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Monday Morning Quarterbrews: Feelin like 2015

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Michigan is back to waxing the teams it should, but will it hold?

Dustin Johnston / Maize N Brew

That was about as thorough a demolition as you’re going to see.

The 2018 Wolverines are starting to feel like the ‘15 bunch, a team that lost an opening week road matchup before going on one of the most dominant five-game stretches in program history.

The schedule hasn’t been as tough as ‘15 where the Wolverines pummeled very solid BYU and Northwestern teams, but there’s a similar flavor in the air.

The Game

Michigan scored on the ground, through the air and on a dazzling punt return from Donovan Peoples-Jones. Quinn Nordin smashed a 50-yarder through the uprights, and the defense played it’s best game of the year. More succinctly, Michigan absolutely throttled Nebraska.

Shea Patterson was not particularly sharp, but he avoided turnovers and threw another score, this time getting Zach Gentry his first of the year. Something that I think is pretty important: Shea’s bad games in 2018 look like the “best case” passing performances of 2017. Competency at quarterback has been a much welcomed addition.

Redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey came in and lit the world on fire before Brandon Peters finished the game reminding everyone why last year was such a nightmare.

Karan Higdon was electric and the young backs behind him did just enough to keep the defense honest. I like Tru Wilson, but he’s not someone I want getting a lot of touches against the big dogs of the conference. I think discovering Ben Mason as a big, bruising battering ram is a nice wrinkle that could help a rushing game that has typically been feast or famine.

Nico Collins had a wonderful toe-drag, and Donovan Peoples-Jones continues to burst onto the scene.

This kid is an alien. DPJ has now scored in three straight games and has five total scores on the year (all in the last three weeks). You still want to see more consistency in the passing game from him, but Michigan has been hard pressed for downfield passing opportunities.

Quickly, shout out to the defense. They were absolutely unreal and there’s not a lot to say. Josh Metellus is getting better every week, and the defensive line finally played to the level we know they’re capable of. Devin Bush and Rashan Gary had their best games of the young season.

Looking Ahead

The Michigan coaching staff deserves credit for putting together a well-rounded game plan — certainly the best of this season. The running game was dominant early, yet the coaches didn’t turtle as they have in the past. There was clearly an effort to try new things and to open up the passing game. Both had mixed results.

Dustin Johnston - Maize n Brew

I do think it’s important to continue to test this team’s comfort zone. Some of the motion on the sweep packages looked robotic and the downfield passing game didn’t click as much against a Nebraska team playing a lot of Cover 2 and softer zones. A couple missed pass interference calls also change things somewhat.

Getting these reps in now is going to pay dividends later in the year. We saw jet-sweeps, more read-option concepts, and the pistol formation for really the first time this year. As Harbaugh and Pep Hamilton find the sweet spot with Patterson, you’ll likely see more of these things being used. Earlier in the week, Michael Onwenu said the playbook had barely been opened up, and we quickly saw some of the wrinkles he was alluding to.

Michigan travels to Evanston to play a struggling Northwestern team Saturday at 4:30 on Fox. NU hasn’t lived up to expectations this year, but Pat Fitzgerald is still capable of putting a great game plan together.

Similar to the last few weeks, the goal for Michigan is basically going to be “cover the spread.” Good teams win and great teams cover. Looking like you “should look” against inferior teams is what can help build a foundation of confidence, and with only two games left before the Wisconsin-Michigan State-Penn State stretch, the more solid that foundation is, the better.

Around the Country

Alabama is being led by a 20-year-old five-star quarterback while Clemson finally appears ready to turn things over to their 18-year-old five-star quarterback. Sometimes life isn’t fair.

Oklahoma threw us back to the early 2000s by putting a game on “pay per view” — and almost lost. Washington and Georgia survived some pesky teams while Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State, and Boston College did not.

Texas is “back”ing again, and Kentucky is the best team no one is talking about. They dominated a really good Mississippi State group and now have two quality wins over the Bulldogs and the Gators in the swamp — it should be noted the two Mullen schools are beating everyone who isn’t Kentucky by averages of 50-8 and 49-12 respectively).

Ohio State and Penn State have really good offenses, and Stanford made a furious comeback to take down Oregon in the game of the day. #Pac12AfterDark was on full display.

Dan’s Picks: (11-9; 5-1 Last Week)

For those keeping score, we’ve now gone 4-1, 0-4, and 5-1 the last three weeks. The Ryan Fitzpatrick of college football picks thus far.

Michigan -9 @ Northwestern

Louisiana @ Alabama -50

Oklahoma State -16.5 @ Kansas

Stanford +3 @ Notre Dame

South Carolina @ Kentucky +1