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Takeaways from Michigan’s victory over Northwestern

Michigan beat Northwestern and there are some things to talk about.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

No. 6 Michigan came into Saturday undefeated, and unbeaten they shall remain after defeating Northwestern 33-7 on Saturday afternoon. Here are takeaways from the victory.

A slow start and ‘meat left on the bone’

Jim Harbaugh said there was some meat left on the bone, specifically in Michigan’s passing game in goal-to-go situations where they didn’t get in the end zone. The game was 10-7 at halftime, and things really weren’t going Michigan’s way — a Mike Sainristil fumble on 3rd and Goal in the final minute of the 2nd Quarter did not give Michigan momentum heading into halftime. Michigan’s defense did its job, and Northwestern’s defense wasn’t doing anything exceptionally well, Michigan just wasn’t executing at a high enough clip to score.

Slow starts can come back to haunt any team, and while slow starts are bound to happen in the course of a season, they’re usually bad news against the best teams on the schedule. Have to start fast, or certainly faster.

Running game and offensive line flourish once again

Blake Corum rushed for 119 yards and 2 TDs, Hassan Haskins had 110 yards and 2 TDs. These two backs, and Michigan’s o-line continue to be the strength of the offense. Granted, Northwestern had the 117th ranked rushing defense heading into the game.

The fact of the matter is if Michigan wants to get into some bare knuckle brawls against teams like Michigan State, they have a shot to come out alive by pounding the rock in abundance. The physicality of the offensive line, and the tenacity of well-roundedness of both Corum and Haskins are things to be commended and applauded. With Michigan’s passing attack not having much traction from a yards per completion perspective, the success of this duo was all the more important.

Aidan Hutchinson weekly appreciation post

Pass deflections, quarterback hits, sacks, tackles for loss, what can’t Aidan Hutchinson do? You can count the mistakes he’s made this year on one hand and need a long highlight reel to show all the tremendous plays he has made — a lot of which come when he is double teamed or being held. Hutchinson continues to bolster his draft stock and he seems like a lock to go in the top 15 of the NFL Draft. Hutchinson coming back to Michigan for the 2021 season was one hell of a wise decision.

McNamara needs to play better, McCarthy needs to be utilized more

Going 20-of-27 for 129 yards is not going to cut it, and that’s the day Cade McNamara had. He took some shots deep, they didn’t land, but he often settled for dink and dunks. It can be argued that he took what the defense gave him, that he didn’t make any costly mistakes, but playing it close to the vest, playing conservative, is that really going to beat every team on the schedule? At some point these deep shots need to start landing with more consistency, we’re seven games into the season. McNamara is a definite leader, and gets mad at himself and holds himself accountable when he doesn’t do his job to the bar he sets for himself. However, more progress has to come, and must come soon. For every good thing McNamara has done, and he has done a lot of good things, there’s been a lot of, like I’ll mention Harbaugh saying once more, a lot of meat left on the bone.

Conversely, J.J. McCarthy got into the game throughout the day, but it was often at just one or two plays at a time. It sure would be nice to see McCarthy receive a full drive to show what he can do. What McCarthy did do during his time on the field is have a couple of the more explosive quarterback runs in recent Michigan memory, as well as an incredible fourth down completion (called back due to illegal block) where he scrambled and scrambled some more.

Only the Michigan coaching staff knows how close McCarthy is to realistically having a shot at the starting QB spot, and there’s been no clear indication that there’s a legitimate quarterback controversy of any kind. The fact of the matter is McCarthy has made a handful of impressive throws deep this season, and there’s no doubt his speed and arm strength are top-tier — whether he can consistently be accurate and not turn the ball over remains to be seen, but I’ve seen enough to want to see more of this five-star freshman.