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What we learned from Michigan’s opening weekend victory over Colorado State

The Wolverines are utilizing the sum of their parts to write a sequel better than the original.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Colorado State at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Living up to the original is never an easy task. Think of the numerous sequels that have fallen flat on their faces, from Caddyshack II to Speed 2 to Deuce Bigalow: European Gigalow. Capturing the magic of the first iteration is nearly impossible because whether it be greed — it’s mostly greed — lack of imagination, or lack of preparation, the sequel almost always attempts to solely be a generic rip-off of the original.

Only a few have possessed the foresight and creativity to stand on their own. Movies such as The Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, all possess enough originality, passion, and purpose to live up to — if not surpass — their predecessors.

The 2021 Michigan Wolverines were an all-time original that rewrote the standard expected of all future Michigan teams. A standard so high that even winning by 44 points feels mundanely routine because that is now the expectation.

On Saturday, the Wolverines overwhelmed Colorado State in all facets of the game. Offensively, defensively, special teams, and I’m sure even their fans were overwhelmed in the Blue Lot by the the thousands of Wolverine faithful crushing Busch Latte’s with the speed and aggression of an Eyabi Anoma pass rush.

Michigan’s first performance in their sequel season to Team 142 possessed the all the magic of the original, but was accomplished with more of an ensemble in place of stars. Instead of David Ojabo and Aidan Hutchinson wrecking backfields, it was a combination of Jaylen Harrell, Mike Morris, Mazi Smith, Kris Jenkins, Mason Graham, Derrick Moore, Cam Goode, Braiden McGregor, and several others, acting as revolving doors of destruction, unrelenting in their pursuit of ruination.

In total, the team accounted for 11 tackles for loss, with 11 different players registering at least 0.5, and seven sacks with nine players recording at least 0.5. According to PFF, despite the Rams attempting only 20 passes, the Wolverines were able to generate 31 quarterback pressures.

Furthermore, the unit forced CSU quarterback Clay Millen into a bad read leading to safety Rod Moore’s first career interception and later forced a Millen fumble which was then scooped-and-scored by cornerback DJ Turner.

Offensively, 15 different players caught a pass (none caught more than two) and five different players averaged at least 5.3 yards-per-carry. The rushing numbers standout given the fact that the Wolverines were more short-staffed than your local Outback across the offensive line.

Starting left tackle Ryan Hayes was ruled out before the game and utility sixth linemen Karsen Barnhart was required to start in his absence. At right tackle, Trente Jones was making his first start and and transfer center Olu Oluwatimi was making his first career start as a Wolverine.

The situation worsened when Barnhart’s ankle was unintentionally rolled up on, forcing left guard Trevor Keegan to flex out to left tackle. Sophomore Giovanni El-Hadi was then inserted at left guard to replace Keegan. It was impossible for the group to maintain a chemistry, but despite these hiccups and rotations, the unit only allowed one sack and two tackles-for-loss, while continually paving the way for 234 rushing yards.

No one player stood out more than the man next to him. This game was the perfect amalgamation of a team’s sum being greater than it’s parts with each player doing the necessary 1/11 to win.

We learned that Team 143 is going to play as a combined force that relies upon the strength of their depth beyond the shallow space occupied by the starters.

You could feel the hallowed words of Bo Schembechler reverberating off this team with every sack, reception, and rushing yard gained: “We’re gonna win the championship again because we’re gonna play as team, better than anybody else in this conference, we’re gonna play together as a team.”

The Wolverines are currently a 50-point favorite against Hawaii next week according to DraftKings Sportsbook and even staunchly anti-Michigan FOX ‘analyst’ RJ Young is relenting his position by ranking the Wolverines No. 17 (he previously had them unranked) in his weekly poll, which in all fairness, is about as useless as Urban Meyer teaching a class on leadership and character.

Last season provided a new hope with star players; now it’s time for the collective empire to strike back and take it even further in 2022.