No. 8 Michigan is off to a 6-0 start to the season and it enters a needed bye week — time to get some players healthy for the second half.
The Wolverines enter the bye week with a Big Ten championship still in reach and they are playing better than most people would have thought. There were many people in the media that had Michigan sitting at anywhere from 3-3 to 4-2 or 5-1 going into the bye — didn’t see many, if any, 6-0 predictions.
This season is night-and-day different from last year. The offense has an identity, the running backs are rushing at a high level, and the defense is a completely new animal this year — it is aggressive and the defense is forcing some key turnovers at crucial times.
Michigan has also faced some adversity in the first half of the year, but it prevailed in the end — something last year’s squad wasn’t able to do.
Here is our midseason review and here are five things that we have learned about the Michigan Wolverines.
Mike Macdonald was a much needed upgrade
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Mike Macdonald replaced Don Brown as the defensive coordinator this past off-season and it seems like a saving-grace for the Michigan defense.
Macdonald comes from the Baltimore Ravens, and even though he wasn’t a coordinator in the NFL, he still brings that NFL experience to a team that needed a new identity.
The first-year play-caller has the Wolverines defense playing extremely aggressive and he has done a great job mixing up the looks — coverage will go between zone and man, and he does a good job mixing in blitzes when necessary.
Michigan has the No. 23 ranked defense in the nation thru six games: it allows 310 yards-per-game. The 2020 Michigan Wolverines, coached under Don Brown, was ranked No. 95 in the nation allowing 434.3 yards-per-game.
To be fair, last year’s team played strictly Big Ten teams since there were no non-conference games, but it doesn’t take much to notice a huge difference between the 2020 and 2021 defense — it’s much, much better.
It helps to be a first-time play-caller when you have some elite talent on the team as well. Aidan Hutchinson, Daxton Hill, Josh Ross, and David Ojabo are all having great seasons — some of it due to the scheme, but being an elite talent will always help.
We will see what happens in the next six games, especially the Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State games, but things are looking extremely bright for the Michigan defense after the first half.
Michigan can handle adversity
Photo: Isaiah Hole
The 2020 Michigan Wolverines went 2-4 last year for various reasons, but a big one was because they didn’t face adversity very well.
Things were smooth sailing for Michigan in the first three games of the season as it destroyed Western Michigan, Washington, and Northern Illinois, but some adversity came in the next two out of three games.
It looked like it would be smooth sailing in the first half against Rutgers, but the second half was a different story — the offense got conservative and it forgot how to score. Luckily, the team didn’t fold and it got some key stops and a turnover towards the end of the game to win — something last year’s team probably couldn’t do.
Also, last week against Nebraska was some big-time adversity. Once again, it looked like complete domination from the Wolverines in the first half, but the second half was different — the defense allowed a lot of points and yards. Michigan kept battling and when Nebraska hit the Wolverines in the mouth, the maize and blue countered on offense. The defense forced a big-time turnover late in the game and stopped Nebraska on a fourth-down play to seal the deal.
This year’s team seems to handle adversity extremely well, at least through six games, and that in itself is a huge improvement from last year. Instead of folding or saying ‘here we go again,’ Michigan finds ways to bounce back and make plays when needed to come out with a win.
Michigan has one of the most dynamic rushing attacks in football
Photo: Isaiah Hole
As Mike Macdonald was a key hire from Jim Harbaugh, so was Mike Hart. Hart has really helped this running back room and helped sort out the running back rotation this year — it was beyond awful last year.
In the first three games of the season, Michigan rushed for over 300 yards in each game — even against a stout Washington defense.
Michigan has the No. 8 rushing attack in all of football, it averages 246.5 yards-per-game and the two dynamic backs running the ball are Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum — or ‘Thunder and Lightning.’
Blake Corum is the No. 12 rusher in all of football with 610 yards on the ground and Haskins has 412 yards to help out — each player has eight rushing touchdowns so far this season. Freshman Donovan Edwards has looked really sharp in his limited touches as well, he has 121 yards along with two touchdowns.
PFF ranks Michigan as the No. 4 rushing attack in football, they grade the Wolverines out with a 91 grade. PFF ranks Blake Corum as the No. 13 running back in the country with an 88.9 grade and Haskins is the 37th best running back with an 83.7 grade.
The running game has become the offensive identity for the Wolverines offense and it has really excelled thanks to the great running back room and the much improved offensive line.
The Wolverines are in a good spot with the quarterback room
Photo: Isaiah Hole
Regardless of your opinion of Cade McNamara, he is winning football games.
McNamara is playing safe, but efficient football this season, and it has resulted in six wins for the Wolverines. The redshirt sophomore has thrown five passing touchdowns and only one interception — his first career interception came against Nebraska last week — this season. McNamara has a good escapability aspect to his game as well, he has only been sacked one time this season, and has a good sense of pressure and when to get away when needed.
McNamara may not be a Heisman winning quarterback, he has some things to get better at, like his deep ball accuracy, but he has done enough to get the job done, and he did what was asked from him to lead the maize and blue back from a deficit last week in Nebraska.
Oh, and his backup isn’t bad either.
Five-star J.J. McCarthy has shown flashes of excellence when he has been asked to throw the ball — like his two deep passes to Daylen Baldwin for touchdowns. McCarthy is primarily being used for the read-option the last few games with his running ability with the football.
The Michigan quarterbacks have done a solid job with what they have been asked to do. Remember, this team has been a run-first team and it doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.
Michigan is in good hands with McNamara, but if an injury would strike, the Wolverines will be in good hands with McCarthy as well.
The old Jim Harbaugh appears to be back
Photo: Isaiah Hole
The first couple of years after Jim Harbaugh became the coach at Michigan, he was known for his intensity, passion, and occasional outbursts on the sideline.
Not that he ever lost his passion for the game, but the last few years have been different. Harbaugh was more laid-back and we hardly ever saw him have that same intensity on the sideline,
That has changed this year, he’s back.
Harbaugh is back with that same passion, energy, and intensity that we were used to seeing in those first few years of his tenure at Michigan. The head coach isn’t afraid to let the officiating know if they blew a call — like the multiple at Nebraska last week — and his energy is clear as day in the press conferences after the game.
The combination of his health — back down to his playing weight — the new-look coaching staff, and his will to win at Michigan are probably all factors into why it seems Harbaugh is back to his old self again.
Harbaugh believes he has a good team on his hands this year, and he will need to keep doing what he has been doing for this daunting second half of the season.
Source : https://news.yahoo.com/midseason-report-5-things-learned-200512994.html1868