We've had enough time now to digest last weekend's performance against Michigan State. Both sides of the ball can improve and not one player, coach or unit can be blamed for the loss. They win as a team and lose as a team. This is a very important week of preparation and we'll see how this team responds this weekend at Indiana after a tough loss.
S&P+ gives Michigan a 66% chance to beat Indiana, projects U-M will win, 26-19. Considers this to be U-M's most difficult non-marquee game.— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) October 9, 2017
Let's get to it and hand out position grades from this loss against Michigan State.
John O’Korn was in a great position to bring some life and identity to this offense and win with a solid performance against rival Michigan State. It’s hard to put all the blame on him for the result because of the other major issues. He made some poor decisions and throws, which resulted in three interceptions. The majority of his success in the 198 total passing yards came when he escaped the pocket and connected with a player down field. There were also times of hesitation and he ended up getting sacked. The bye week and extra preparation didn't help create any kind of identity from him as a leader. He's getting another chance to take a step forward against a talented Indiana team on Saturday.
Running backs: C-
Karan Higdon performed well, but his 65 yards from 12 attempts allowed him to be the leading rusher for this game. Ty Isaac and Chris Evans were contributing enough for some decent success on the ground before this game, but only had a total of 36 yards combined on Saturday. We've seen moments of optimism throughout the year in this trip of running backs, but there’s got to be one that steps up and creates big plays, since it's been more of a running back by committee at this point.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: D
Both groups struggled at blocking, protection and making plays. Grant Perry and Sean McKeon were about the only players with a decent game. With many young guys and others on the sideline, one may wonder if we see a few new faces in there against Indiana. Nico Collins and Oliver Martin have yet to see the field, but maybe soon.
Offensive line: D+
This was one of the biggest concerns and question marks in August, which continues in October. This group, especially the right side, has a lot of concern. Mason Cole had two costly penalties that put the brakes on their momentum, and the others struggled with no consistency. It felt like the unit was confused, lacked any confidence and were not on the same page. Purdue and Michigan State successfully broke down that right side and made sacks look easy, which you know other teams will feast on if it continues.
2nd half possessions— Eric Upchurch (@EUpchurchPhoto) October 9, 2017
MSU: Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Fumble, Punt, Punt, Punt
Michigan: Fumble, TD, INT, INT, INT, Punt, Punt, end of game
I hope they can make some serious adjustments to avoid future opponents taking advantage of this, but it will be a huge challenge.
Defensive line: A
This unit continued making plays and eliminated success on the ground holding the Spartans to only 158 yards rushing (252 total). Maurice Hurst Jr. had his best games of the year with some monster plays up front and Rashan Gary also did very well with six tackles.
Chase Winovich struggled at times compared to his last few games, but contributed with seven tackles. This group must continue this level of intensity throughout the season hoping for an improved offense that keeps them off the field.
Michigan Defense (Week 6)— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) October 8, 2017
Scoring D: 7th
Total D: 1st
Run D: 6th
Pass D: 2nd
QB Rtg: 4th
This group was led by Devin Bush Jr., once again, with eight tackles, while other guys were nowhere to be found in this group. One player I thought would have come out and played well was Mike McCray. He struggled and so did several others, which allowed the Spartans to create plays on the ground. This group will not be tested as much this week like they will on the road against Penn State, so I hope they can really find opportunities to shut down Indiana and gain some positive momentum going in to (into) Happy Valley. The Barkley vs. Bush show will be entertaining, but let's not look past Indiana just yet.
One group you should look at and be happy with is the secondary. This unit was another question mark entering the season, but they came to play. Detroit native Lavert Hill had a great performance, along with David Long. The Spartans only had 59 receiving yards total mainly due to this unit, especially Hill who had three pass breakups.
Special teams: A-
Another solid game for this group by Brad Robbins, James Foug, and Quinn Nordin. In some difficult conditions, Robins averaged 42.6 yards per punt and Foug had only one kickoff that was returned by Michigan State for short yards. Quinn Nordin added another field goal early in the game making it 12 for the year.
I laugh when I see people compare Jim Harbaugh to Brady Hoke’s coaching career at Michigan. There is nobody else that should be coaching this young team right now, and I think the 2017 season expectations are still doable, however the loss made it more difficult.
This is a great video worth watching.
If you're down on Michigan...Russillo will buy all of your Jim Harbaugh stock pic.twitter.com/aB4QQc951Y— The Russillo Show (@RussilloShow) October 9, 2017
You cannot blame the loss all on the coaches, but I feel the play calling is lacking some creativity. It may be based on the offense trying to find an identity and with so many first year players it's not coming together yet.
It is not blasphemous to say Jim Harbaugh needs to coach better. And, yes, you can say this without also claiming 11 people need to be fired— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) October 9, 2017
The offensive struggles have created such a huge hurdle for the program, and is truly what will hold this team back from exceeding expectations earlier than expected.