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What we learned from Saturday: Michigan is ready for war

Is the 2019 squad the one to break the losing streak?

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

For the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era, the Michigan Wolverines went into Bloomington and seized victory over Indiana without needing overtime. The Wolverines prevailed handedly 39-14 in a game that felt far more lopsided than 25 points.

The defense was not exposed with crossing routes as they were last season or exposed with any offensive concept for that matter. But the story of this game was the continued domination of Michigan’s offense.

Shea Patterson erupted for the second straight week with 366 passing yards and 5 touchdowns. Patterson is in the midst of one of the great Michigan quarterback runs of all time. His two-game passing yards total is the most since Jake Ruddock in 2015 and his 9 passing touchdowns in two weeks are the most ever by a Michigan quarterback.

Nico Collins (Nico Suave) was the biggest beneficiary this week hauling in 6 catches for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns. Donovan Peoples-Jones added another touchdown and Ronnie Bell caught his first of the season.

This current iteration of the offense is the ‘Speed in Space’ concept actualized. The Wolverines are spreading the ball around to all of their play makers and keeping defenses in positions of conflict.

However, the most important and the only thing we learned this week is that this team is ready for war in five days.

The Game

Michigan vs. Ohio State. Those words alone are enough to excite and/ or terrify fans of the rivalry or fans of the sport in general. This is the biggest rivalry game in collegiate sports and Michigan has not won on the Saturday after Thanksgiving since 2011.

Last year, the Revenge Tour came to a screeching halt in Columbus where the Buckeyes prevailed 62-39. It was supposed to be the year, but as has been the case in recent history, victory eluded the Wolverines once more.

But should fans have perceived last year as The year? The Revenge Tour was a fun moniker for the season, but the climax appeared to have happened weeks prior against Penn State.

After that, improvements ceased altogether and the team never got any better. It was a walk through route at Rutgers and then a sloppy 11-point victory over Indiana. As we all know, Indiana head coach Tom Allen capitalized on Michigan’s propensity to run press man-to-man coverage and exploited this habit with crossing routes.

The very next week, Ohio State’s game plan seemed to be explicitly based around crossing routes and, dare I say, getting speed in space.

Ever since that game, Michigan has made moves on the field and on the coaching staff, solely, for this very game. The 2019 defensive unit is the fastest ever under defensive coordinator Don Brown featuring several positionless pieces that serve multiple purposes within the scheme. The defense can play a myriad of coverages and generating pressure is no longer exclusive to blitz packages.

No team has beaten Don Brown in consecutive seasons except Ohio State and they have done so three years in a row. This is the most important game of Don Brown’s career.

Offensively, coordinator and play caller Josh Gattis has the unit humming into the season finale. Michigan’s offense has piqued in the final quarter of the season. Small pockets are worried about the rushing numbers, but the decline of rushing yards in the last two games is merely a by-product of an elite passing attack coming to life (750 yards and 9 touchdowns the last two weeks).

NCAA Football: Michigan at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Shea Patterson is playing the best football of his life and is undefeated in the Big House. This is the most important of Shea Patterson’s career.

Michigan has proven they can do it on the ground (303 rushing yards against Notre Dame) and now through the air. Last year, this was a body blow type of team; constantly wearing down opponents until they were overwhelmed by the fourth quarter.

The 2019 Wolverines are not opposed to body blows, but they are looking for knockout shots on every possession. These Wolverines are Deontay Wilder looking for glimmers of light to shut the opponent’s lights off.

Since halftime at Penn State, this team has gotten better every week, in every aspect of the game, and has shown no lingering flaws like last season. This team is healthy, executing at a high level, avoiding mistakes, and most importantly, winning.

This is arguably Jim Harbaugh’s finest coaching job and until he topples the Buckeyes, every game against Ohio State will be the most important of his career.

As for Ohio State, the Buckeyes are a juggernaut of a football team that has posted historic, jaw-dropping statistics this season. They are also an undefeated football team that has played a road schedule consisting of Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Rutgers.

Coincidentally, the Buckeyes are coming off a sloppy 11-point victory the week before ‘The Game,’ where they displayed a weakness for zone-reads and mobile quarterbacks.

[don’t say it, Andy, don’t say it, don’t say it, do- ……]

Michigan, 38-31.

But what do I know? I am an eternal optimist that has been plagued with Michigan fandom. I have said every year of the Harbaugh era is THE year, except 2017.

This Michigan team is built differently because of what happened last year in Columbus. Every move, every hardship endured, it was all done because of Ohio State.

The Wolverines have been down on the mat more than once this season and have always answered the bell. They just need to answer it one more time.

Saturday is THE day and this team is ready for war.