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Michigan has an edge again, but still awaiting a big-game test

Everything worked for Michigan on Saturday, but is still remains to be seen how good they are.

Dustin Johnston - Maize n Brew

But it’s Western.

But it’s SMU.

But it’s Nebraska.

These are the qualifiers that you’ll hear after three-consecutive weeks of blowouts for the Michigan Wolverines, the latest of which was a 56-10 drubbing of the Cornhuskers on Saturday in Ann Arbor to move to 3-1 on the season. It’s completely justified, but there’s something to be said about beating the snot out of inferior teams.

Nobody gives credit when a football team does it, because that’s what good teams do. Michigan played essentially three overmatched, JV team-looking squads the last three weeks and outscored them by a margin of 150-33. Does it mean the flaws we’ve seen in big games and in the opener at Notre Dame no longer exist? Right now, it’s impossible to tell because they have not really been tested.

However, this feels like a team and a program that is starting to find its edge again that was lost somewhere along the way during the 2016 season. It’s hard to pinpoint what the turning point was, whether it be the loss to Iowa, or the “J.T. was short” game at Ohio State, but whatever it was, it slowly feels like it is being remedied.

We’re starting to see head coach Jim Harbaugh get a little more aggressive with the playcalls and turning his offense loose a bit, even if it’s not quite to where fans want to see it. This was a guy who left his offense on the field a few times on Saturday on fourth down and also took a deep shot at the end of the first half up 39-0. Whether it be wanting to rub it in Scott Frost’s face or not, the killer instinct they need to develop is starting to show up.

It feels good for fans to be in the win column, but there still a cloud of skepticism over the program right now, and there should be. These guys are winning the games they should be winning, but they’ve still struggled in rivalry games and have lost to the best teams that thy have played. Nothing changes that, but each week has been a slow build to what they hope will be a body of work that has them ready when the lights are the brightest.

I don’t know when this team will truly be tested again. They travel on the road next week to Northwestern, which always provides a stiff challenge but they are more talented at every level on both sides of the ball. Maryland follows the next week and should be a game that the Wolverines walk out as victors, but it is the stretch that comes after that will make-or-break this team. Nothing is changing that.

The Wolverines welcome Wisconsin to the Big House on Oct. 13, travel to Michigan State on Oct. 20, and then return home for a game against Penn State on Nov. 3. One of those two home games will be a night game and MSU is always ready for a fight with the Wolverines. Wisconsin may not be what we thought they were, but they are a better football team than Notre Dame, as is Penn State, who is proving to still be plenty explosive offensively.

Anything less than 2-1 would be a massive disappointment, but fans want 3-0 and that’s what the expectation should be. I said it after Notre Dame and I’ll say it again: I can’t give tis team the benefit of the doubt to win a big game right now and have to see it happen first. Things are looking promising right now and the elements are certainly there, but the offensive line, big plays on defense and coaching in big games has been a hindrance and all they can really do is go out and prove it isn’t at this point.

Until then, two more pop quizzes are on the way. They’ve got a few more weeks until the grades start truly mattering.