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To beat Army, Michigan must clean up its mistakes

The Wolverines looked a little too sloppy in Week 1.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Middle Tennessee at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week Michigan did not start the game as I had hoped, leading just 10-7 after the first quarter. Hopefully that was due to first-game jitters which have now passed as the team looks on toward Week 2. Unlike last season, the Wolverines benefit from not facing a top-tier opponent — or a road game — right away, giving them a little leeway as the settle into the new year.

Despite winning fairly comfortable against Middle Tennessee State, Michigan had all sorts of problems last weekend. Just as a reminder, some of those mistakes include:

  • fumbling on the first play of the game
  • missing the easiest pick-six a corner will ever see
  • muffing a punt
  • comedic missed tackles leading to touchdowns
  • jumping offside multiple times
  • dropped passes from the strongest position group on the team

Fortunately, these are all execution problems and not inherent issues in terms of strategy or talent. A lot of this is understandable during the first game of the season, but as the Wolverines move on to the next game against better competition, these mistakes need to go away. To calm down the fan base and correct the national narrative, here is what Michigan needs to do on Saturday:

Michigan must eliminate the dumb mistakes

This is probably true against any team, but a school like Army gives the Wolverines even less margin for error than normal. By now everyone knows the Black Knights’ strategy, but simply put, their goal is to beat their opponents to death on the ground, methodically gaining first downs and dominating the time of possession.

Objectively, Michigan is the superior team with better athletes. Reduce the number of possessions, however, and suddenly the margins become tighter. The maize and blue absolutely needs to play cleanly on both sides of the ball, as Army is no stranger to executing its strategy.

Army Key Statistics

Season Third Down Rate Time of Possession
Season Third Down Rate Time of Possession
2018 Wins 58% 37 min
2019 vs. Rice 60% 34 min

When Army wins, it dominates on third down. Sloppy tackling and jumping offside are two areas that Michigan absolutely must eliminate to be successful on Saturday. Defending the triple option is not the easiest task, but defensive coordinator Don Brown is more than equipped to do so. This challenge becomes significantly more daunting, though, if the defense decides to shoot itself in the foot.

Additionally, Michigan must recognize that there will be fewer offensive opportunities than normal. Army almost always wins the time of possession battle, so not capitalizing on offensive drives will be much costlier than in the average game, as the Wolverines will not have as many chances to score. Dropped passes and turnovers will be much bigger issues this weekend if they occur again.

It sounds like a no-brainer to clean up the play after Week 1, but by welcoming Army into the Big House, Michigan left itself with little room for error. I would be surprised if we saw a lot of the same issues come up again, especially from the upperclassmen on the team. The Knights should not be overlooked, but this is a game the Wolverines should win comfortably, assuming they can play to their normal standard.