Winning cures all.
Michigan has now rattled of six wins in a row after dropping their first game of the season versus Notre Dame.
The latest victory surprised many, with Wisconsin coming into Ann Arbor rarely losing on the road during head coach Paul Chryst’s tenure (15-1 on the road overall).
The night finished with Michigan dominating Wisconsin and making Chryst’s road record 15-2.
It wasn’t a complete performance from Michigan by any means, they can get better. Harbaugh and quarterback Shea Patterson said they still have room for improvement. But a lot was riding on this game, and the Wolverines made a statement.
This is the game that brings hesitant media and fans onto the Michigan bandwagon. But they will stay on only if UM finishes the gauntlet against MSU and PSU.— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) October 14, 2018
My friend John Bacon is correct.
The national media and local media alike are going to change their tune about Michigan now, and Jim Harbaugh.
But for now the criticism of the Michigan offense is slowly dying/fading away.
The offense is becoming unpredictable. Not only can Shea Patterson make accurate throws to any quadrant of the field, not only can Michigan ground and pound you into submission, the quarterback can gain big time yardage with his legs as well.
Harbaugh unleashed Patterson against Wisconsin with read-option looks, one resulting in an 81-yard rush, and another was a touchdown run by Patterson.
SHEA PATTERSON 81 YARD RUN SHOWING OFF HIS WHEELS pic.twitter.com/mduuugDoPX— Wolverine Corner (@WolverineCorner) October 14, 2018
The read-option is dangerous. Opposing teams now will have to prepare to stop Patterson, the running back, and also be concerned it’ll ultimately be a pass that looks like a rushing attempt.
Harbaugh starting to break out the read runs from his 49ers days with Colin Kaepernick. Big run by Shea Patterson was "12/13 EAT". It's zone read arc from 12/21 personnel twins. Closed formation dictates predictable coverage. F arcs for the CB. pic.twitter.com/dt1Hwp74CN— James Light (@JamesALight) October 14, 2018
Not only is the read-option dangerous in terms of its ability to freeze a defense on the field, but now opposing teams are going to have to game-plan for it extensively whether Michigan uses it much or not on a given week.
Making future opponents sift through an abundance of different formations has become a trend.
The past month Harbaugh has kept adding in more wrinkles slowly but surely, and it’s to the point where opponents are going to start having brain-cramps from information overload. It’s fair to assume they’re not going to remember all of the schematics.
A big element of any Harbaugh team that’s had a high level of success is exhibiting toughness. This Michigan team is looking like the toughest Harbaugh has had at Michigan when you start to look at every level on the team.
The defense, for example, is lights out. There was a point where Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw a dozen incompletions in a row. The Michigan D swarms, attacks, flys down field, plays good coverage, and is starting to look awfully scary. They’re bad dudes, looking every bit the part of the No. 1 defense in the country.
But the toughness doesn’t stop there.
Michigan’s offensive line is starting to throw teams around, they’re giving Patterson time to throw, and not committing many penalties either. It went from week one, where they admittedly had issues to overcome, to where they are now, being called the best offensive line in the country by Karan Higdon.
Most games are won and lost in the trenches, and Michigan keeps winning those battles on both sides of the football.
The running backs are playing well, receivers are making plays and their blocking has improved, Peoples-Jones has developed into a good return-man. This is not a complete team yet, but when we keep adding the pieces all together, they just might be enough to run the gauntlet and beat their rivals.
Last but not least on the toughness front, Shea Patterson is the definition of tough at the quarterback position. Patterson has already taken a good number of hard hits on scrambles this season and bounces right back up. On scoring plays Patterson pumps his fists in excitement and lets out a warrior battle-cry. He takes shots down the field every week, something that hasn’t been a commonplace in a while at Michigan. Add these elements all up and it equals toughness at quarterback.
Michigan didn’t take Wisconsin lightly and they won’t be taking Michigan State lightly either. The Spartans now have momentum on their side after beating No. 8 Penn State 21-17, but Michigan has momentum too. Something’s gotta give.
But even if Michigan beats MSU, and then defeats Penn State, it feels the overall perception of the Harbaugh era won’t change until Michigan beats Ohio State.
Analysts such as Tim Tebow don’t see Michigan as a College Football Playoff selection. “I just do not trust them. That’s a gauntlet they have to go through,” Tebow said on Saturday before the U-M-Wisconsin game. “This is a team that has a lot of good players, especially on defense, but they have not risen to the occasion in big games, so I do not trust them down the stretch.”
Well, Michigan just won a pretty big game, but as Karan Higdon said during his post-game presser, this is just the beginning. One way or the other, Higdon is right, the ‘gauntlet’, the playoff stretch is here, and there’s still work to be done to sway the naysayers and humble their rivals.
On to Michigan State. With a win there, Jim Harbaugh and Michigan will be well on their way to silencing critics. But as Harbaugh always preaches... one week at a time.