It wasn’t the prettiest game that Michigan has played under Jim Harbaugh, but escaping this week’s chaos with a three-score victory feels significantly better than the alternative.
It’ll be interesting the hear the injury updates for this week as Michigan lost quite a bit. Let’s jump in.
I think we’re going to do this week in a “the good, the bad, and the ugly” type format because that feels fitting to everything this game was.
Starting with the good, Chase Winovich and Donovan Peoples-Jones were absolutely electric. Winovich finished the game with eight tackles and two for loss - he also had multiple QB pressures that led to bad decisions or other guys being able to register the sack.
On the other side of the ball, the Donovan Peoples-Jones awakening continues. DPJ has four or more catches in every game this year and has scored in the last two. All three of his scores against the Mustangs were completely different - all showing different skills that made him the former #1 receiving recruit in the country.
Here on the first, you see him beat the defense on a crossing route where he finds the soft spot before beating everyone to the edge and then the end zone. Michigan has loved using him on these type of intermediate routes this year, and it feels like it’s where he excels the most at this point.
Touchdown, Michigan!— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) September 15, 2018
Shea Patterson hits Donovan Peoples-Jones for a seven-yard score. Michigan takes a 28-7 lead over SMU with 9:07 left in the third quarter. pic.twitter.com/stcwJK4FM5
On #2, you get the back shoulder throw from Patterson and a really good adjustment by DPJ to use his size and body control to snap back and jab the ball out of the air. When the DPJ, Tarik Black, and Nico Collins recruiting class was put together, this was a big part of the vision - three insanely gifted athletes out-athleting their competition. Which brings us to #3.
It feels like we’ve waited forever to connect downfield with DPJ on a bomb, but it finally happened. After scoring on an intermediate crossing route and a back shoulder fade, we were probably due for this, and the kid didn’t disappoint. Michigan has one of the most talented receivers in the country and we’re watching him develop before our eyes.
Looking at the negatives, Michigan’s running game averaged almost five yards a carry but lacked any kind of pop inside. A lot of that was due to Karan Higdon’s injury, but the lack of true depth at the position is a bit worrisome. Kareem Walker’s inability to find his stride in Ann Arbor could prove costly down the line.
In addition, the secondary was atrocious in the second half. James Proche, who we covered late last week, caught 11 balls for 166 yards and a pair of scores. It didn’t matter who was covering him, but the amount of time he saw against Josh Metellus and Tyree Kinnel is unacceptable. An established receiver like Proche needs to have either David Long or LaVert Hill on him at all times - plain and simple.
Metellus does deserve credit for a huge pick-six right before the half that essentially iced this one. Without that play, I’m not sure how this game turns out. Josh had a great break on the ball and made some nifty moves at the end.
For the ugly, it comes down to injuries and suspensions. Karan Higdon didn’t play after hurting himself in practice/warm-ups. Chris Evans went down late with what looked like a pulled hamstring. Finally, Khaleke Hudson will miss the first half of the Nebraska game after the worst targeting call I have ever seen.
In a similar vein, the Wolverines committed a million penalties for somewhere around a billion yards. While the real numbers aren’t that bad (13 flags for 137 yards), they’re still completely unacceptable for a team full of guys who got playing experience last year. This defense returned nine starters from ‘17 and yet has looked completely undisciplined or out of position way too often. The schedule doesn’t look as tough now as it did two weeks ago - Michigan’s next five opponents all lost their most recent game - but this needs to be cleaned up quickly.
Nebraska comes to Ann Arbor for a 12:00 EST tilt on the BTN (or BTN2Go or FoxSportsGo). Scott Frost’s group looks significantly less formidable after an opening loss to Colorado and an encore loss to Troy - who they paid a few million dollars to for the favor. Troy is a pretty good team, and Frost is a great coach, so we shouldn’t take them lightly.
With that said, Michigan is clearly the better squad, even if injuries and suspensions chip away at that some. If Evans and Higdon are unable to go, Tru Wilson will get the start at running back. While not the runner that Evans and Higdon are, Wilson is an exceptional blocker. We may get the air raid game that many of us have been clamoring for for over a year.
Around the Country:
Here, I made a haiku to describe the current state of college football
Bama is Bama
Unless Dabo is Your Coach
It Doesn’t Matter
Bama throttled Ole Miss, Coach O pulled some magic, and Wisconsin lost to BYU, dealing a terrible blow to alcohol drinkers everywhere.
The B1G had a no good, rotten day unless you’re Ohio State - who essentially put TCU away on a play that I’m sure triggered the hell out of Michigan fans. Punting is hard, we get it Frogs.
Clemson and Georgia won snoozers while Oklahoma avoided the upset late. Notre Dame has slept walked since beating the Wolverines and Vandy almost snuck one passed them Saturday.
Oklahoma State notched one of the more impressive wins of the weekend, beating Boise State by three touchdowns, and the Joe Moorhead schools (Penn State and Mississippi State) continue to be the two schools not getting enough attention. Also, Texas did some “Back-ing”
Dan’s Picks: (6-8; 0-4 last week)
Big yikes. That’s what I get for taking teams that I’ve picked against in the past. USF covered their 9.5, but I read the spread wrong so we’ll have six picks this week
Tulane @ Ohio State -34
South Carolina -3.5 @ Vanderbilt
North Texas -14 @ Liberty
Arizona State +18.5 @ Washington
Ohio @ Cincinatti -8
Clemson -16 @ Georgia Tech