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What We Learned in Week Three: Michigan's Weakest Links Have Been Identified

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Michigan won a game they should have won. But the schedule gets tougher from here on out, starting with 3 ranked opponents in the next 4 games. Is Michigan ready for the challenge? What positions are playing well at this point, and which still need a lot of work?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

WHAT WE LEARNED: ABOUT MICHIGAN

The weakest links have been identified. If I were to grade all of Michigan's position groups based on how they've played so far, it would go something like this:

Top Tier:
Defensive Line - Stuffing the run consistently, pass rush improving
Secondary - Lewis is playing awesome, unit forces turnovers, hasn't allowed many big plays
Tight End - Reliable in receiving and pass blocking
Special Teams (solid returns, no big plays allowed, so close to blocking punts)

Middle Tier:
Wide Receiver - Need more looks, pass accuracy not their fault
Running Back - Finally some explosive plays, might be time to move Isaac to #1
Offensive Line - Good pass blocking, need better run blocking from interior line)

Bottom Tier:
Quarterback - Rudock is missing open targets, telegraphing passes, and making poor decisions
Linebackers - Not flying to the ball, very exploitable against better opponents

As they say, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. On offense, that starts with the quarterback position. Until Jake Rudock makes better throws, good teams will be able to cheat toward Michigan's improved running attack without having to pay. Rudock MUST start hitting the open guy if this team is going to have a successful season. The interceptions could be an issue because he is asked to make more aggressive throws than he was at Iowa, and needs more practice with that transition. One thing that certainly helps is having QB guru Jim Harbaugh on the case.

On defense, teams continue to pick on Joe Bolden specifically, who seems to always be a step behind. Good teams will be able to attack the middle of the field with great success against Michigan, unless the linebacker play improves drastically, or Michigan decides to make some personnel and formation changes designed to mask the problems. Also, the lack of athleticism overall at the position is preventing defensive coordinator DJ Durkin from running the types of blitz packages he would like to run.

Michigan just takes care of business. Yes, it was UNLV, not an elite team like LSU, Ole Miss, or...you know, Northern Illinois. But the important thing to know is Michigan got a convincing win, and it was one that was never in doubt. The last time they were favored by more than 34 points? Well, it was always in doubt until the final play.

The difference between the Hoke and Harbaugh eras are night and day. And if Jimmy's track record is any indication, which it should be, it is only going to get better when he gets his own mix of players into Ann Arbor.

The Offense has A LOT of work to do. They will show the occasional stroke of brilliance, such as Ty Isaac's 76 yard touchdown run. But the runs up the middle for 1-2 yards against a poor run defense, the inability to get chunk yards in the passing game, and the interceptions are a huge concern for when this team starts playing against better teams. "Oh, but they got 28 points, that's great compared to last year!", you might say. Well, look at what the special teams and defense have done to help them out this year. Great field position from the punt return team, courtesy of Jabrill Peppers. Defense forcing plenty of 3 & outs, and now some turnovers as well. This tires out the opposing defense, as they are constantly on the field. The offense must to more to exploit this. Teams like BYU and Northwestern will make Michigan pay for leaving that many points on the field.

There is more data to forecast future game expectations now. Now that most teams have 3 games in, it's a little easier to forecast Michigan's future. I am leaving myself vulnerable to future trolling, but here is how I am classifying each game on Michigan's remaining schedule:

BYU: 50/50 game - Looks strong in all phases, has played a brutal schedule so far, 1 point away from coming out unscathed. Thank goodness this is a home game and an early start time for a western team.
At Maryland: Should be a win - This is a road night game, but Michigan is the better team here. Maryland lost to a MAC team by 21 at home.
Northwestern: 60/40 game - Northwestern has started the season hot, and leads the nation in scoring defense. However, even Brady Hoke was 4-0 against these guys in his Michigan career.
MSU: Should be a loss - MSU is ranked #2 and deservedly so. Michigan has a chance though, since it's at the Big House.
At Minnesota: 50/50 game - Winning there is so tough at night, but Harbaugh will have his team mentally prepared. Aaaaand they only put up 10 points at home against Kent State this weekend.
Rutgers: Should be a win - Time for Michigan to win and win big against the discombobulated Rutgers program.
At Indiana: Should be a win - These are the kinds of teams Michigan needs to beat routinely, whether home or away.
At Penn State: 40/60 game - Like Minnesota, this is a tough night game atmosphere. And Penn State seems to have put their Temple woes behind them. Hopefully Michigan's offense will be playing much better by then.
OSU: Anything can happen - Throw the records out, as they say. Harbaugh will absolutely have Michigan ready for this one.

WHAT WE LEARNED: ABOUT THE BIG TEN

The 2nd most important offseason move for Michigan was Tom Herman's departure to Houston. First off, all reports indicate John O'Korn has been Michigan's best quarterback in practice this year, but he has that unfortunate problem of ineligibility. Michigan fans are trying to find a way to work around that.

If Houston doesn't change coaches, O'Korn has a better chance of sticking it out there. If O'Korn lives up to the reports and starts for Michigan next year, Herman did Michigan a huge favor by leaving OSU.

The other service Herman appears to have done for Michigan is take his "QB whisperer" skills elsewhere. It certainly showed on Saturday. Cardale Jones looked like someone who should have taken the NFL money and ran. JT Barrett didn't look much better. If it weren't for an unfortunate pick 6 and Northern Illinois having an impotent offense, we might have been blessed to see an "upset of the century" that involved a rival on the losing end. Choosing a starting QB after this should be no big deal for Urban Meyer, plus Barrett and Jones will handle it well no matter what happens. Or maybe not...

Yeah, that bio isn't exactly what I would be wanting out of my senior leader. It was just one game, and there is still plenty of time for OSU to turn it around, but they certainly did not look like the #1 team in the country on Saturday.

So this is what Michigan fan hell feels like:

The game between the two is already receiving considerable hype.

Yeah, I'm not a fan of those two teams sitting atop the college football throne. My thoughts are that a certain khaki-clad man in Ann Arbor doesn't like it either, and would love to pop the "game of the century" balloon on October 17, when MSU rolls into the Big House.

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