Dan: Hello everyone! It's Saturday-Eve once again and for the first time in over a month, we're coming off consecutive victories. I'm Dan, he's Von, and it's time for another Mailing it in. Let's start with some of our "wishes" from last week. I'd say we went 4/6 with Peters going turnover free (1) and throwing for a score (2). The defense forced a huge turnover that broke the game open (3), and we definitely saw a lot of growth in the right direction (4). A breakout game from one of the freshman and an improvement in special teams were the ones we missed on. Let's start with the positives though. Von, what has you the most "amped" coming off of another Little Brown Jug victory?
Von: Quite a bit, honestly. I thought the offensive play-calling was the best its been all season last Saturday. Peters' lone touchdown to Sean McKeon was a beautifully scripted call on a tight end screen after an ineligible man downfield moved Michigan from Minnesota's 2 back to Minnesota's 20. No one saw that coming and that's why it was so successful. I cannot say enough about the run game, too. Higdon and Evans ran through the Golden Gopher's defense all game long, which took a lot of the weight off Peters' shoulders. The defense was spot on again, especially Khaleke Hudson, and the secondary limited Minnesota's star receiver Tyler Johnson to 1 catch for 29 yards. There are a lot of positives from this game, Dan. What has you most amped?
Dan: The "right" answer is probably Khaleke Hudson but I've been beating that drum all year. At this point, I think there's a stronger argument in favor of him being a better viper than Peppers was than vice versa. Obviously Jabrill's overall impact was greater because of offense and special teams but Hudson is literally setting records and putting up video game numbers. I'm not sure what the official number is because even the same sources are using different ones, but he has more than 5 sacks (5.5 or 6 I think are the two numbers I’ve seen) and leads the Big 10 in tackles for loss. Knowing all that, I'm going to echo you with the play calling. Drevno kept the defense off balance early and then FINALLY stuck with the run once it got going rather than repeating the Rutgers first half or MSU second half. That was a revelation. Cesar Ruiz played well for a true freshman making his first start and JBB continues to be a bulldozer at right tackle. It makes me wonder why the two of them weren't manning the right side earlier this year.
After Penn State, Nick wrote an article about Michigan fans losing faith in Harbaugh's process. At the time I somewhat disagreed with the premise and thought the frustration was tied closer to Harbaugh's own reluctance to embrace said process. It definitely appears as if, for the most part, the fan base has decided that the sky may not be falling after all.
Von: Well, Big Mike Onwenu will more than likely be back this weekend, and I like what I've seen from him this season. It took him a bit to get everything down, but he is one hell of a run blocker. Ruiz gave up a monster sack to Peters, who was almost killed on that play it seemed like, and he was benched for a bit after that. His future is at center next season, there's no question about it, but I do like what I saw out of him for the most part at right guard. Now, about the fan base — this is how a lot of fan bases are.
We've seen it from Ohio State this season after the big losses to Oklahoma and Iowa. Message boards across the World Wide Web are littered with "Urban is failing us!" and "He needs to be fired NOW!" Paul Finebaum even said Meyer is underachieving at Ohio State. While it's not surprising to see that clown say anything inept, these takes are simply misguided. Same goes for people saying the same about Harbaugh/Michigan. These things take time, especially with a practically all-freshmen receiving group, a new QB, a pretty young offensive line and a literally brand new starting defense (minus McCray). Rebuilds and down years happen, so if people want to say Michigan is having a "down year" at 7-2 then so be it. I'd say being 7-2 at this point in the season is very nice to build on for next year.
Dan: Those are all great points, but I do want to dig a little bit deeper and maybe elaborate on the point I was making with Harbaugh. While yes, the Florida game (LOL) changed the expectations, I still really believe that a lot of the frustration came from the tension between the overall youth movement and the placement of an ineffective 5th-year senior at quarterback. Brandon Peters' insertion has seemingly changed the entire feel around the program. I'd argue that the tension between win-now and rebuilding having been finally relieved has had almost as significant an impact on alleviating the fan base as the back-to-back victories has. I don't want to dwell too much on this since the page has clearly been turned, but do you think I'm that far off base?
Von: I agree with you 100%. A lot of the frustration was having John O’Korn in there at QB. He doesn't have a future with the program, so why not begin to play Peters more with Speight injured? They inserted him in a bit too late in my opinion, so now that Michigan is beating these teams they should win against, they are once again doing it in dominating fashion with the young gun at QB. It seems to have lifted a bit of the frustration from the fan base, but there will always be some still hanging around. If you were Harbaugh, when would you have started Peters?
Dan: I want to answer this in two ways because of how much noise and rumor mill fodder has surrounded this kid since the spring. 1) If he was behind O'Korn because of some attitude issue after losing out on the starting job, then obviously he should've been inserted against Purdue. I hate rewarding that type of alleged behavior, but you have to play the best guy. 2) If this was — and the coaching staff has said this — a "best chance to win" situation, I think he should've been inserted after JOK's second pick against Sparty or to start the Indiana game. I get there's probably a benefit to [Peters] avoiding Penn State, but goodness this team has played with so much more confidence the last 6+ quarters. I know you said he should've been put in earlier, but when do you think that should have been?
Von: Against Purdue right when Speight went down. JOK didn't do all that much against Purdue anyways; it was another game that was dominated by the rush attack. He would have a hell of a lot more experience at this point in the season, would have played in three (!) road games and maybe, just maybe have beaten MSU. But we will never know, so what's worth speculating?
Dan: Yeah. Me and you were texting earlier in the week about the silliness of that speculation and I think I touched on it in the roundtable. With that said, I do want to run one by you. All teams have injuries, but there's one injury in particular that I think would've made a HUGE difference this year, in part because of the ripple effect. I'm talking about Grant Newsome. Considering what his health would've meant for Mason Cole and the rest of the offensive line's configuration, not to mention Wilton Speight's health/comfort, how different could this season have been had the big guy been able to start the year?
Von: It certainly would have been much different. Mason Cole's home is at center, and although he hasn't been a bad left tackle by any means, he is such a valuable piece calling out protections in the middle. Newsome played so well last season until his awful injury against Wisconsin. The kid has everything you could want in a football player, physically and mentally, and he is going to be a fantastic addition next season when he is able to come back. The pass protection would be light years ahead of what it is now and the run blocking would still be fantastic. Since you're throwing speculation at me, I'm gonna throw one at you. Let's say Speight is able to come back for the Ohio State game...do you think he comes in over Peters?
Dan: Honestly, my gut says yes. I don't think Speight should play this year, but that's more a concern for his overall health. Think about how close 3 broken vertebrae could've been to something long-term and serious. Is he really going to be physically ready for the size and speed of OSU after 2 months? I wouldn't play him until he's more than 100%. Rushing him back from injury last year clearly had some lasting effects going into this year and I'd prefer to avoid that. Now, if Peters melts down against Wisconsin, then I think you might want to consider it. Freshman QB or not, two bad losses going into the bowl game can absolutely ruin a season. Look at Jim McElwain at Florida. The yearly stompings courtesy of Alabama and Florida State played a large part in the "swamp" that led to his firing. As big a Speight fan as I am, I would like to see Peters take hold of this job.
Staying on Peters and looking ahead to Maryland... We know that this running game can be absolutely dominant, comically at times. I don't want to see that this week. Frankly, I want to see Peters throw the ball around. Maryland has had a ton of injuries and isn't really a threat at this point in the year. Does any part of you want to see Peters get some more chances through the air this week in what should be a comfortable win?
Von: For sure, and I think we will see him sling the ball deep more in this one. Maryland's secondary has some injuries (like the rest of its team), resulting in the second-worst pass defense in the conference. Although I think the run game will be great once again, I could see Peters launching some deep balls just to test the Terrapin's secondary and to get some confidence in his deep ball and his receivers. And at this point in the season, why not do that? Michigan is not fighting for a spot in the playoff, so the coaching staff should put some faith in their passing game and get these guys ready for next season by having them go deep and mixing up the offense a little bit. There is literally nothing you can lose by having Peters throwing the ball all over the field and just seeing what he and the receivers can do.
Dan: We're completely on the same page. It reared its head against Penn State, but this offense has not shown the ability to get the passing game going when it needs to this year. Let's wrap this up the way we've done the few weeks. What are your 3 Sunday morning storylines?
Von: 1) Peters is once again turnover free and throws for more than 200 yards and 2 touchdowns. Having zero turnovers in your first road start would be great for the young QB. 2) I want to see Nordin/Robbins have drastically improved games. Nordin missed another field goal and extra point last weekend, while Robbins and the punting group rank 12th in the conference for average yards per punt (36.8), so I want to see improvement from these two. Finally, 3) Michigan's defense forces two or more turnovers en route to the victory. The Michigan defense hasn't forced two or more turnovers since the Indiana game, and one of them was a pick on the final play of the game in overtime. I would love to see the secondary get some more interceptions, because it hasn't happened all that often recently. What are your 3 headlines, man?
Dan: You stole my first two! With Robbins, I'd rather just throw interception-punts at this point. His lack of yardage is less than ideal. I'll go with these instead. 1) Donovan Peoples-Jones gets into the end zone. I want this to be on offense, but it also feels like he's close to breaking off a punt again. It'd be nice to see him have a 5-catch, 70-100 yard performance with a score. 2) Metellus and Kinnel showing some improvement in coverage would help ease some of my concerns going into the final two games. The middle of the season has not been overly kind to either of them in the passing game. Finally, 3) I hope Hudson follows up his breakout game with another solid one. I don't want to see a let down from him.
As always, leave a comment and we’ll try our best to answer any questions. Have a great weekend everyone and Go Blue!