Though many projected the Michigan Wolverines to bounce back against Indiana on Saturday, nothing we saw on the field was too surprising in hindsight. It is clear that the issues plaguing this team run deep, and after watching Michigan State get destroyed a week after besting the Wolverines, there is no way to deny that the problems are real.
At the same time, there are some small glimmers of hope to be taken away from last weekend. The win-loss record is probably going to be ugly this year, but the raw talent is going to keep this team from collapsing completely. The stars on the roster do need to step up, though, as the weak links are unlikely to get better any time soon.
Exactly how good (or bad) is Joe Milton right now?
Saturday was a bit of a roller coaster for Joe Milton. He notched career highs in passing yards (344) and touchdowns (3) while showing off his arm talent on multiple occasions. While the defense was unable to stop the Hoosiers, there was a moment in the second half where it looked like Milton may be able to lead a comeback.
Unfortunately, that did not happen. The defense did fall short, but so too did the redshirt sophomore, as his two interceptions and 52.9 percent completion percentage proved he still has a ways to go in his development. He was also completely neutralized on the ground, failing to make an impact with his legs as he did earlier this season.
So which side is more predictive of Milton going forward? Even as a former member of Team McCaffrey (RIP) I think these faults are mostly a TRICK. We knew that accuracy was going to be a challenge, but his 60.7 percentage completion rate is not terrible. There is still coaching to be done, but it seems unlikely that he will not improve his touch with more reps as the seasons goes on. He is not going to be an all-conference performer this year, but by December he should look a lot more stable.
Is the pass rush still a strength?
Everyone knew the secondary was going to be an issue, and the interior defensive line looked questionable at best coming into the year. However, returning two All-Big Ten caliber edge rushers in Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson was supposed to anchor the defense as a whole.
Instead, the pass rush seems to have been left in Minneapolis. The last two games have yielded zero combined sacks, and opposing quarterbacks have burned the Wolverines through the air. Both Paye and Hutchinson have dealt with injuries, but even on the field their output has been limited. Now with Hutchinson set to miss time, there is even less hope for improvement.
A lot of blame should be put on the cornerbacks, as quarterbacks are able to release the ball quickly when their primary target is wide open. However, this pass rush is supposed to be able to help out the young corners by forcing some disruption in the pocket. There have been some good pressures and near sacks, but this is not consistent enough to make a difference in the passing game. At this point it looks like the ineptitude of the pass rush is a very sad TREND.