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Staff Roundtable: Michigan bye week

The MnB staff got together to chat about the Wolverines at the bye.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines are on bye, but Maize n Brew has been hard at work pumping out content for you guys all week. In the midst of all that, some of our staff members got together to put some thoughts out there at the bye week. Topics include Michigan’s midseason MVP other than Blake Corum, what the team needs to work on at the bye week and more.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Michigan is now 7-0 at the bye week after manhandling Penn State last weekend, 41-17. Give me one word or phrase to describe the game last week, and explain your reasoning.

Von Lozon: Bullied. That is exactly what Michigan did to Penn State both on the field and in the tunnel when the Nittany Lions — in fact — started chirping first. James Franklin needs to shut his mouth, take a warm bubble bath, eat a PB&J sandwich, and try his best to actually win a meaningful football game for once.

Zach Breininger: Old school. Michigan fans have been clamoring for a more dynamic offense for about as long as Harbaugh came home. But the 418 rushing yards — and sheer dominance at the line of scrimmage — shows Michigan is at its best when it plays the game the way it was meant to be played: with grit, determination and an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

Andrew Bailey: “Harbaugh 3:16 said I just whipped your ass!” Any time you rush you rush for over 400 yards, dominance is insinuated. When you rush for over 400 yards against a Penn State rush defense that had only allowed 398 combined yards in their first five games…You paraphrase Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Kyle Yost: Vindication. It was pretty annoying to hear everyone discredit Michigan’s strong start because of the strength of schedule. Last weekend was the same as always for the Wolverines, but it finally took away everyone’s hesitations and uncertainties by coming against a team that had more national attention.

Dan Plocher: This Michigan team has received so much crap all season. “No more pass rush. Weak non-conference schedule. Not as good as last year. Pretenders.” To go and beat a top-10 Penn State team, and to do it in that way, was extremely rewarding. I think it proved this team is every bit as talented as last year and could be capable of more if J.J. McCarthy and this passing attack can come along.

The Wolverines have played very well all around for the most part this season, but there are always things to improve upon. What do you think Michigan needs to work on the most during the bye week to ensure a strong second half of the season?

Von Lozon: I just want the team rested and healthy. There are a couple guys out with injury right now — Nikhai Hill-Green, Trente Jones, Cade McNamara, Erick All, etc. — that we have not seen in a while; for the case of Hill-Green, it’s been all season. The team has played just fine without them, but I would love to see Hill-Green back sooner rather than later. The linebacker position is thin and lacking depth, so it would be great to has his services back in time for the home stretch.

Zach Breininger: Red zone offense. The number of times Michigan has settled for red zone field goals won’t cut it against Ohio State or any team Michigan would face in the postseason.

Andrew Bailey: Michigan needs to clean up things on the periphery: deep shots, intermediate wide receiver separation, stretch zone run defense, third and long scenarios and penalties. The Wolverines established a clear identity last week, and that makes everything else easier to fix.

Kyle Yost: Two areas stand out for me. One is short yardage/red zone situations, where the threat of J.J. McCarthy plus the experience of the offensive line should yield wins the vast majority of the time, which has not always been the case. Second is the linebacking corps, which has been shaky against tougher competition. I do not expect any drastic scheme changes, but Jesse Minter needs to be able to work around the weaknesses of the group.

Dan Plocher: I think it boils down to the passing game. This Michigan team has not faced adversity against a team that is as talented as they are. When you get behind against a team like Ohio State or Georgia, you have to be able to move the ball through the air to get back into a game. We’ve seen McCarthy step up against Indiana, but can he do it against one of the top dogs in the country?

For this week’s SB Nation Reacts survey, 90% of voters said Blake Corum is Michigan’s midseason MVP. That answer was obvious, so other than Corum, who is your midseason MVP and why?

Von Lozon: I will go with Mazi Smith. The dude has been feasting on the interior of the defensive line and has been a vital part in the success Michigan has had in rush defense. He’s the anchor of this defense and is playing the best ball of his life. Who knows where the Wolverines’ defense would be without the contributions of Smith?

Zach Breininger: Olu Oluwatimi. He’s the anchor of our championship-level offensive line. His versatility and intelligence as a blocker have upped the game of everyone on that front, and the fact he wasn’t even in the same conference as the other guys on the line augments these two characteristics. Without the success Olu has had adapting to and leading the offensive line, Blake Corum would not nearly be having the kind of stellar season he is having.

Andrew Bailey: The offensive line. Michigan has played seven guys in the first unit and has not missed a beat. They are opening up crater-sized holes for these backs and look even better than last season.

Kyle Yost: Mike Morris. The most obvious difference between last year’s elite team and this one was the huge drop-off at edge. While Morris is not quite Aidan Hutchinson or David Ojabo, he — along with a whole bunch of folks at both tackle and edge — have been enough to keep the defense in great shape.

Dan Plocher: Mike Morris. What a jump we have seen from him. He’s got five sacks thus far and has looked dominant off the edge, helping this defense in the run game as well. With Hutchinson and Ojabo gone, Morris has been the biggest reason this pass rush has remained consistent with last year.

Michigan is off this Saturday, but there are other good games on this weekend. What is one game you have circled that you will be watching more than the others?

Von Lozon: I am really intrigued by No. 8 TCU vs. No. 17 Kansas State. Who would have thought TCU would be undefeated and KSU would only have one loss this deep into the season? TCU has been tested on a couple occasions this year, while KSU’s best win (against Oklahoma) isn’t looking as good as it once was. Currently co-leaders in the Big 12, the winner of this one will gain sole possession of the lead and will likely go to the conference’s championship game later this year.

Zach Breininger: Oregon vs. UCLA. It’s nice to have the PAC-12 back to being a deep league, and this is as good of a look as we’ve gotten so far this season to see if UCLA is for real. It also doesn’t hurt this game is a 3:30 kick and not a 10:30 one.

Andrew Bailey: This is like asking, “Heard your wife’s out of town, so who’s coming over tonight?” The weekend just feels meaningless without the stress and exhilaration of the Wolverines. That said, I’ll still try to catch some games of future opponents, and maybe a clash in the SEC. Michigan hockey has a two-game stand against Lake Superior State this weekend, so at least I’ll still get my Wolverines’ fix!

Kyle Yost: Cuse/Clemson. Full disclosure, I did live in Syracuse for four years, but as always Clemson has an impressive schedule down the stretch. This one could have a lot of CFP implications for Michigan.

Dan Plocher: UCLA vs. Oregon. Two top-12 offenses in the country squaring off in what should be one of the highest scoring games of the season. Both teams have put up 40 points or more in just about every game this season. Chip Kelly is headed back to Eugene with the undefeated Bruins looking to prove they are the top dogs in the PAC-12.