College football fans certainly care about referees making horrible calls, how highly-ranked recruit develop, player injuries, play calling, game adjustments, and other factors that contribute to the success of a program. When it all comes down to it though, that’s all in pursuit of one thing: wins and losses. It’s that simple. Michigan has lost 17 consecutive games to ranked opponents on the road going back to 2006, and Jim Harbaugh has been unable to change that so far.
I was walking around South Bend before the game thinking about where I’d stand if Michigan lost. We had no idea what both teams would come out and look like early, but it felt like Notre Dame came prepared, and it showed in the first half.
Adjustments were made and they held Notre Dame to only a field goal and 69 total yards in the second half. Ambry Thomas had an electric kick return for a touchdown and we know the quarterback talent is better than it has been since Jim Harbaugh arrived.
Michigan didn’t have a single QB a year ago that could make this play. That is one of the few positives from yesterday. pic.twitter.com/B9hwSXdVQe— Michael Spath (@MichaelSpathITH) September 2, 2018
Those solid stats are what many hoped they’d see coming out the gate in the first half with one of the best defensive units in the country, and now will work to hope to keep as the worst 30 minutes of a performance for the remaining 11 games.
The Not So Bad
Two turnovers and a botched field goal highlighted (lowlighted?) missed chances. They were there, the team just couldn’t execute on opportunities to get back in the game.
The stats were also close in many areas:
Time of possession: Michigan 31:33, Notre Dame 28:27
Total net yards: 307-Michigan, 302-Notre Dame
Net rushing yards: 132-Notre Dame, 58-Michigan
1st downs: 21-Notre Dame, 20-Michigan
3rd down efficiency: Michigan-6/13, Notre Dame- 7/15
Penalties: Michigan 7-for-52 yards, Notre Dame 4-40
Average punt yards: Notre Dame-45.7 (6) Michigan 43.7 (3)
Michigan gave up 233 yards in the first half and 21 points going into halftime.
Michigan fans have digested this heartbreaker and are reacting with frustration, but also with more questions.
The Irish likely earned a spot in the Top-10 after a 24-17 win against Michigan. They are a team that could end the season highly ranked and make an impact on the College Football Playoff.
Michigan fans wanted to see a better result on the field and beat Notre Dame for many reasons. It’s that kind of rivalry game we don’t get every year, whether you like it or not, so this was an opportunity squandered.
The Big Picture
I started looking at the following stats about the last four years of the College Football Playoff:
- Only three teams (out of 16) selected have been undefeated (2014-2015 FSU, 2015-2016 Clemson, and 2016-2017 Alabama)
- All four National Championship teams had one loss, meaning:
- No team has been undefeated in the regular season and gone on to win it all.
The goals for this Michigan team are still in front of them, though the margin of error got smaller after the loss.
Are you still on the bandwagon?
I know one person who fell off, former Michigan player Braylon Edwards. He went to Twitter and clearly stated his position, which is something likely to only upset fans. It’s unfortunate to see a former player go and publicly express his frustration, and basically write this team off already.
Yes, it was a tough first game of the season, but Michigan State and Penn State barely won nail biters to open the season against non-ranked and non-conference opponents. If those two teams met Notre Dame on Saturday they could have very well been blown out based on how they played in their first games.
What I heard Saturday night while talking to fans leaving the stadium was this question:
Why not just play cupcake games to start the game instead of putting themselves in a position like this having to play a tough ranked opponent?
The fact that college football has no preseason is why it’s critical to come out each week and execute on every opportunity available with the right game plan. Coaches can make adjustments during the game, but that doesn’t always lead to a win if the teams has dug itself in too deep a hole.
This Michigan team is talented, problems can be fixed on defense like we saw in the second half, and this game has no impact on the conference record. Yes, it was a heartbreaking loss, but this team will move on and prepare for the next opponent, Western Michigan. Not to look past any opponent, but the next big game for Michigan likely is a top-10 ranked Wisconsin at The Big House on October 13.
Where are you on the bandwagon?
This poll is closed
In the front seat still and always will
I’ve moved to the middle row
In the back row
Hanging on the back with one hand
Off in the road watching it drive away