Battle Rhythm

That, a game face.

And no, he didn't touch the banner. He probably didn't even see it.

FBS rankings after week 4:
Rushing defense: 10th
Passing defense: 5th
Pass efficiency defense: 9th
Scoring defense: 4th
Total defense: 2nd

Two things we knew for certain coming into this season. Michigan's defense would be good and it would likely be better early-on than the offense. But not only does Michigan's defense lead the Big Ten pretty much across the board statistically, they're ranked top-10 nationally in all 5 meaningful defensive categories.

Yeah, they guys can play.

Not only that, but Michigan is the only B1G team to play 2 power-5 non-conference opponents, and #22 BYU...who's an independent. Over the last 12 quarters of play, Michigan has surrendered a total of 14 points...half of which came against the the backups against UNLV.

Harbaugh, BYU post-game:
It’s a little early to start patting ourselves on the back too much. Just come back and start working again ... We’ve got battle rhythm right now, and if our team will just keep doing what we’re doing- and it’s great preparation during the week and competition- it’s coming. It’s coming together.”
When BYU entered the Big House, there's no doubt they expected a slightly different Michigan squad. When Michigan's own fans showed up to the game, they likely expected a slightly different Michigan squad. Up until kickoff on Saturday, there had been no prior tangible evidence of what we were about to see on the field. Only a checkered recent history of whiffing against opponents with a pulse.

Michigan battled a good Utah team but turnovers and poor offensive execution plagued any sort of momentum or scoring opportunities. Against Oregon State, Michigan played better, but there were still some hiccups offensively. And last week versus UNLV, after quickly jumping out to a 28-0 halftime lead, Michigan took their foot off the gas and sputtered to a closer win than most would've preferred.

So it's clear why most people were a little edgy about playing a seemingly potent and quick-scoring offense like BYU's. This was going to be a good gauge for where Michigan was as a program under new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

After these first 4 games, it's clear what Michigan's is good at, and what still needs to come together. It's not rocket science. Michigan is simply a better coached, better prepared team than they used to be. That is the biggest takeaway for me after the first 4 games of the season.

Michigan, by almost any measure, is one of the best coached teams in the country.

Tanner Mangum, BYU's freshman phenom quarterback who had orchestrated heroics against Nebraska, Boise State and even UCLA to some degree, was completely shut down. Mangum went 12 for 28 for 55 yards. That's it...a dismal QB rating of 59.4. By the end of the 1st half, Mangum had completed 4 of 13 passes for 25 yards. BYU as a team was outgained 317 to 62.

And it wasn't like BYU was making a ton of mistakes. There were no turnovers in this game. BYU was just completely shut down. Mangum's most effective pass on Saturday was just to throw it away or 5 yards away from his receivers. It was 60 minutes of total domination.

Once again, it was a half-day for the Michigan offense. While like you, I would've approved of Michigan pouring it on in the 2nd half...I'm ok with Harbaugh/Drevno/Fisch flipping the playbook into clock-mode and cruising to a big win while the defense continues to dominate. For the first time in a long time, Michigan's defense is carrying this team to easy, decisive victories against good opponents.

It's cliche to say "Michigan is back". Michigan is not back...not yet. But I'm pretty sure this is what "back" should feel like. For those too young to remember...what we all witnessed in the 1st half against BYU...that's what it used to feel like all the time.

Jake Rudock had his best game as a Wolverine. It wasn't flashy, but it was effective. He hit downfield targets (after not seeing a wide-open Darboh on the opening play which would've been a touchdown), he ran the offense effectively, and he also knew when to take off running...leading to 2 touchdown runs. It was measured improvement. And that's a great thing to see.

Amara Darboh, fresh from his swearing-in ceremony to become a US citizen on Thursday, had two big highlights in this game. First was the one-handed circus catch in the first quarter that really got things rolling for Michigan offensively, and of course his touchdown catch in the 2nd quarter to make it 14-0. I think it's clear no one has had a better last few days than Amara Darboh. So great to see him have a big game...a breakout game in many ways.

DeVeon Smith had his 2nd 100+ yard rushing game of the year. The junior averaged 7.8 ypc thanks to a ridiculous 60-yard touchdown run that featured getting pushed out of a pile by his own O-lineman, and then wrestling with BYU DB's, spinning his way towards and jumping into the endzone.

That single play broke the will of the BYU team and killed any hope for a close game. The Cougars never recovered, and Michigan coaches knew the game was over at that point. The rest of the game was academic. Score as much as possible going into the half, smother BYU with defense, kill the clock in the 2nd half and try to keep everyone healthy.

Sure, there are much tougher tests remaining, but I'll wager than in the 1st half last Saturday, Michigan looked as if they could've hung with any team in the country. And heading into Big Ten play this weekend, for this team, that's about as good as any of us could've predicted.

On to the Big Ten.

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