make the occasional big play, but neither has the speed necessary to be a true No. 1 receiver. Jake Rudock played well enough to get the win, but wouldn't it be nice to have a true pro-style QB like MSU has in Connor Cook? A guy who can seamlessly throw the deep ball in exactly the right spot every time he has a pocket from which to throw?

Mark Dantonio has had eight years to turn MSU into what it is now. Jim Harbaugh inherited a decent collection of talent with some highly ranked prospects, but it is not a complete group. It probably doesn't help the receiver corps that the previous wide receivers coach thought speed was overrated.

Jabrill Peppers is amazing. He was hitting hard on defense, as always. He set Michigan's offense up with some very short fields on special teams in both kick return and punt return situations.

And then he got in on offense. Both plays he touched the ball, he outran defenders and made people miss. He could be just the offensive spark this team needs in games where points are at a premium. And though he saw the field only enough to get two touches, Michigan has the bye week now. There is plenty of time to work him into the offense. The idea of Michigan's fastest and most elusive player seeing the ball on offense is a nightmare for opposing coaches.


OSU figured out that they have a great quarterback in J.T. Barrett. I was really hoping this discovery would come on November 29th, after Cardale Jones gave Michigan the win. But today was meant to be a bad one for Michigan fans from beginning to end because J.T. Barrett looked sensational in OSU's easy win over Penn State. So OSU will be tougher now that the Cardale experiment likely is over. The threat of Barrett running kept PSU's defense on their heels. This allowed Ezekiel Elliott to do Ezekiel Elliott things, which had not really been the case with Cardale lining up behind center.

But who else besides OSU can beat MSU? If Michigan wants to win a conference title in Jim Harbaugh's first year -- spoiler alert: they do -- they need to run the table and hope MSU loses two games at some point. The obvious one is at OSU on November 21st. Buuuut they'd need another loss, too. The main candidate is at Nebraska on November 7th. Nebraska is starting to gel on offense as they put up 48 points AT Minnesota this past weekend. Speaking of Minnesota...

Minnesota has to host an angry bunch of Wolverines on Halloween, and they aren't exactly looking strong heading into it. Both Michigan and Minnesota are on bye this week. I'm not really sure what to think of Minnesota. On the one hand, they gave national title contender TCU all they could handle in Week 1, and they manhandled Purdue, 41-13. However, they also got shutout at Northwestern, and they gave up 48 points at home on Saturday. I don't know if it matters which Minnesota team shows up. I'll take Michigan by double digits over either of them.