The Michigan Wolverines go under the lights for the first time in 2023 when they take on the Bowling Green Falcons tomorrow evening (7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network).
The Maize n Brew staff got back together to discuss in this week’s Roundtable.
Michigan took care of business yet again last weekend, as the Wolverines manhandled UNLV, 35-7, at the Big House. What impressed you the most from the win?
Von: The defensive line was incredible last weekend. Kenneth Grant seemed to be disruptive on every other play — that dude is a problem, and could be a very special player. Mason Graham was the highest graded defender last week (per PFF), and guys like Jaylen Harrell, Kris Jenkins and Derrick Moore also stood out. The group as a whole played as well as you could’ve asked for, both in defending the run and the pass. This could be a really, really good group for the Wolverines, potentially Harbaugh’s best at Michigan.
Dan: J.J. McCarthy. If he can stay this efficient, it’s going to open up the run game and vice versa. He has been one of the best quarterbacks in college football thus far.
Adam: J.J. McCarthy. He continued to impress with his accuracy and connections with Roman Wilson. Yes, it is against bad defenses, but he has looked better than he has in his time at Michigan.
Matt: The easy answer here is J.J. McCarthy. However, I’m going to go off the beaten path and choose the interior defensive line. Mason Graham, Kris Jenkins and Kenneth Grant absolutely manhandled the UNLV offensive line. Running the ball was essentially not an option.
Erik: I was most impressed with the defensive performance. Although the Wolverines are still missing some key players battling injuries, they looked dominant on Saturday. They went from no sacks in Week 1 to five sacks in Week 2. UNLV’s quarterback spent most of the game scrambling and had very little time to go through his reads. Even though the backups gave up a late touchdown, this defense looks like it is going to be an absolute menace this year.
Andrew: Listen, J.J. McCarthy is the obvious answer, but let’s discuss the defensive line that finished with five sacks (all in the first half) and 10 tackles for loss. The unit has addressed lingering concerns from last season when they struggled to generate consistent pressure against higher-caliber opponents. This year, they are running more games up front to create pressure in unique ways with only four rushers, while maintaining a strong seven-man coverage in the secondary.
Now let’s flip to the negatives from the UNLV game. What left you scratching your head and disappointed you the most? And is there an opportunity to fix these things this weekend against Bowling Green?
Von: The offensive line is still gelling, as the run game was not strong for the second straight week. Blake Corum averaged more than five yards per carry, but it was tough sledding in general for the rush attack, especially Donovan Edwards. But a good remedy for these issues may be on the way, as the Falcons’ rush defense gave up 246 yards rushing to Liberty a couple weeks back. There is certainly time for the offensive line and run game to get it together, so I am not overly concerned with this...yet.
Dan: Run-blocking from the offensive line. The holes are just not there right now, and it feels like they are a bit out of sorts. Hopefully they start to gel in their third week together and we start seeing this team move the ball with Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.
Adam: The Wolverines didn’t score enough points? I mean, you could nitpick about other things, but honestly, what is their to be disappointed in? Maybe that the backups couldn’t score and they gave up a touchdown? If that is what Wolverines fans are concerned about, it should be a great year.
Matt: The punt returning has been underwhelming through two games thus far. Nothing disastrous has occurred, but I’d like to see the returners catching punts more rather than letting them roll. This can easily be fixed as it’s entirely reliant on who’s returning punts and what they’re told to do. I’m curious to see if the strategy will change against Bowling Green.
Erik: I was most disappointed by the rushing attack. Similar to ECU, UNLV made a point to prevent the run game from getting going. Although its understandable Michigan had more success through the air, it didn’t seem like the offensive line was able to impose its will like it should. I expect this to get better as the new faces get more use to playing together. Bowling Green’s rushing defense is below average and should be a good opportunity to right the ship and finally break 200+ rushing yards in a game for the first time this season.
Andrew: Saturday might have been Blake Corum’s worst game in two years, and he still averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns. He missed a few cuts, bounces, and played with an indecisiveness that is rare for a player of his caliber. Fear not, this was expected from a player returning from injury and who also took limited fall camp reps. Expect Corum to take out his frustrations on Bowling Green and break the 100-yard barrier for the first time this season.
The Falcons haven’t played U-M since 2010 and enter the Big House as huge underdogs. Knowing what you know about Michigan two weeks into the season, what does Bowling Green need to be competitive?
Von: Throw the ball a ton. The Falcons have an experienced quarterback in former Indiana Hoosier Connor Bazelak, so he knows what to expect out of the Michigan defense. I would continue to attack Michigan’s defense like how East Carolina and, to an extent, UNLV did — do some dink and dunk passes, try and hit on a few deep balls, and see what happens.
Dan: Stop McCarthy (good luck) and air it out. Michigan’s secondary hasn’t really been challenged deep yet. Everything has been underneath and taking what the Wolverines are giving them. Bowling Green quarterback Connor Bazelak was at Indiana last season and isn’t afraid to sling it. This could be the first time we see the secondary challenged.
Adam: Score early to keep it close, and put some pressure on the Wolverines. They could load the box, but McCarthy is playing great. You could stop McCarthy, but then the run game opens up. I don’t think it matters what the Falcons do, it isn’t going to be competitive.
Matt: Bowling Green needs to get after the quarterback. The Michigan offensive line has been surprisingly prone to miscommunication so far, so if Bowling Green can get a handful of sacks, it could flip the script on the Michigan offense. McCarthy has obviously been stellar, but he’s been largely clean in the pocket so a rushed McCarthy could change the complexion of the game.
Erik: Unfortunately for Bowling Green, the two things I believe it needs to do to be competitive is not something it will likely succeed at. First, the Falcons need to find a way to make Michigan one-dimensional offensively and use it to force mistakes. They can take the ECU and UNLV route and stack the box; however, J.J. McCarthy has proven he will pick you apart if you don’t have an elite secondary. They can drop guys back to defend the pass, but then you leave a lot of open running space for two highly talented backs. I just don’t think they have the horses to keep up in that race. Secondly, they need to play mistake free football and not turn the ball over. That is a tall task for a team that had five turnovers last week.
Andrew: This is difficult. What is the anatomy of an upset? Firstly, Bowling Green has to be balanced on offense and use the quick-pass game to open up the running game. The Falcons will be over-matched on the line of scrimmage, so the ball will need to be distributed quickly and in space to their wideouts. Defensively, Bowling Green must create turnovers and take advantage of Michigan’s mistakes. They need to deploy resources to get after McCarthy and not let him just sit back there and dissect the defense. And then they must do all of this for four quarters.
Alright, it’s prediction time! What is the final score and why?
Von: The spread is WAY too big for no reason, but I do think this ends up being another blowout victory for Michigan. I don’t think the Wolverines cover the spread, but I do think they win big, 41-10.
Dan: The Wolverines put on a masterful performance again and win, 38-7. McCarthy is excellent for the third week in a row.
Adam: The question is if the Wolverines get into the 40s before the starters sit in the fourth quarter. The offense has looked efficient so far this season and the Falcons aren’t stopping them. The Wolverines will score easily and finally get over the 40-point plateau, 42-3.
Matt: Michigan 42, Bowling Green 0. The Wolverine defense has been hungry for a shutout and has fallen just short each of the last two weeks. This is the week they get it done.
Erik: Michigan should have no problem handling business. Between McCarthy playing at an elite level and the defense finding its groove, I expect Michigan to take early control of this one. We should see Alex Orji get playing time before the fourth quarter and Michigan will go on to win, 41-6.
Andrew: Michigan starts to put it all together in the run game and the defense continues to create havoc and even forces a pair of turnovers with the return of safety Rod Moore. Michigan cruises, but again does not cover or care about the fourth quarter, 42-6.