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Discussion: Aside from QB play, what has contributed to Michigan’s early season successes?

A year ago we wondered if the Wolverines were for real. Now they blow out opponents on the regular.

Colorado State v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines will face UConn tomorrow to close out their non-conference schedule. While they haven’t played a truly formidable opponent yet — FPI rankings have Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn ranked 120th, 129th, and 125th out of 131 FBS schools. respectively — they will face some contention during Big Ten play.

When I was thinking about what to discuss during a two-game stretch of blowout wins with another looming, I was really wondering what could be asked about this team given what we have seen thus far. I then considered what we were talking about last season. From what I could find, a season ago we were asking ourselves if our eyes were deceiving us.

It’s almost comical watching the discussions that are occurring a year apart. There’s been a lot of focus on Michigan’s quarterbacks, which is warranted, but also the strength of schedule. That’s also fair seeing as the three non-conference games Michigan has this year doesn’t include a Power 5 school or a ranked opponent, something that hasn’t happened in more than a decade. One caveat is the 2019 season, but Michigan played Army.

Much like last year, I want to focus on what has put the Wolverines where they are right now. I think there are a few things that have kept the momentum going after the 2021 season that have contributed to these lopsided wins. Putting quarterback play aside, I wanted to highlight what I think are the most important aspects that have led to Michigan’s early success this year.

For one, it’s a high powered offense, and for that I wanted to credit everyone involved outside of J.J McCarthy and Cade McNamara. Now, I know quarterback play is a huge factor, but the offense has really shined through two weeks.

The Wolverines have more than 1,000 total yards through two games and have outscored their opponents 107-17. Now that QB1 has been awarded to McCarthy, it’s clear Michigan’s offense will continue to expand. The Wolverines have a star-studded receiving room and a backfield to match, and both have served as the 1-2 punch for Michigan’s 2-0 start.

Michigan is the fourth-highest school in the Big Ten in total offense so far this season, ranked 19th among FBS teams. They have 13 touchdowns this season compared to 10 this time last year, while averaging 514 yards per game. The Wolverines are still hammering with their rush heavy offense, currently ranked No. 10 across all FBS schools. Michigan has rushed a total of 502 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 251 yards per game.

I do think, despite some moments that say otherwise, Michigan’s offensive line should also be given some credit. There are definite growing pains, given McNamara was sacked twice by Hawaii. Hopefully after another week to hone in on this, Michigan will be well prepared heading into its conference schedule.

Of course, arguably Michigan’s greatest contributor is its defense. This for me was the greatest question mark going into the season, and I’ve liked what I have seen so far. Again, they have been extremely diligent in getting to the quarterback and forcing teams to go three and out. As previously mentioned, this is a group that has allowed 17 points.

While they didn’t feel as flashy against Hawaii after getting seven sacks against Colorado State, the Wolverines are ranked 13th in total defense so far this season, the third highest of a Big Ten school. They’ve only allowed two touchdowns and have shut out both CSU and Hawaii in the first half of their respective games. The Wolverines allow 236 yards per game, whereas this time a season ago, Michigan allowed 330 yards per game.

So now I open the floor to you. What has been the most impressive aspect of Michigan’s play thus far? Perhaps we will take it a step further and ask: Aside from quarterback play, what are the biggest factors that have contributed to Michigan’s early season successes? What stat has led you to believe this team is legit? Share with us your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!