It often feels like the sky is falling in the immediate aftermath of a loss, especially one of the magnitude that Michigan suffered at the hands of Iowa on Saturday night.
Kinnick at night is a weird place to play and it came back to bite the Wolverines in this game, ending their perfect season. However, it by no means ruined their chance at a magical season.
Here are the takeaways:
Lack of focus
Michigan spent a lot of time decorating Iowa’s pink locker room before the game and it is pretty apparent that their attention was not where it needed to be.
Jim Harbaugh is a coach that prides himself in preparing his team with a razor-sharp focus and attention to detail, but it was the little things that cost the Wolverines in this game. Drops, silly penalties and more were among the errors that played out on Saturday night.
The eyeball test showed a team that looked like they would roll right into Iowa and walk out with another easy victory, but that was not the case. The Hawkeyes were ready to play and Michigan was caught with its pants down.
The defense did what it had to do to keep them in the game, and damn near won them the game on their own, but the offense could not make a play and do the simplest things. It was by far their worst performance of the year and fans can take solace in the fact that this team cannot play any worse.
The offensive line was bad
Michigan’s worst kept secret showed up on Saturday night, and that is that their offensive line is arguably one of the weak spots of the team. They were beaten soundly up front all night long and could never get the run game going. Wilton Speight took far too many shots and it took its toll on him as the game went on.
The Michigan offensive line is very good when they are locked in, but when they are not it is an ugly sight. These next few weeks they will have to be the hammer and not the nail and hopefully they can learn from this before they hit the field in Columbus in 13 days.
Speight took a step back
The Wolverines’ quarterback has really played well in the last few weeks, but that was all flushed down the toilet on Saturday night. He was 11-for-26 for 103 yards and an interception.
He did not have a whole lot of help from his wide receivers and offensive line, but this was a test that Michigan failed across the board on offense, especially after jumping out to a 10-0 lead.
It looked like he suffered an injury at the end of the game, so that will be worth keeping an eye on. We are far too deep into the season for a quarterback controversy, but Speight has to play his best football down the stretch here. He is more than capable, but it just did not happen last night.
Peppers: Heisman Schmeisman
The Heisman Trophy race right now is Lamar Jackson and everybody else, and it has been that way throughout the entire season. Everyone behind him is fighting for second place and Jabrill Peppers did not do much to make his case in a spotlight game with the nation watching.
Peppers in the wildcat is something that is clearly becoming very predictable, as evidenced by four rushes for 11 yards. On defense, he never made a game-changing or saving play. In a game where the Wolverines needed a spark from somewhere, he never provided it. He is a phenomenal talent, but the Heisman talk should probably be shelved unless he does something insane against the Buckeyes in two weeks.
The road ahead
That was a rough watch, no doubt about it. However it means very little in the grand scheme of things other than that the team has zero margin for error moving forward.
If Michigan beats Indiana and Ohio State, they will be in the Big Ten title game as the East division champion. If OSU wins out, Penn State will win the East with wins over Rutgers and Michigan State (weird, right?)
The Wolverines’ road to the playoff is still very clear. Beat Ohio State and likely Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, and they will be in.
In a strange, roundabout way, this could loss could be the best thing that happens to them. There is no sugarcoating how this game went, but it could be something for them to learn from and build on to refocus them. It has been a long time since they had to play a four quarter game.
The Ohio State game feels like certain death for a large portion of the Michigan fanbase and I can’t sit here today and tell you not to worry about that game. Look no further to our friends down the road in East Lansing last season for guidance, however.
MSU was expected to go into Columbus last season and get their heads kicked in, but went down there and beat the Buckeyes soundly on both sides of the football, won the game and went on to win the Big Ten.
This Michigan team is far more talented and better coached than the Spartans were last season and the Buckeyes are not as strong as they have been having shown vulnerabilities in a loss to Penn State.
It is not over, it just got harder. Harbaugh would have it no other way.
The season comes down to The Game, as the football gods intended. Let’s see what happens from here.
What were your takeaways from Saturday’s game? Sound off in the comments below!