The No. 2 Michigan Wolverines improved to 2-0 on Saturday afternoon after defeating the UNLV Rebels 35-7. Here are key takeaways from the game.
J.J. McCarthy is electric once again
In the season opener Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy was 26-of-30 for 280 yards with three touchdowns. His completion percentage of 87.6 was the highest ever for a Michigan quarterback with more than 25 attempts. McCarthy followed that effort by every bit as impressive of a showing versus UNLV. In Week 2, McCarthy was 22-of-25 for 278 yards and two touchdowns. McCarthy threw into tight windows repeatedly, making throws than many quarterbacks don’t even think of attempting. In short, McCarthy’s elite. His timing, poise, and decision-making all appear to be at an all-time high, and he’ll only continue to get better from here.
McCarthy is receiving more ownership of the offense this season, and he’s able to make adjust protections before the snap, check to a different play, and more. Through two weeks, McCarthy has been Michigan’s brightest shining star, and that’s a trend that’ll continue with the offense striving to be more balanced this season after being more run-heavy in the past.
Michigan’s pass-rush comes alive
After not tallying a sack in Week 1 and edge rusher Braiden McGregor acknowledging that it was frustrating as a unit, Michigan’s defense pressured UNLV quarterback Doug Brumfield aplenty. Michigan had five sacks on the day, including 1.5 from Jaylen Harrell, 1.5 from Kenneth Grant, one from Derrick Moore, and a half sack for Mason Graham and Kris Jenkins. Michigan’s pass-rush could ultimately be better than it was a season ago and won’t be dependent on just one or two edge rushers to carry the load. Michigan can generate a pass rush on the edge, but now can do so along the interior as well with Jenkins and Grant.
This was a good first step for Michigan’s pass rush and hopefully they can build upon this showing and rack up sacks and QB hits when Big Ten season rolls around, and the final scores become a little closer.
No traction running the ball, but Donovan Edwards’ emerging as legitimate WR threat
Donovan Edwards is a good running back, but through two games he hasn’t been able to generate much production on the ground. Edwards rushed for 37 yards on 12 carries in Week 1 and just nine yards on six carries versus UNLV. It would be surprising if these numbers become a trend for Edwards, who rushed for 991 yards last season with a yards per carry average of 7.1. However, what’s been clear through two weeks is Michigan has every intention of utilizing Edwards often in the passing game. Edwards was routinely on the field with RB Blake Corum and in those sets he’d routinely motion into the slot position or out wide. Edwards, albeit a running back, is as sure handed of a receiving option as anyone on the roster. These added wrinkles to the Michigan playbook will be a benefit to the offense and to Edwards production as well. There’s only so many carries in the backfield to go around, and while Edwards will get his fair share, Blake Corum will get the majority. This is smart thinking from Michigan getting Edwards involved in manners he wasn’t a season ago.
Michigan now has one final tune-up game before Big Ten season rolls around against Rutgers in two weeks. They face Bowling Green, a tilt in which Michigan will be heavily favored. The program appears to be a well-oiled machine, despite head coach Jim Harbaugh being suspended the first three games of the season. Michigan must utilize Week 3 to solidify some position battles on the depth chart, clean up areas they deem need improvement, and continue to do what they’ve done through two weeks — dominate. Michigan’s the No. 2 team in the country for a reason, and they’ll have a bullseye on their chest the entire season. From inferior opponents to admirable foes, they’ll get everyone’s best shot. Remaining unscathed throughout a season won’t be easy, but they have a great chance of getting back to the College Football Playoff when things are all said and done.