Despite being a day late due to travel/illness, I told y’all I would never give up an opportunity to use this GIF, and today remains no exception to that rule. Michigan completely undressed Penn State from the first two drives of the game until the half-backups/half-starters gave up a garbage time touchdown with time ticking down.
A friend and I were lucky enough to be able to make the trip up this weekend, and to say Ann Arbor was electric would be an all-time understatement. The campus had an air of confidence and bravado that wasn’t there during my four years. Penn State was not the team that gave Don Brown nightmares a season ago. They were just the next stop on the revenge tour, and their menu called for extra pain.
This was maybe the most petty night of Harbaugh’s Michigan tenure, and that’s saying quite a bit. Clearly, the players, coaches, and administration were ticked off with how James Franklin and his staff handled the 2017 game. Saturday night was all about the Nittany Lions’ comeuppance. Whether it was Mo Bamba being blared over the loudspeakers or “We Own Penn State” or Harbaugh challenging an obvious catch if for no other reason than to make James Franklin stand in the cold down 42-0 for but a few more minutes. It was awesome in every single way. Whether it’s PSU’s history of immoral ignorance or Franklin’s own misguided arrogance last year, this was a perfect Saturday in Ann Arbor.
The Big House crowd “We own Penn State” pic.twitter.com/ll7WVjYaGt— David Noe (@DavidRNoe) November 4, 2018
Michigan ran for three scores, threw for two and got the final one on defense. Brown’s army held another Big Ten starting quarterback under 100 yards and lived in the backfield throughout, totaling five sacks. By the time Harbaugh called a couple dogs off, you got the sense if this game had another quarter left, the Wolverines would’ve added at least another two touchdowns. Penn State was tired and broken. Watching this game start to unravel, you just knew. Kind of like... Moving on.
Let’s start with defense this week because I feel like we take them for granted sometimes.
I have no idea how you handle Michigan’s front. The Wolverine’s two highest rated defensive line recruits from the Harbaugh era don’t even play on passing downs. One of these guys is a projected first round pick, and he’s often used as a two-down lineman here. Josh Uche’s emergence as an elite pass rusher has been one of the more underrated stories of the year, and he now has seven sacks in his last five Big Ten games. Throw in the ever-reliable Chase Winovich, the blossoming Kwity Paye, and Michael Dwumfour, and you get what you got Saturday.
Michigan's third-down rush line of Winovich-Paye-Dwumfour-Uche was too much for Penn State.— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) November 4, 2018
Here, PSU slides the protection toward Winovich/Paye. Dwumfour and Uche run a stunt. No chance.
This is a problem for offensive lines. pic.twitter.com/tUchtN1kzc
Michigan’s best rushers from the “back seven”, Khaleke Hudson and Devin Bush, have been allowed to follow receivers and play spy/zone roles with the defensive line beasting the way it’s been. Bush in particular has really shined as an all-around linebacker with skills at the line of scrimmage and in coverage.
Brandon Watson got beat once, but made up for it with a pick six. Otherwise, besides a couple slant passes, Penn State couldn’t do anything through the air. You’re either throwing at Lavert Hill with safety help up top or David Long on an island. Neither of those are good options, and the struggles of Lewerke, McSorley, and Hornibrook paint a brutally clear painting for Michigan’s opponents.
These three guys, who were all given preseason All-Big Ten hype, combined for 249 yards on 17-of-58 passes with one touchdown and three interceptions against the Wolverines. Michigan generated 11 sacks to boot. If you’re not convinced, Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez was held to 10 total yards and an interception during his trip to the Big House. For the sake of context, Martinez racked up 338 yards and three scores against the Buckeyes this weekend.
Offensively, we have seen this team evolve from “doesn’t show up in big games” to “annoyingly plays with its food until the second half”. Shea Patterson totaled more than 200 total yards with three scores while Karan Higdon went off again for 132 yards on only 20 carries. This may surprise you, but Donovan Peoples-Jones reached the end zone on an athletic play. Chris Evans was able to get himself in space where he terrorized the Nittany Lions on the edge.
Michigan’s output looked good, and made all the plays necessary. However, with Ohio State and a possible (KNOCKS ON ALL THE WOOD) date with Alabama (1v4) on the horizon, Pep Hamilton’s offense’s inability to put games away early feels like an Achilles Heel.
Michigan turned it over on downs, missed a field goal, and was forced to punt all from inside the Penn State 40. That’s the second straight week we’ve seen back-to-back-to-back drives stall in scoring spots. Don Brown’s defense doesn’t seem the least bit phased by this, but it’s something to watch. Michigan has blown double-digit leads against Ohio State the last two years so hitting early kill shots have to be in the Wolverines’ minds.
I LOVE RUTGERS WEEK! Last year, a Scarlet Squire alumnus told me he’d “have his boys from the shore come handle this” if I continued to make jokes about their “football team.” I replied back I was 78 percent sure he was full of bull and there was a 0 percent chance I’d stop.
Getting through the PSU/Wisconsin/MSU stretch without so much as a jump scare has Michigan riding high and the path to (probably) Miami has opened up.
We have plenty of time to worry about Indiana as a trap game and the looming Buckeyes, but for now I want to relive the greatest football game these eyes have ever seen. I’ve probably watched this 78 times and zero part of me is sick of it.
Around the Country
Since Trevor Lawrence returned from injury, Clemson has outscored its last four opponents 240-36 after dropping a 77-spot on Lousiville. That’s an average of 60-9. Pretty nice.
Bama also shut out LSU
Georgia has responded well to its loss to the Tigers, thrashing Florida and Kentucky to clinch the SEC East. Assuming they avoid disaster against Georgia Tech to end the year, the Bulldogs will face Alabama in a National quarterfinal (I messed this up last week) Dec. 1.
Ohio State almost lost to Nebraska. This really feels like Urban’s last Tebow-year at UF all over again.
Wazzu stays alive, barely. I was watching this with people who bet on this game both before and during. What a roller coaster.
Washington State has a pick six....andddddd it’s gone pic.twitter.com/yO4F3feLCX— Someone's An Idiot (@SomeonesAnIdiot) November 4, 2018
Will Grier has his Heisman mome... just kidding, it’s already Tua’s. WVU vs Oklahoma is going to be a shootout that will likely result in “first team out” status.
Dan’s Picks (22-27: 2-2 last week)
Temple @ Houston -4
Michigan -37.5 @ Rutgers
Baylor +14 @ Iowa State
Navy +25 @ UCF
Mississippi State @ Alabama -24
OSU -3.5 @ MSU