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Handing out grades for Michigan’s win over Michigan State

Solid performances helped overcome red-zone woes for the Wolverines.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 29 Michigan State at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In all honesty, this game was boring to watch. There will be no complaints about the Michigan Wolverines winning, but the plan of attack taken by Michigan’s offense and the lack of execution by Michigan State made this game a snoozer. Michigan’s front seven, running backs and special teams did enough to reclaim the Paul Bunyan Trophy from a team that shouldn’t have even been on the field to begin with.

Let’s hand out some grades!

Quarterbacks: B-

J.J. McCarthy should be required to register his legs as lethal weapons because, man, was his mobility deadly or what? While his numbers through the air were disappointing to say the least, his ability to make lemonade out of lemons with his feet kept Michigan State’s defense on the field and at a comfortable distance down the stretch. Misreads and misfires plagued his night and kept the Spartans in the game far too long.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: C

This was easily this group’s worst outing of the season. Aside from Luke Schoonmaker’s consistency and Ronnie Bell’s ball skills, the wideouts couldn’t generate much of anything against one of the worst defensive backfields Michigan will face all season. Separation was nonexistent for most of the night — not to mention the poor blocking on the perimeter.

Running Backs: A

While not nearly as flashy as his performance in Michigan’s beatdown of Penn State, Blake Corum was the MVP of this game. To modern ears, doubling an opponent’s time of possession might seem antiquated and pointless. But Jim Harbaugh has made it abundantly clear Michigan’s identity will be predicated on milking the clock — a unique approach that could pay off against teams that earn their keep through quick scores. I wonder who that could be…

BC is the keystone of this old school strategy and fulfills the role as well as anyone. The human pinball should be on his way to New York in December if he keeps healthy.

Offensive Line: A-

The men in the trenches didn’t get as big a push as they typically do this time, but did enough to keep the pocket relatively clean for McCarthy and opened just enough holes for Corum to hit.

Front 7: A+

Michigan State hasn’t been able to run the ball all season and definitely couldn’t do it against the Maize and Blue. Including the trouble with the snap, Sparty mustered a paltry 1.6 yards per carry, 37 yards total on the ground. This alone deserves an A+. Couple it with the impressive amount of pressure generated against a Spartan team that desperately wanted to get the ball out of the pocket ASAP, and Michigan’s defensive front did phenomenal.

Secondary: A-

For the third year in a row, Michigan State was a one-trick pony with Keon Coleman playing the part. In fact, his 155 yards generated nearly 62% of the Spartans’ total offensive production for the game. Michigan did him plenty of favors by not playing the ball on the two 50/50 wounded duck passes Coleman caught and left him alone on a go-route down the middle in the fourth quarter. Other than those three plays, Michigan’s secondary held its own against a talented receiving corps.

Special Teams: A+

Jake Moody outscored the Spartans by 10 points, and the 54-yard logo kick cemented his status as one of the greatest kickers ever to wear a winged helmet. Brad Robbins had one punt, and Mel Tucker’s desperation limited A.J. Henning’s night to one return.

Michigan’s Deportment: B-

On the positive side of the ledger, the Wolverines didn’t let the desire for revenge get to their heads. Michigan stayed largely penalty-free and avoided heady plays. Michigan State can’t say the same.

Thank goodness for an All-American-caliber field goal unit and a stellar defensive performance because the red-zone offense was — to put it mildly — atrocious. Settling for two red-zone field goals is already pushing the limits of acceptability, but for Michigan to be held to four against this team is pathetic. Michigan has two of the best running backs and perhaps the best offensive line in the entire country, and for the Maize and Blue to only scrape together two red zone touchdowns is embarrassing.

Further compounding this issue is the inability of the wide receivers to generate space and open things up in the secondary. Fixing this boils down to better play sequencing. Michigan will need to improve markedly in both categories if it is to have a chance at beating Ohio State.