If there’s ever been a year for Michigan football to compete for a National Championship under Jim Harbaugh — it’s this one.
On Saturday, for the first time since 2006, the Wolverines beat a ranked opponent on the road. Fittingly, that win came over in-state rival, Michigan State.
“We knew they didn’t want to play with us,” Michigan senior running back Karan Higdon said post-game.
I wasn’t in either locker room. I’m sure Michigan State intended to play with Michigan on Saturday inside Spartan Stadium on a stormy Saturday afternoon.
Those intentions didn’t translate to the field, though, as it was as dominant Michigan’s ever been against a ranked opponent past 2004.
Sure, the score doesn’t depict a blowout — and U-M’s offensive woes didn’t prompt one, either — but a blowout is glorified domination. The Wolverines dominated, not on the scoreboard, but from the first whistle to the last.
Michigan had 395 yards of offense to Michigan State’s 94.
Michigan had 183 rushing yards to Michigan State’s 15.
Michigan was 7-for-17 on 3rd down. Michigan State was 0-for-12.
Saturday was another display of something U-M fans have begged for since the first season under Rich Rodriguez: a team that’s different.
What makes this team different?
- Back-to-back ranked wins for the first time under Jim Harbaugh.
- 2-1 in “big games” in 2018.
This team’s confidence and its swagger is oozing during its Revenge Tour. Michigan is strutting its stuff — and it’s got every right to.
In back-to-back weeks Michigan has outscored its opponents 59-20. Both were ranked inside the Top 25 and both were in-conference.
For the first time under Harbaugh, U-M isn’t dominating its bad opponents and losing its big games.
Michigan is dominating both.
Michigan WR @DPeoplesJones joined us on the field after the game.
"The tide turned last year when we lost," he said. "I love my boys. We came out here in Spartan country and we fought." pic.twitter.com/Xy1QciAWp6
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) October 20, 2018
The 2016 Wolverines went 10-3, losing three of their last four games after sitting at 9-0. It was the last time U-M fans felt hope for a championship at this week of the season. It shattered once Michigan hit its final stretch of the regular season and faced a stacked Florida State team in the Orange Bowl.
Michigan had to travel to Iowa and infamous Kinnick Stadium, along with a trip to Columbus to face a dangerous Buckeye offense and equally frightening OSU defense with a historically good secondary.
This season, Michigan faces No. 17 Penn State at home, travels to one-win Rutgers, hosts 4-4 Indiana and, of course, travels south to Columbus.
Surprisingly, that schedule — despite its preseason conception — bodes well for Michigan.
I might get hate mail for saying this, but the Wolverines are clearly better than both Penn State and Ohio State — at this juncture. Now, by the season’s final week, the Buckeyes might figure things out on both sides of the ball and field a similar effort to their 2016 win over U-M.
Ohio State ranks below 100 in big plays allowed, 70th in total defense, 43rd in scoring defense, and just lost 49-20 to Purdue.
Rondale Moore is fantastic, but, Purdue.
Until Ohio State can prove that it’s the team of past, how can you argue Michigan isn’t the most talented team — right now — in the Big Ten?
U-M sits No. 2 in scoring defense and No. 3 in scoring offense in the Big Ten — along with having the No. 1 total defense in the country that held Michigan State to its lowest yardage total ever in the rivalry.
#Michigan LB Devin Bush explains why he did what he did pre-game to the Spartan logo.
Added that MSU was dirty after the whistle throughout. pic.twitter.com/RhiwHnicUm
— Brandon Justice (@BrandonBJustice) October 20, 2018
A schedule that was projected to be the reason for this season’s demise has become the exact opposite. Michigan dominated in back-to-back weeks in two of its three-straight gauntlet games. The catch is, the Wolverines get a bye week and Penn State has to play host to the same team that left an everlasting effect on U-M’s 2016 season — Iowa — before traveling to Ann Arbor to face a rested U-M team, on a quest in its Revenge Tour.
Michigan’s the hottest team in college football not named Alabama right now with a team full of hungry, swagger-heavy, shit-talking revenge seekers.
And they just might take the Revenge Tour bus to the College Football Playoff.