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Friday Discussion: What can be learned about Michigan in its non-conference games?

Week 1 has come and gone, but what do we hope to know by the end of the month?

NCAA Football: East Carolina at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 2 Michigan Wolverines are back. After rolling through East Carolina last week, they are now gearing up to take on UNLV tomorrow. The Rebels make the journey to Ann Arbor for their second ever meeting between the two programs and the second of head coach Jim Harbaugh’s tenure. Michigan won handedly then, 28-7 in 2015, and are poised to fare similarly here in 2023.

It’s obvious not a lot of conclusions can be drawn from a single game and there is still much to learn about Michigan this year. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to share our stories and discussions together through the remainder. I have been asking questions of you all for two years now and that, along with my other work, led me to taking on a role as a sports information director. I start next week. So, before my final discussion, thank you all for sharing with me through the best two years of Michigan football in my tenure.

Anyway, back to Michigan.

What are Michigan’s biggest question marks heading into Week 2? What were your expectations heading into Week 1, and did Michigan meet them? Were there causes for concern or is it too early to tell?

Last Saturday was close to boring, aside from J.J. McCarthy. Coming into 2023, McCarthy was by and large going to be the main event, and he delivered when he was called upon. ECU chose to mitigate what makes Michigan special, so the Wolverines pivoted to their other strength. It wasn’t disappointing to find Michigan’s run game a little dusty, seeing as the changes at offensive line and both Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards being post-injury would warrant a slower start. It feels nit-picky, but the game was just fine. Rhythm has to be found somewhere, and after September, the Wolverines will be rolling.

So then, when does it get serious for Michigan? All games by necessity are important in the grand scheme of things, but the first few weeks, depending on the non-conference opponent, don’t always feel as such. There’s a drastic difference between playing Notre Dame on the road and having a two-game quarterback battle with the likes of Hawai’i and Colorado State. Even a year ago, there wasn’t a “get real” moment until after J.J. McCarthy locked in the starting job. Then it felt like Michigan was off to the races.

Now it’s the coaching duties ahead to give these non-conference games some flair.

For now, it can be a catch all for the first four weeks. More than likely they will play out the same, so where will Michigan’s priorities lie aside from capturing wins? Is it to test the strength of lineups? Is it to show coaching capabilities? What can truly be learned about a top-four team in the opening weeks when their opponents aren’t nearly the same caliber?

Michigan should get the sweep for September. Favoring strength for the later parts of the season is of the utmost importance, especially with Penn State being on the road and then Ohio State two weeks later. They usually keep their bag of tricks, so if anything is different in the next three weeks, feel free to tell me.

How do you think Michigan will look after the first four weeks? What can be learned from these first four games? Will there be a stark variation between them or will we have to wait and see?

Share with us your thoughts on the outlook for September with us in the comment section below!

See you guys later and thank you for everything! As always, Go Blue!