Welp, a lot happened since Saturday night. What concerns you more: Speight’s injury, or the poor performance by team and staff?
Zach: Speight's injury. The Iowa game looked bad for a lot of reasons, but the biggest was that the offense just flat out looked discombobulated. Not having the starting quarterback going forward is another hurdle that this group is going to have to clear. I'm not worried about another 200-ish yard performance just yet, but Michigan's offense has relied a lot of Speight to make plays to extend drives. If O'Korn can't replicate some of that, we could see an offensive performance that is productive, but not the steamrolling death-machine that it looked like Michigan had through the end of October.
Kyle: As much as you have to trust Harbaugh and this group of veteran players, Michigan did not look great on Saturday and were remarkably poor in many areas. The offensive playcalling and execution were not there, and a healthy Speight would not be enough to fix those problems. The injury is concerning, but that alone is not the problem going forward.
Garrett: Speight's injury is something that can be overcome, and if we get critical, it's far from the only thing threatening a deep post season run. Michigan's offensive line really needs to bring their game up a notch or two. If they can find enough cohesion to consistently get Smith and Evans and Isaac to the second level, they'll be hard to beat.
Kevin: I want to believe the staff had a solid game plan for that game that just didn't get off the ground once it became apparent Iowa was prepared. If Speight connects on even two of those missed throws downfield, he's probably not throwing on that final drive. His injury is worrying. Harbaugh himself said the team's goals are still in front of them, but this could derail the whole thing. I'd feel better if O'Korn had been given more game reps during all these lopsided wins, but if anyone can pull out a miracle, it's this staff. Speight came in and defied the odds against Minnesota, so it's entirely possible O'Korn has the magic for these final two games.
Trevor: Speight's injury should be a major cause for concern. But like many others, I have trust in Harbaugh and O'Korn and I am not terribly worried. Yes, we would be much better off with our season long starter, O'Korn will be able to do enough to beat the Hoosiers. While the showdown in Columbus is a whole new ball of wax. The thing that worries me the most about this team is the run defense, Akrum Wadley had his way with UM. Its terrifying to imagine what the Alabama o-line and Damien Harris/Bo Scarborough would do against UM if they wound up meeting each other at some point.
Assuming O’ Korn is now the guy, what’s the plan to meet that simple goal of “win and in” these final weeks?
Zach: I think the plan is largely the same. Michigan will do its best to put emphasis on running the ball effectively and controlling the game that way, but will use its quarterback to take shots down the field occasionally and move the chains on third-down. The playbook won't be as wide open for JOK, but I don't think there are any deviations from what we've seen over the last two months.
Kyle: Speight succeeded with the short passes, and O'Korn should continue to utilize this strength as long as it is available. However, Speight had more misses downfield than successes, and a reintroduction of big plays into the offense could be a huge asset going forward. Use O'Korn's mobility to open up for some deep shots and make the most of the excellent pass-catching trio.
Garrett: I think The Plan will end up being too many conservative play calls against Indiana. I would like to see The Plan be a path to a quarterback controversy. If all we have to talk about the next few weeks is whether or not O'Korn should have been the starter all season, Michigan will be in a good position.
Kevin: Coach Fisch might have to be the one to really show his genius. They aren't going to give O'Korn the whole playbook, so they should stick with what works. There's a big pool of talent to utilize, so in a way it's the same blueprint they entered the season with after Speight earned the job. Hate to say it, but Ohio State knows something about scrambling to make a game plan for a QB thrust into the starting job late in the season. At least Michigan has a buffer game! And then again, this could all be for naught. Speight may not be seriously injured, and this was all a weird ploy.
Trevor: O'Korn can play game manager against Indiana. Taking few risks and letting his more talented squad get the W. Against the Bucks and possibly in the Big Ten title game he will have to take risks and make big plays at important moments. Assuming Speight is out for the rest of the year, this is really becoming a 'champ' or 'chump' situation for O'Korn here as he takes the wheel for Michigan.
The College Football Playoff is in a strange spot right now. Think about some wacky outcomes or even some suggestions for the committee as the end of the season gets closer.
Zach: Right now I am comforted by the fact that if Michigan falters, there is a good chance the Big Ten blows this whole thing up and either sticks two teams in the playoff or OSU loses out. Either outcome is going to piss off a lot of people. If I can't have nice things, why should anyone else?
Kyle: There is a lot of talk about conference championships and whether or not that should be a requirement. In the first two seasons this did not really come into play, but 2016 looks like that could be a big factor. The precedent set by the committee this season will have big implications going forward, so they would be wise to make some clear statements early on and stick by them.
Garrett: Michigan lost to Iowa, who lost to Penn State, who lost to Pitt, who lost to OK State, who lost to Central Michigan, who lost to Western Michigan WHO IS UNDEFEATED AND OBVIOUSLY THE SECOND BEST TEAM IN THE COUNTRY.
Kevin: Not even 24 hours after asking this question, Louisville played themselves right out of consideration down in Houston. That leaves the door open for Washington to get back in if Clemson stumbles again, assuming the Huskies win out. The wackiest of outcomes could be if Alabama decides to lose the SEC championship game, that throws Clemson, Michigan, Washington, Ohio State, maybe even Penn State and Colorado into a free-for-all. Sorry, Western Michigan. The committee has to stick to their criteria and keep placing importance on strength of schedule. Let the head-to-head tiebreakers help sort out the teams, because the conference championship matchups will provide de facto play-ins from the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC. If the Big 12 still had a championship game, West Virginia would be in great shape. Instead, we have a pretty good idea of who the top three are, barring another "everyone loses" weekend, it'll just come down to slotting that fourth team based on that else happens.
Trevor: College Football Playoff will work itself out in the end. The one thorn in this hay stack is Penn State. Imagine if this Penn State team somehow sneaks into the Big Ten championship game, squeaks out a win and makes it to the playoff??? That would be tough for me to watch, I really think Penn State is horribly overrated even though they have been getting the job done in the past few weeks.
Indiana won’t go quietly, so how can Michigan avoid another stunner?
Zach: My totally unscientific assessment of last week's game is that Michigan lost because it failed to get into a rhythm offensively due to a few early mistakes and bad breaks, and that as the game continued Michigan's offensive players tightened up and the offensive coaching staff got in its own head. Throw in the Speight injury and you have a perfect storm of circumstance that sets Michigan up to be in a close game where its offense lacks the ability to close the game out. If Michigan gets past Indiana, its going to need to find a way to score a touchdown early and loosen everyone up a bit.
Kyle: Even if recent scorelines have not shown it, the Michigan defense has been far from perfect. Teams are finding the edge too easily and turning the corner, and Michigan needs to address this issue asap. The linebackers are the group to watch, and their ability to shed blocks and wrap up tackles in space will be essential against the Hoosiers.
Garrett: Honestly, the final score could be 3-2 and I'd be satisfied. As long as Michigan leaves the Big House with at least one more point than Indiana, we'll remain in playoff contention, with everything hinging on The Game.
Kevin: Don't let Kevin Wilson think he has a chance to win. The longer the game goes, the more he'll think that. Get up by a lot early and shut them down so that the coaches can get to work on testing some plays they'll need against Ohio State.
Trevor: Stop the run. Stop Devine Redding. Pressure the QB. The rest should take care of itself. 3:30 kick in Ann Arbor, this feels a lot more manageable than a night game at Kinnick.
*Kevin checks the current weather forecast for Ann Arbor, sees chance of rain/snow and cold temperatures. OH GOD NO.
What’re ya drinking?
Garrett: I know I've seen Bloomington's own Upland Brewing around here. I'll be looking for one of their sours to go with the feeling in my gut.
KB: I'll be at a tailgate of some sort before the game, and no idea what'll be flowing.
Trevor: Busch Light. All Night.