Michigan improved to 5-0 on Saturday after winning 38-17 on the road against Wisconsin.
Starting quarterback Cade McNamara hasn’t turned the ball over through five games, the offensive line has given up just one sack all year, they have one of the top rushing attacks, and an aggressive defense that isn’t predictable. Yeah, things are going well for Michigan midway through their season.
Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt, who was on hand for Michigan’s win over Wisconsin, detailed what has Michigan playing winning and competitive football. Klatt gives defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald a lot of credit for turning the unit around. The defense had six sacks on Saturday, knocked starting QB Graham Mertz out of the game, forced one fumble, had one interception. The defense was hitting hard and playing with purpose.
“Mike Macdonald comes in from the Baltimore Ravens, Jim Harbaugh wanted a Ravens style defense. He felt like the players and personnel that he had on this team, namely Aidan Hutchinson, were going to benefit from an NFL style of defense that had stand up edge players,” Klatt said. “Aggressive, attacking style of defense, and yet they didn’t have to do it with just man coverage. Playing one on ones on the outside, they will do that but they mix in enough zone coverage. They mix in some of that where it’s gonna be harder for teams to key in on their defense like they were able to do in previous years.”
Klatt believes Michigan is more tailored to compete with the toughest opponents on the schedule with their new schematics and overall approach.
“This version of Michigan is more suited to make a run into the back end of the season than they’ve been suited in the past. In the past they were running schematics that relied on their talent margin as opposed to their opponent. They were able to overwhelm some of those opponents, but once they got into like-footing in particular or in a situation like Ohio State where Ohio State has better players they were never able to hold up,” Klatt said. “I think these schematics that they have — commitment to the run game, the ability to throw the football efficiently and not turn it over, the attacking style of defense without having to play man coverage, makes them much more suited to make a run in the back half of the year.”
Klatt is giving credit where it’s due, and painting an objective picture of the glaring positives and progress Michigan has made — but he cautions that the team, and the fanbase, must take a one game at a time approach. With steep challenges ahead against Michigan State, Penn State, Ohio State, and even Nebraska, who just whooped Northwestern. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome.
“I know everyone is gonna wanna know is this the team that can compete with and beat Ohio State —- wait for that week, just look at it a game at a time. Nebraska presents challenges, Michigan State will present challenges, Indiana will present challenges, Penn State will present challenges.”
Klatt believes it will be crucial for Michigan to stay focused in the manner they have and continue to implement the new schematics in a cohesive way.
“If they can just focus on these challenges, continue to develop in these new schemes, then maybe they can get to a point where they can beat Ohio State. But focusing on that too early is not gonna be beneficial for this team or this fanbase,” Klatt said. “Let the team grow, mature, and evolve over the course of the year, and focus one game at a time. Nebraska is a lot better than people think, no doubt about it, and Michigan will have to play a very clean game like they did against Wisconsin if they’re gonna win that one.”