LGHail is a Michigan athletics Twitter personality, renown nationally. This is another installment in his weekly series for The Wolverine Lounge.
After the Notre Dame game, Michigan has recovered quite nicely. But it should be stated that the competition was not really all that great. So, are they going to tear up the Big Ten? Are they going to fall off like last year? What?s going on with Michigan?
What?s going on with Michigan?s offense?
Michigan played a host of average-to-bad defenses last year, but never really lit up the scoreboard. Whether it was Wilton Speight against Cincinnati, Wilt/John O’Korn against Purdue, or JOK/Brandon Peters against Rutgers, they never really flew down the field. One exception is the running game against Minnesota, a week that it appeared they were turning the corner.
But this year, Michigan is able to run up the score on average-to-bad defenses. This bodes well for the team moving forward. The throws Shea Patterson is making will translate to other teams. The open running lanes will be there for Chris Evans, Karan Higdon, and Tru Wilson in Big Ten games, because teams can no longer load the box and make Michigan?s QB beat them in the air, the way they could against Michigan?s other recent QBs. Shea Patterson has shown that he can make throws into tight windows, so defenses must respect Michigan?s passing game, for the first time in a looooooooong time.
This Shea Patterson throw is seriously impressive pic.twitter.com/nkiOdumbIb
— Alejandro Z??iga (@ByAZuniga) September 16, 2018
One concern with the passing game is the offensive line and pass protection. Michigan must build a hot route into nearly every passing play they run, and Shea must know where it is and go with it if he’s under pressure. Sacks are drive killers and Shea?s health is absolutely critical to this team?s success. (Yes, I know Dylan McCaffrey has looked good in his short time in there, but Shea Patterson?s QB play has been program-changing this season.)
What?s going on with Michigan?s defense?
There are legitimate questions about the pass coverage resulting from the SMU game. Michigan never figured out how to cover James Proche (11 catches, 166 yards, 2 touchdowns) the entire game. That?s a problem if you watched OSU?s receivers against TCU. That has to get better … quickly.
It?s also quite noticeable that Maurice Hurst is gone. That huge push that he had from the middle on just about every play made lives miserable for opposing offenses. This year, that just hasn?t been happening, and it shows.
One thing that has been great is linebacker play. Devin Bush has been playing at an amazing level. Josh Ross has stepped up quite nicely into the starting role as well. Their play has really helped stabilize the defense.
Something I am very concerned about is crafty offenses taking advantage of Michigan over-pursuing. Even though Chase Winovich is a very talented player, he often allows big running plays by over-pursuing instead of sealing the edge and staying home. This killed Michigan against OSU last year, and it is still happening right now. I love Chase?s skill and talent, and he makes a ton of big plays, but teams are watching film of him and taking advantage of his aggressiveness.
What?s going on with Michigan?s chances to win the conference?
That schedule is still tough. If it?s going to happen, Michigan needs to show up on the road. I think they will run the table at home, as Wisconsin is looking weak, and I think they can venge their loss to Penn State last year. It all comes down to how well they can play in East Lansing, Evanston, and Columbus. As of right now, there is no evidence that it can happen. But if Shea Patterson keeps throwing the ball like he is as they add new wrinkles to the offense, and if the defense can put it all together, I can see great things happening for Michigan this season.
What?s going on with Michigan this week?
Michigan plays a Nebraska team that is learning under a first-year coach in Scott Frost. They have been a colossal disappointment in the early part of the season. But Scott Frost has a history with Michigan — Nebraska will certainly be up for this game.
The Wolverines should be able to move the ball with ease against Nebraska. If true freshman QB Adrian Martinez is healthy, the Huskers could give Michigan?s defense some fits. If he can?t go, this one will be ugly.
Final score prediction:
If Martinez plays: Michigan 38-24
If Martinez doesn?t play: Michigan 45-7.
Normally, I don?t think one player can have a 24-point impact on a game, but mobile QBs have traditionally been a nightmare for Michigan.