So Michigan cruised to another big win over the weekend...their 3rd win against a team they lost to the year before. I say "cruised" like this is a thing now. It's not a thing now. Big wins even against bad teams are awesome and not to trifled with. I respect any win way too much to gloss over it with a "cruised"...like I'm some sort of win snob or something.Got a question for you: Who could possibly have it better than us? (Video: @SonnyEquipment) pic.twitter.com/4sU9pc0Tgy— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) November 8, 2015
I, sir...am no win snob.
While the 2015 Harbaugh Redemption Tour has gone 3-2 so far this year, the fact that we're even sitting here in early November discussing how realistic Michigan's chances are at getting to Indy on December 5th (they're not that crazy) is cathartic on all of the levels.
Odds maker-uppers had Michigan a 24-point favorite against Rutgers, which I didn't agree with because at my core I'm still a shattered Hoke-era eggshell. But as you watched this game play out it became very clear that Rutgers is a very bad football team, and Michigan isn't quite as suspect as they looked against an upstart Minnesota squad on Halloween night.
This game illustrates exactly why, if you're Jim Hackett, that you circle the wagons as hard as you possibly can to get Jim Harbaugh to come back and coach your football team. Not that I want to compare, but of course I do...NO WAY Brady Hoke puts Rutgers away by 4+ touchdowns. No way he marches into that Minnesota buzzsaw and comes away victorious. No way he keeps the Michigan State game close. No way he beats BYU or only loses to Utah by 7. No way he puts Michigan in a position to actually gain something by having Nebraska knock off Michigan State.
No. Way. Ever.
Sorry, Brady's a nice guy...but when it comes to coaching acumen, there are maybe only 3 or 4 guys in college football on the same level as Jim Harbaugh. Does that make me sound like a homer? Sure...but prove me wrong. Getting Michigan back to the same level as Michigan State and Ohio State was supposed to take 2-3 years. Look at any B1G power ranking. We're there, and this thing is just getting started.
The offense did things
Michigan scored touchdowns of all different varieties on 5 of their 7 first half drives. Jake Rudock had easily his best game in a Michigan uniform going 18 of 25 for 337 yards and 2 scores...while adding another score and 2-point conversion on the ground. I'm no QB whisperer or anything, but this performance looked to me like Rudock was maybe feeling the heat from Speight's impressive come from behind score the week before in Minneapolis. I'm sure that gave the backup QB some pep in his step in practice last week. Jake slammed that door shut on Saturday.
With the passing game clicking like never before, the ground game stuttered a bit, although 4 of Michigan's scores came on the ground. Nine Michigan players saw designed running plays, with De'Veon Smith leading the way with 73 yards on 15 carries. Between Smith, Drake Johnson, Sione Houma and of course Jabrill Peppers, Michigan's rushing attack while not breaking any records statistically, was good enough to gain yards when needed and put the ball into the endzone.
Another week, another impressive Peppers performance
There's talented, then there's good, then there's great. Jabrill Peppers is great. The kid can just flat out play. I don't know what the future holds for this kid but the more he plays the better he seems to be. I don't condone making him a full-time 2-way player because that's just insane in this modern age of football, but it's hard to argue that there's nothing he can't do on the football field. He's a once-in-a-generation type of player for Michigan...the last guy being Charles Woodson. If you're Michigan, you get the football in his hands as much as possible.
Speaking of motivation
Here's where Rutgers really screwed themselves.
In true Rutgers fashion, they celebrated at halftime after their field goal cut Michigan's lead to 19 points. Their only touchdown came on a kickoff return and the rest were field goals...and the score was 35-16...and they celebrated going back up the tunnel to the locker room.
I guess that didn't sit well with Harbaugh, who took is personally. So Michigan went on to add 14 more points in the 2nd half and shutting Rutgers out while keeping the starters in well into the 4th quarter. Oh and that 2-point conversion...now I get it.
The defense as a whole had themselves quite a game. And while Taco Charlton didn't set the stat sheet on fire or anything, he just felt disruptive all day long. The whole D-line did really. Michigan registered 4 sacks on Saturday (2 for Wormley, 1 for Taco and 1 for RJS) and 7 TFLs. I expected Rutgers to pass the ball more than they did, and that was probably thanks to both Michigan's secondary and impressive front 4. All in all, Michigan gave up a total of 97 yards passing to a team that had been averaging over 220.
I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention Michigan State's loss here. In terms of keeping their B1G title hopes alive, it was absolutely imperative that the Spartans lose to Nebraska on Saturday night. Michigan State got royally screwed by a very questionable call, but far be it for me to object in any way. This has not been a banner season for college refs across the country, but the Big Ten seems to be on the vanguard of the more questionable gaffs.
The path of destiny
Michigan State's loss was essential for Michigan's title hopes. Just to clear it up so we're all on the same page...Michigan still needs some help if they're going to get to Indianapolis. First of all, they need to win out (duh). But, they also need MSU to lose again. That means come November 21st, assuming Michigan can win the next 2, Wolverine fans will need to go to a dark place and pull for the Buckeyes against the Spartans. If Michigan and OSU both win their next 2 games, that sets up a showdown for the east division in Ann Arbor on November 28th when the Bucks come to visit. It would be the first time since 2006 that The Game has been center-stage for the Big Ten title race.
I'm not getting too excited yet. Nope, not at all.
I'm perfectly calm, dude.
Calmer than you are.
Kickoff Grab Update
Greg Dooley via MVictors mentioned the dude in section 13 who caught the kickoff (on the fly!) and immediately chucked it back a few rows. It appeared to me that the ball only made it back to about row 15 before a courageous patron decided to not follow the UM tradition of tossing the ball up the stands and eventually out of the bowl, but rather keep the ball for himself. Stadium officials found the guy and promptly returned the ball to the field.
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