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What we learned in college football's fifth week

The Wolverines are a tough, physical team and more from the weekend's action.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports


Michigan is very tough, physically and mentally. As I was thinking about the 6 year hiatus between Michigan-Wisconsin games, I started having flashbacks to 2010. These were not fun flashbacks. In that game, Wisconsin ran for 357 yards on 58 carries, including a stretch where they had 28 running plays in a row. I remember thinking how pathetic that defense was, and I remember begging for Rich Rodriguez to be blasted to the moon.

Fast forward 6 years later to a much better era in Michigan football. Wisconsin ran for only 71 yards on 28 attempts, and those were not all in a row. Instead of the 26 first downs they had in the 2010 game, they got 8.

Wisconsin is still a run-first program that recruits huge, effective offensive linemen. They still have running backs capable of big games. The difference is Michigan's toughness. Michigan flies to the ball on defense. The defensive line is vicious, the linebackers fly to the ball, and the secondary should steal the tagline "We got you covered" from T-Mobile.

Kicking is a problem. At the beginning of the season, I thought QB play or LB play could be Michigan's Achilles heel. But in Michigan's biggest game of the season to date, kicking was a major concern. Kenny Allen missed 2 shorter FGs, and then Ryan Tice came in to miss the 3rd. If any of those had gone in, Michigan has a virtually impenetrable 2 possession lead after the Darboh touchdown. However, none of them did go in, and I spent the entire 3rd and 4th quarter as a nervous Nelly.

Conflicting reports came in as to why freshman phenom Quinn Nordin didn't replace the struggling Allen. Some said he was hurt, some said he was in Harbaugh's doghouse. Whatever it is, Michigan has a huge disadvantage against other top teams if they cannot make field goals. Especially if the offense is struggling...

Is the offense struggling? The injury to Grant Newsome for the season undoubtedly hurts. He was very steady protecting Wilton's blindside. The good news is that Michigan essentially has 3 bye weeks (Rutgers, BYE, Illinois) to fix the OL before heading into East Lansing. Wilton Speight also didn't play his best game at all. He missed some throws that would have extended drives. He also failed to change the cadence once, allowing Wisconsin to perfectly time their blitzes. The occasional hard count would have done wonders to help keep Wisconsin defenders off of him.

Michigan is still averaging 44 points per game, and if even one of those 3 missed FGs went in, they would have the highest point total scored against Wisconsin this season. Saturday was just a low scoring slugfest, and Michigan came out of it as the undefeated heavyweight champ.

Is the defense elite? Yes. The defense is elite. They have made my concerns from a couple weeks ago look foolish. They don't have the sexy shutouts from last year, but any team they have played should say they are the toughest defense they have faced. And that is fact, not hyperbole. This chart shows each of Michigan's opponents from this season, how many points they scored against Michigan, how many they each scored in their SECOND worst offensive game, and their season PPG when they don't play Michigan.

Opponent Pts Allowed by UM Worst offensive total besides UM PPG excluding vs. Michigan
Hawail 3 28 34.50
UCF 14 24 40.50
Colorado 28 41 47.00
PSU 10 29 33.75
Wisconsin 7 16 29.25

It's plain to see that Michigan has taken some offenses that were humming along and stopped them right in their tracks. That Colorado game looks a lot better, now that we see that they have one of the best offenses in the country.


Sparty Noooooo It's strange to see MSU struggle against an Indiana team that they traditionally pulverize. MSU is definitely starting out with a down year. Dantonio teams have often had offenses struggle early in the year as they learn to gel, while the stout defense carries them. However they lack that stout defense this year, and they do not have Kirk Cousins or Connor Cook slinging the rock. (Yes, I have Gruden commentating Monday Night Football as I write this) It's strange to see them without solid QB play and without a great defense. But that's not a complaint. In fact, I wouldn't mind it continuing through the rest of October.

Rutgers will be mad this week. They got embarrassed by OSU 58-0. But them coming in mad won't be enough to stop the Harbaugh Revenge Tour. Expecting Michigan to cover the 26.5 point spread unless they express lack of interest in doing so.

Michigan's toughest non-OSU game of the season is? Who knows? I've documented MSU's struggles above. Iowa has sandwiched a Rutgers win in between losses to an FCS school and Northwestern. Illinois and Rutgers are lol-worthy opponents. Can Indiana win at the Big House? Eh. That leaves only DJ Durkin's undefeated Maryland Terrapins. I give the edge to Michigan because the game is at the Big House and many other reasons.

But seriously, MSU will be MIchigan's toughest non-OSU game. Every year the game against MIchigan is their Super Bowl, and they will find a way to be ready for it.


According to the media, it's good to lose and score lots of points, but bad to score few points and win. Kirk Herbstreit, the OSU alum who claims to have no anti-Michigan bias, fired off these gems earlier today.

Ok Kirk. Maybe Herbie is still feeling the long term effects of this hit? Michigan isn't in the same league as Louisville??? A team that lost and gave up 42 points in the process? Michigan has passed every test that has been put in front of them with flying colors, including WINNING ALL THEIR GAMES, unlike Louisville.

Somehow we have arrived in a spot where losing to a Top 10 team in a high scoring game is better than beating a Top 10 team in a low scoring game. High scoring games are generally more fun to watch, but winning by shutting down the opponent is still very effective.

Washington is a great team. No team impressed me more this weekend than Washington, devouring Stanford for a blowout win. It's hard to decide what was the most impressive about Washington's win - the 8 sacks, the 12 carries and 49 yards performance for Christian McCaffrey, or the 38 point victory margin against a Top 10 team. I could deal with Michigan being ranked behind this Washington team. Although Herbie thinks this team is also worse than 1-loss Louisville.