Wilton Speight is cool under pressure. UCF threw all kinds of blitzes at him, trying to force bad decisions and turnovers. Speight responded to this pressure with mistake-free football, 68% pass completion, 4 touchdowns, and ZERO interceptions. When Speight won the job over John O'Korn, many cited his ability to not turn the ball over, and be a game manager. Folks, I don't care who the competition is: game managers do not usually lead offenses that average 57 points per game.
Speight's ability to read defenses, his poise in the pocket, and his avoidance of mistakes will make Michigan tough to stop on offense all season long.
They can win big even when they don't play lights out. If you were on Twitter during the game, there were certain tweets that made you feel like Michigan was down several touchdowns instead of ahead. Lots of criticism of the offensive line, the defense giving up big plays, and a disparity in rushing yards between the two teams.
Okay. So let's talk about those things. Was the offensive line bad? Not if you ask the experts.
Harbaugh says he thought both lines played well today.— Matt Pargoff (@MaizeBlueNews) September 10, 2016
After some initial struggles in the first quarter, Michigan’s offensive line put together a really dominant performance. Grant Newsome and Erik Magnuson, the two starting tackles, did not allow a single pressure on 89 combined pass-blocking snaps. In addition, with the exception of left guard Ben Braden, all members of the unit were solid in run-blocking, too. Center Mason Cole was the best player on the Michigan offense, as he had only one negatively graded run-blocking snap and had multiple plays where he drove UCF linemen several yards downfield.
A lot was put on the offensive line, as UCF gambled a lot by sending a heavy blitz package. The result was a few hiccups for the offensive line, but those were easily canceled out (and then some) by a large dose of huge plays for the Michigan offense. It should also be mentioned that this heavy pressure only led to 2 sacks and 0 turnovers on 39 Speight dropbacks.
Did the defense give up big plays? Yeah, a couple times. But remember: they are missing Jourdan Lewis, and UCF was running the Oregon offense. And Michigan is still averaging 8.5 PPG on defense. Yeah, an all shutout season where the opposing team gets negative yards each week sounds awesome. This is reality though, and that's just not going to happen.
Should we be concerned about UCF outrushing Michigan 275-119? There's an old Mark Twain quote that covers this: There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. While this statistic makes is seem like Michigan got gashed on the ground and couldn't move the ball an inch with the run while they had it, let's look at it in context.
here, have a screencap: eight in the box, safeties lined up eight yards deep. I'm off to record the podcast. pic.twitter.com/0VlEH6kSGY— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) September 11, 2016
UCF had a lot of rushing yards, but they came in the form of big plays. Drew breaks it down here:
UCF had 46 runs for 275 yards. 5 of those runs went for 212 yards. 3 were scrambles. Other 2 were TDs (87-yarder with a possible hold).— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) September 11, 2016
We haven't learned much else about the team as it relates to this season. And we won't until the schedule gets tougher. It takes a slight step toward the deep end this week, as Michigan is only a 20 point favorite against Colorado, compared to 35+ points the first 2 games. We haven't really seen this team face any sort of adversity, as of yet. Colorado will at least bring a big time offense to town, as they put up 49 in the first half Saturday (albeit against a dreadful Idaho State team). After that, the Big Ten schedule gets rolling, with Penn State and Wisconsin (currently in the Top 10) as the first 2 games. That is when we can start drawing more definitive conclusions about who Michigan is in 2016.
Jim Harbaugh is done with the negative recruiting headlines. Last year, Michigan took a PR hit when Erik Swenson told reporters and Twitter about Michigan telling him he should look elsewhere close to signing day. This came on the heels of a lackluster season on film, and him not doing some of the things Michigan asked him to do to keep his scholarship. This week, Michigan basically sent 3 lower ranked recruits packing. These things happen all the time in high level recruiting, but Harbaugh has undoubtedly noticed that when they happen at Michigan, it commands headlines. Instead of giving schools fuel for their negative recruiting fire, Michigan allowed these kids more time to find a place to play.
Many fans are against the idea of roster/scholarship management, and it isn't something that has previously happened at Michigan. However, with only 85 scholarship players allowed on the roster and guaranteed 4 year scholarships as a Big Ten rule, Michigan must be very careful who they take in. A kid who commits before his senior year of high school must now continue to show the coaching staff that he deserves the scholarship for the months leading up to signing day, and kids are always fighting for their scholarships.
While some will inevitably criticize these aggressive recruiting techniques, the same will also complain when Michigan goes 7-5/8-4 on a perennial basis, and cannot get past their rivals. You can't have it both ways.
About the Big Ten
The conference is respected nationally, for now. There are 3 Big Ten teams ranked in the AP Top 9, and 5 in the Top 13. None of these besides Wisconsin has been tested against a tough opponent yet. That changes next weekend when MSU and OSU both travel to face Top 20 opponents in Notre Dame and Oklahoma, respectively. These games will be important in determining national perception for the Big Ten. However, that still isn't enough to persuade me to cheer for MSU and OSU. I want those teams to lose every chance they get.
About the BCS
Tennessee went to a NASCAR track to grab the attendance record from Michigan. There was a football game at the Bristol Motor Speedway. And while nobody in the crowd could see it, apparently there were reporters and TV cameramen there, so it did actually happen.
Michigan still has the record for most fans at a true home game, the most consecutive games with over 100,000 fans, and the 1997 Heisman trophy winner.
Tweets of the Week
it was called targeting, but it's not targeting, so it will probably be targeting #targeting— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) September 10, 2016
One observation on Harbaugh with glasses: pic.twitter.com/Unk9gg8Feq— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) September 11, 2016
here is cmu's hail mary to beat ok state... https://t.co/3omoMwLVaF— Pat Doney (@PatDoneyNBC5) September 10, 2016