Any doubts about exactly how good the Michigan Wolverines were following their 35-14 loss to Wisconsin a week ago were cleared up by Saturday’s 52-0 decisive rout over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers, a team that has won multiple games in many years of its existence, had nothing for Michigan on Saturday.
Which, of course, is exactly what was expected for the Maize and Blue, even coming off of a rough-looking loss in Madison the week before.
This past weekend, the Wolverines proved just how good they could be against the worst teams, but that was never really the question.
The difference between the last two weeks for Michigan was like when you would play NCAA Football and go up one level too high for your skill level and get beat, so you’d drop back down a level.
In this analogy, Rutgers was Junior Varsity level and Michigan really just needed to beat the hell out of somebody.
For Michigan, this weekend was about building confidence and proving to themselves that they could still conceivably do football things against other football people.
When Michigan Was On Offense
Michigan posted 476 yards of total offense against Rutgers, which was a season high for the Wolverines.
Shea Patterson completed 17-of-23 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for three touchdowns in short-yardage situations.
This game was proof that Patterson can still complete passes at a high clip, but he may need a spotless pocket to get it done.
It was mostly a short passing game for the Wolverines, but Nico Collins took a simple sideline catch 48 yards for a touchdown.
Slot receiver Ronnie Bell continues to be Patterson’s favorite target. He caught six passes for 83 yards. Donovan Peoples-Jones had some nice moments, catching four passes for 62 yards.
Overall, it was a solid day through the air. The ground, however, continues to be a problem.
Michigan rushed for 141 yards on 41 attempts (3.4 ypc) with a long rush of just 15 yards. It was Rutgers’ best effort against the run this season. They have given up 183 yards to UMass, 194 yards to Iowa, and last week Boston College put up 277 yards on the Scarlet Knights.
Incredibly, the Wolverines were still able to rush for five touchdowns and not get stopped short on any of their goal-line situations.
Right now, there’s a running back-by-committee approach and the committee isn’t all that fear-inducing.
Sophomore Christian Turner led the team with 48 yards rushing on 11 attempts. Freshman Hassan Haskins finished with 45 yards on nine attempts. Freshman Zach Charbonnett only carried the ball five times, finishing with 22 yards. Others got involved as well, but there wasn’t much success on the ground, and that’s not good news.
If Charbonnet is injured and just needs some rest, it seems odd to continue playing him. And if he’s healthy enough to play, it also seems odd to only let him carry the ball a couple of times after relying on him 33 times against Army.
Even jet sweep motions weren’t opening up anything inside for the running game.
Iowa is up next for the Wolverines and I don’t see this team hitting the 100-yard mark against the Hawkeyes, who have yet to allow 100 yards rushing in a game this season.
Overall, it was a confidence-building day for the Michigan offense, but there is a problem with the running game. The offensive line isn’t creating push and defensive linemen don’t stay blocked very long. I also don’t think this is a very talented group of tailbacks. I am still on the Charbonnet bandwagon, but until he’s right, this whole thing will be wrong.
When Michigan Was On Defense
Rutgers was held to 152 total yards and I’d bet about half of them came from crossing routes against Michigan’s man defense.
Still, the longest reception was just 17 yards and the longest rush was six yards. It was exactly what it should have been and had to be an encouraging sight for defensive coordinator Don Brown.
This was the first game where I noticed safety Brad Hawkins actually making plays. I wonder how much of that was because he’s being pushed by freshman Daxton Hill, who played more defense this week and had some nice moments. He looks like a solid tackler, and he’s also almost always the best athlete on any field he steps onto. His playing time should continue, unless he was just out there this week because it was Rutgers.
Defensive end Kwity Paye may have had his best game as a Wolverine, finishing with six tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. The 1.5 sacks now gives Michigan’s defensive line 2.5 sacks on the season.
There really is no point going too deep into this breakdown, other than to say inside linebacker Jordan Glasgow had a rough day trying to defend Rutgers’ offensive quickness. Jim Harbaugh loves him, but I’m not sure what his best attribute is other than family legacy.
The Special Teams
There was nothing of note here, other than Donovan Peoples-Jones being back to return some punts. He had three for 18 yards, but he is always a threat to house one.
Michigan’s coverage teams were excellent, allowing a long return of just 20 yards.
Will Hart punted twice for a 47.5-yard average.
It was an uneventful afternoon on special teams, at least based on what I saw in the 22 minutes of the 26-minute version I saw on YouTube.
Freshman slot receiver Mike Sainristil did muff a punt, but he’s the No. 3 punt returner at best right now for the Wolverines, so that doesn’t really matter either.
In fact, this was the punt return by the third-string punt returner of Big Ten games.
What Does It All Mean?
Not a damn thing.
I’m sorry if there wasn’t much insight to this week’s Michigan Monday, but that’s what happens on bye weeks.
This is probably the shortest Michigan Monday in the nearly 20 years of Michigan Mondays because nothing that happened in Saturday’s game really matters, nor does my recounting of it.
The only way this game would have provided something meaningful is if Michigan looked bad, and they didn’t. They didn’t look great, but that’s not new either.
Rutgers is basically a skinny mirror in the best lighting. They make everybody look good.
It also means that the rest of the season starts now for the Wolverines.
Iowa comes into Ann Arbor this weekend as a 5-point underdog (as of this writing) and normally they would be a smooth matchup for the Wolverines because there is nothing cute about them and you know exactly what you’re going to get.
What Michigan is going to get is a team that leads the Big Ten in fewest penalties, that runs the ball well, protects the quarterback, stops the run, and doesn’t make anything easy for an offense. In other words, the Wolverines are going to have to play well in order to get this win and I’m not sure how capable they are of doing that.
The good news is that Iowa doesn’t have a Jonathan Taylor to take over the game, so even if the Wolverines struggle for much of the game, the fourth quarter should still decide things.
Or maybe Michigan plays their best game of the year and leads throughout. I’m not sure what that would look like or how many points that would mean, but right now I just don’t see everything coming together against an opponent who won’t enable it.
A win against the Hawkeyes would give this team real momentum, however.
And real momentum would be a welcome sight for this program right now.
The Road to The Game
Aug. 31 — Michigan 40 – Middle Tennessee 21 (1-0)
Sept. 7 — Michigan 24 – Army 21 (2-0)
Sept. 21 — Wisconsin 35 – Michigan 14 (2-1, 0-1)
Sept. 28 — Michigan 52 – Rutgers 0 (3-1, 1-1)
Oct. 5 — Iowa
Oct. 12 — at Illinois
Oct. 19 — at Penn State
Oct. 26 — Notre Dame
Nov. 2 — at Maryland
Nov. 16 — Michigan State
Nov. 23 — at Indiana
Nov. 30 — Ohio State