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What We Learned: Utah and Week One

Lance tells us what he learned from Michigan's season-opening loss to Utah, notes the Big Ten's suckitude in Week 1, and lists his favorite tweets from the week.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports


Michigan fans are a classy bunch, especially when traveling. What could be more fun than running up a $505 tab at a swanky Salt Lake City gathering place? Leaving the server a 594% tip, of course!

I'm sure the server who got the $3000 is having a nice weekend. Well, $3000 before the tax man gets his cut. Not to be outdone, OSU also wants to make sure they pay the local government their dues before they leave Blacksburg, VA. But instead of doing it through leaving a generous tip they are taking care of it through bail posting and police fines.

A tale of two fan bases.

Now onto football. Michigan looks like a team that will keep fighting. There were several times that Michigan just took a punch in the gut. Whether it was the now-infamous Jake Rudock pick-6, Peppers' possibly BS pass interference call to extend a drive, or one of the other turnovers, Michigan didn't quit. This is a deviation from last year, when they would frequently quit. And frequently frustrate us. And frequently help area liquor store owners build huge additions onto their homes.

Michigan doesn't have a Plan B at QB. Three interceptions from Jake Rudock, and Shane Morris didn't even warm up on the sidelines. Whether this will be Rudock's typical game or not remains to be seen. The fact that Harbaugh never really considered putting a reliever in is very telling of Michigan's QB situation - he does not like what he sees behind Door #2. This was further evidenced in Harbaugh pushing the blame off of Rudock in the postgame interview, most likely to keep his confidence up.

The news of Rudock continuing to play, not being pulled, and remaining the future starter is not surprising though. It was his first game for Michigan, he faced a high pressure defense on the road, and played in a stadium with an elevation of 4,657 feet. But the window for people to make excuses for him (like I just did) closed Thursday. With the injury to BYU's Taysom Hill, he has three consecutive home games where Michigan will be the sizable favorite. Rudock and Michigan need to make a statement in those three games, heading into conference play.

Harbaugh and staff didn't magically make everyone better overnight. The interior line is still getting pushed around. The linebackers looked a couple steps slow at times. Wide receivers who weren't recruited to be fast still aren't fast. The running game didn't look like Frank Gore running behind Joe Staley. While Urban Meyer took OSU from 6-7 to 12-0 his first year, he also inherited a team that lost a lot of those games because Tatgate suspensions. They also had a healthy Braxton Miller playing QB. Aaaand you could probably say they didn't play a road game as tough as Utah that season.

However, consider the results from the other Big Ten teams that made coaching changes *this* offseason. Wisconsin got smoked by Alabama. (Ok, most teams get smoked by Bama) Nebraska's defensive woes were painfully obvious in their *home* loss to BYU. Those teams were both much better than Michigan last year, but Michigan has a great chance to be the best of the three this year. It's a one-game sample size, but the signs are there.

There is plenty to be excited about. Jake Butt is awesome, and now he is being utilized. With eight catches for 93 yards and a TD, he is on pace to break his career records in receptions, yards, and touchdowns this season. By Week 3. He's always been talented, he's always found ways to get open, and his hands are extremely reliable.

Jabrill Peppers is faster than everyone and stronger than most. Here is him beating a block, chasing a guy down like Ed Reed would, and then tackling him Ndamukong Suh style:

We like things like that.

In addition to Peppers and Butt, you have Ian Bunting looking sharp at TE, Amara Darboh finding ways to get open, Grant Perry's blocking, the possibility of Drake Johnson coming back at RB soon, Jourdan Lewis locking guys down at CB, and the coaching staff. It's easy to be positive about Harbaugh and staff breaking down film and helping these guys learn how they can get better. Especially when you consider the previous film study regime of Coach Dave Brandon, and his assistant Brady Hoke.

Michigan's defense will keep them in every game. As long as the offense and special teams don't shoot them in the foot, Michigan has a chance in all 11 remaining games. Yes, there are some tough teams in there, but the biggest games are all at home now. Even Hoke never lost to MSU at home, and only lost to OSU once there, on a failed 2 point conversion. There is a difference between keeping them in every game and winning games though. And there will be times that the defense will need to win the games for Michigan, whether it is through generating stops on short fields or forcing turnovers.


Elite MSU defense is probably a thing of the past. Zach Terrell carved up the MSU secondary for 365 yards passing and two TDs. WMU not only rowed the boat, they also flew the plane through the "No Fly Zone". Maybe Pat Narduzzi took the "No Fly Zone" with him to Pittsburgh? Regardless, MSU's defense fell off a bit last year, but they were able to counteract that by outscoring teams. They will be asking even more out of their offense this year. The pass rush will still be a force to be reckoned with, but they are missing the physical corners and flying linebackers who always know where to be. Time will tell if they can get this right by conference play, and more importantly by October 17.

Penn State is a dumpster fire. A game that looked tough when the schedule came out is Penn State. Can one game change that thought completely? It could if you jump out to a 10-0 lead, and then promptly surrender the game's final 27 points to Temple, an "Oh they have a football team too? I thought it was just basketball" school. Highly-touted Christian Hackenberg was atrocious (103 yards on 25 attempts, 0 TD, 1 INT), but he is only partially to blame. His offensive line puts up the resistance of a screen door.

Northwestern could surprise some people. Northwestern defeated Stanford 16-6 at home. Stanford came into the game ranked #21 in the polls and #1 by Desmond Howard.

Hopefully Mr. Howard will be gracious enough to do another interview for this site, even though I pointed that out. It remains to be seen whether Northwestern is good, Stanford is running out of Harbaugh players and wisdom, or it's a combination of both. Their next test is on September 19 against too-good-for-the-Michigan-job head coach David Cutcliffe and the Duke Blue Devils. It will be interesting to see if Northwestern can go on the road and play well there. If so, it could be a tough day for Michigan on October 10, when they face the Wildcats.

OSU can make lots of mistakes and still roll through the first 10 games. They looked sloppy against VT last night, but at the end, they still rolled. #1 team beating unranked team shouldn't be a headline. This game was actually very interesting until VT's quarterback injured his shoulder and got knocked out of the game.That changed the entire tempo of the game. Now their next nine games are a cake walk for them. Then they face the Spartans at home and I don't need to mention who they play in the last game of the season.


It might as well be scientific, VT.