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What we learned in college football's third week

Michigan got a nice come from behind win Saturday, but there was some trouble along the way. Will these concerns persist?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports


Jabrill Peppers is a truly elite player. He's a truly remarkable player with amazing versatility. There are other players that can track down a screen pass recipient or running back like a pitbull on a pork chop. There are other players that can regularly return punts for big yardage. There are other players that hit with menacing force. There are other players that can get the ball on a handoff and maximize yardage by making cuts and lowering their shoulder to deliver the boom. But Jabrill Peppers can do all those things - and did all those things on Saturday - at an elite level. You could line him up at over half of the positions on a football field, and feel good about him at each of those spots. Jabrill Peppers is a one of a kind player, and just like we can thank Rich Rodriguez for bringing Denard Robinson to Ann Arbor, we can thank Brady Hoke, for the recruitment of Jabrill Peppers.

Here is some high praise from an OSU fan about Jabrill:

He has the attention of the enemy.

There are very real concerns for this defense that must be addressed. Don Brown came to this team highly recommended and highly regarded. And rightfully so; his Boston College defense was the stingiest in the FBS last year, despite an offense that couldn't stay on the field. However, this defense has done some confusing things the past few weeks, that led directly to big plays for the opponents. Look at the alignment of the defenders in the tweets below. The things that are most alarming to me are mismatches (LB against slot WR), defenders away from the action (specifically CBs), and just a general lack of adjustment to the offensive formation.

As well as a couple from last week:

Now I recognize that Don Brown knows way more about football than me. It's just alarming to see these things happening with Michigan's defense. These alignments typically led to big plays. Against faster teams with more explosive athletes, these mismatches will lead to many touchdowns. And if OSU has the opportunity to line lightning quick receivers up against linebackers on a regular basis, you can forget about having a chance in that game.

I am hoping to see Michigan move guys around on defense more frequently, so the mismatches aren't there. I also hope that when Jourdan Lewis comes back, the situation will improve. But more than anything, I am hoping these are just early season miscues that are correctable in film study, and not a weakness of Don Brown's schematics. Don Brown's history of holding good teams to low point totals seems to indicate that the situation will get better. He surely knows that Michigan cannot afford to be giving up these big plays.

Another thing I noticed from Saturday was very bad safety play. On multiple occasions, Michigan allowed a wide receiver to get past all safety help on passes. Letting the guy past the safety help breaks a cardinal rule of pass coverage, and shows poor fundamentals.

On all these things, I do realize that Michigan came back strong in the 2nd quarter and cut the wheels off the Colorado offense. However, everything that happened early in the game did still happen, and it is still alarming as we get to the meat of Michigan's schedule now.

This is a very tough team from a mental standpoint. If you made it through the Hoke and RichRod eras, first of all, kudos. Second of all, you are not used to Michigan coming from behind to win games. It seemed that during those times, the team would often close up shop if they were behind in games. And on Saturday, that recency bias led to many Michigan fans on social media giving up on the game also.

Fortunately, Jim Harbaugh and staff were not among those who gave up. They continued the course and made enough plays to come back from the 21-7 deficit and win 45-28, scoring 38 of the last 45 points in the game in the process. This was done despite a bad game from Wilton Speight, and missing 3 key defensive starters. Michigan is paying Jim Harbaugh many armored trucks full of money each year, to make sure the team does not let a bad start ruin a game, and Michigan fans are reaping the benefits.


Our rivals are still very good. Two rivals. Two away night games. Two ranked opponents. Two convincing wins. MSU let Notre Dame back into the game, but they still held on to win by 8 in a game that they were an 8 point underdog. OSU blew the doors off of a 2015 CFP participant, at Oklahoma.

This offseason, it looked like both OSU and MSU had lost a lot of players to the draft, and it appeared that they might struggle as new players fill in the spots. That has not been the case at all, especially at OSU, where it seems like they always have a 4 or 5 star at every position who is just waiting for his shot. These coaches have had time to build these programs, and they don't rebuild  - they just reload. If Michigan wants to win the conference, they have 2 giants standing in their way.

Iowa showed us why FBS teams should avoid North Dakota State. NDSU has now beaten 6 straight FBS opponents. Why would you even schedule them at this point? By the way, this loss was very similar to Michigan's loss to Appalachian State in 2007, the only difference being Michigan was ranked a few spots higher in the polls. But NDSU has been beating FBS teams so regularly, that it is hardly news.

There is a top tier: 3 teams are clearly in it, and 4 more applicants are under review. Michigan, MSU, and OSU are in the top tier. Though Michigan does not have the recent hardware that MSU and OSU do, they have Jim Harbaugh, and he is 13-3 (81.25% wins) at Michigan, and the program is trending upward.

There are 4 teams fighting to be in that upper echelon, but I would not put them there yet. Penn State and Iowa already have a loss. Though Wisconsin beat LSU earlier in the season, the jury is still out on LSU as a good team. And the jury is out on Wisconsin, as they struggled to beat an 0-2 Georgia State (who?) team. Nebraska had an impressive win over Oregon at home, but it is still hard to determine how improved they are over last year's 5-7 showing.

Then you have the bottom half of the conference. At this point, Purdue, Minnesota, Maryland, Indiana, Rutgers, Illinois, and Northwestern can be considered cake walk opponents for the top tier, until they do something to prove they are not.

WHAT WE LEARNED: ABOUT THE FBS Lamar Jackson deserves all the Heisman buzz he gets. And I say that as a reserved Michigan fan, knowing the trophy case is full of September Heismans from the RichRod era (Tate Forcier winner, Denard Robinson 2x winner) But watching Lamar Jackson do what he did against FSU is a little different. The game just looks so easy for him. He operates the Louisville offense like the opponents are moving in slow motion. If you haven't watched any Louisville football yet, do yourself a favor and check this kid out.

There will be many deserving teams for the playoffs this year, but only four will make it. In the SEC, Alabama looks strong, and Ole Miss is right behind them, despite the fact that they couldn't put Alabama away. The Big Ten has 3 playoff contenders in the East division alone. The PAC 12 has really strong teams in Stanford and Washington. And if Houston runs the table, they have to be included in playoff discussion. This is shaping up to be the most interesting season in years.