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What we learned about Michigan, the Big Ten, and college football in Week 2

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Offensive struggles continue to limit Michigan

Army v Michigan Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The blue bloods roared, a national title contender rose, Nebraska remains a disappointment, Wisconsin has yet to be scored on this season, and Michigan survived.

This past week of college football taught us many things, but this is what I learned in Week 2 of 2019.

Michigan

Well that sucked.

This game was more frustrating than a Valentine’s Day weekend spent at your in-laws’ house discussing politics. But at least those weekends are within our realm of control; football exists outside of our influence to thrill and entertain, yet this weekend was more agony than exhilaration.

Michigan endured horrific play calling, lost three fumbles, had a touchdown spoiled due to a premature whistle, committed three turnovers-on-downs, and had to rely on Army missing a field goal by a few feet to survive in double overtime.

Army is a good team, this is far from being challenged by Kalamazoo College or Rutgers, but what the hell is going on with the offense? Who is to blame?

I look at it as a three-fold answer.

Josh Gattis

Speed in Space (translation: RB dive, but from shotgun)

The Josh Gattis hire was the most talked about move of Michigan’s off-season and the supposed game changer to put the Wolverines over the top.

So far, it is a sloppy excuse of innovation to merely run the ball less effectively from the shotgun position. Gattis is a first time play caller and it shows. The offense looks more unprepared than a 10th grader taking the MCAT and against the elite (undefeated, unscored upon in 2019 Wisconsin), this just won’t do.

How can no power package exist? How can the plethora of talent at wide receiver be so mismanaged? I understood the ‘don’t show too much on tape’ argument last week, but this week, how about just ‘don’t lose to Army.’

Gattis was given the keys, ‘he will run the whole offense,’ and he will shoulder the blame when responsible.

Shea Patterson

‘Is Shea Patterson hurt?’

The team and coaching staff have given no credence to this notion and I cannot subscribe to any speculation without verification. Otherwise, this just becomes a weekly rant about conspiracies and I am not going to become the Alex Jones of Michigan sports coverage.

From ‘Shea-vior’ to being booed at the Big House, a lot has changed in year 2 for Patterson. Indecision in the backfield, happy feet in the pocket, sailing throws, and fumbling the football have all exacerbated this devolution, but none of us saw this level of decline coming.

There is no excuse for these mistakes from Patterson at this stage of his career. Currently, he is the Mitch Trubisky of college football, spoiling the potential of a great defense propping him up and limiting an entire offense.

If Patterson is ultimately battling through injury, then blame falls solely on our last part of the answer. Because Shea Patterson at 60 percent does not help this team more than Dylan McCaffrey at 100 percent.

Jim Harbaugh

Discipline and time management directly fall upon the head coach. For some reason a two-minute offense is outside of Harbaugh’s offensive purview and the Wolverines have committed 17 penalties in two games to further hurt their cause.

Harbaugh has been adaptable and willing to delegate responsibility for the greater good, but he needs to reign in this group as a leader to at least eliminate the costly penalties. As far as a two-minute offense is concerned, just pray a game never comes down to crisp execution.

Lastly, imagine if Michigan had horrific play calling, lost three fumbles, had a touchdown spoiled due to a premature whistle, committed three turnovers-on-downs, and Army made that game-winning field goal.

It could always be worse; Michigan could be Tennessee.

For all of Michigan’s self-inflicted wounds, the Wolverines were a few plays and whistles away from a 28-7 margin, but disbelief is difficult to suspend even for the incurably optimistic at this point.

Michigan had every right to lose and they should have. The Wolverines were out-coached, outplayed, out-executed, and their self-sabotaging game plan was almost as good as Army’s game plan. Army was the better team on Saturday, but Michigan was the winning team and nothing else matters for now except 2-0.

Let’s just hope improvement week incites an offensive awakening this season.

See ya in Madison.

Big Ten

If you are looking for execution of the ‘Speed in Space’ concept, look no further than College Park.

First-year head coach Mike Locksley has implemented his system to great effect at Maryland. The Terrapins have scored 142 points over the first two weeks and while a win over Howard (deservedly) did not garner any praise, a win over Dino Babers and Syracuse must.

Syracuse was one of the preseason dark horse picks to challenge Clemson in the ACC due to their competitiveness (and 2017 victory) over the last two seasons against the Tigers.

So what does this mean for Maryland? We have seen early season success prove foolish for long term projections as recent as last year for them. Has Mike Locksley gotten them over the hump of mediocrity?

Almost.

I believe the Fighting Scott Van Pelt’s will win around eight games and play spoiler this year in the Big Ten East.

Heed my warning, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State.

College Football

When I think about contenders for the College Football Playoff, it’s a short list coupled with my own personal bias to force Michigan into this grouping for my own optimism and self preservation (sue me).

Bias aside, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and Ohio State are heavily in the discussion and now LSU must be added to this list.

For years, LSU has been the Iowa of the south: Perennially great defense handicapped by an antiquated offensive scheme and mediocre quarterback play. Even the exceptional 2011 team accomplished everything they did despite a lousy offense.

Quarterback Joe Burrow and new passing game coordinator Joe Brady have quickly put that narrative to rest.

The Tigers went into a hostile environment in Austin, Texas, on Saturday and put on an absolute clinic offensively en route to a 45-38 victory. Burrow completed 31 of 39 passes for 471 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception, albeit off a tipped pass.

LSU had three receivers top the century mark for receiving yards and this offense has seemingly become a modern juggernaut overnight (can’t relate).

With a new contender in the mix who will play Auburn, Alabama, Florida, and potentially Georgia, the Playoff picture is murkier than ever and for a sport starved for variety, this is a win.

Head coach Ed Orgeron may be inaudible, but the changes he made and the quickness of adaptation within the offense is something to make every Michigan fan green with envy.