The Wolverines made a statement win to the entire country Saturday afternoon after their dominating 42-7 revenge win in Ann Arbor over James Franklin and Penn State Nittany Lions. It is hard not to look to the last stop of the revenge tour in Columbus, but each game is just as important as the next, with a road game against Rutgers this upcoming weekend, and then Indiana at home. For Michigan fans and company, both competing in the Big Ten Title game and having a shot at the College Football Playoff are becoming more real each week.
The Michigan offense executed Jim Harbaugh’s game plan extremely well. Michigan wanted to win the time of possession battle to keep Penn State’s offense off the field and wear down their defense by tough, north and south running plays like inside zone read and power and rely on their number one defense in all the land to get stops. The Wolverines did just that by racking up a total of 403 yards of offense, with 259 yards coming from their ground attack and controlling the time of possession by having the football for almost a total of three-quarters of play.
The offensive line continues to get more continuity each week under offensive line coach, Ed Warinner. The interior line of the offensive line is road-grading defenses interior lineman for Higdon, Chris Evans and Tru Wilson to read the hole and make the correct cuts. Michigan ran a lot of two to three tight end pistol sets that forced Penn State to balance out on defense, which gave Michigan more blockers any way they wanted to go due to one of the tight ends alignment.
The stats continue to show being true with Michigan’s ground attack. They are now 12-0 when their workhorse, Karon Higdon, reaches the century mark. He had 20 carries for 132 yards and one touchdown with a huge chunk play of 50 yards in the first quarter off inside zone. His consistent, three to four-yard runs frustrates and breaks down defenses.
The passing side of the Wolverines offense did exactly what it needed to do: balance the run game. Shea Patterson only threw the ball 17 times, completing 11 of them, for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He is not asked to be the “do it all man” like he was at Ole’ Miss University. His role in this offense is to manage the game and take care of the football, connect on their deep ball shots off play-action, and use his legs when he needs in the run game and passing game.
He also kept the ball just enough on zone read plays with 11 carries, for 42 yards and one touchdown. Patterson is athletic enough for what Michigan is doing offensively. Though I thought Michigan should have used at least two more heavy play-action plays to keep PSU’s safeties from committing hard to the run, the Wolverines did exactly what they needed to do to come out victorious.
Wide receivers, Nico Collins and Donavon Peoples-Jones have improved each week. Having Tarik Black officially now will only improve their production as Black will change how defenses cover in the secondary giving both of them more opportunities to get open in the offense.
The Michigan defense is flat out exciting to watch under defensive coordinator, Don Brown. He is the best blitz package coach in all of college football. The amount of post-snap movement from slanting and stunts make it an almost impossible task to stop them from getting in the backfield on passing down situations. The defensive line of Michigan suffocated Trace McSorley and the Penn State offense. Mcsorley was never able to get comfortable in the pocket due to the Wolverines front four constricting the pocket for most of his passing attempts.
Making a team one dimensional always improves a teams chances to win football games. The Michigan defense only gave up 68 yards on 30 attempts, forcing the Nittany Lions to throw the ball for any chance to be successful. Getting down early and lack of possessions also forced them to get into desperate mode early. Michigan’s size, speed and depth, specifically the front seven, is exceptional. The less time the defensive backs have to cover, the better.
The cause of concern with Michigan’s defense is still their safety duo with Josh Metullus and Tyree Kinnel. They often match up with their opponents speedy, slot receivers or big tight ends. Their off man technique is tough to play flawlessly. They often get picked on with any underneath drag routes or slants. Michigan on passing situations, though, realized that Metullus is more of a liability in the passing game and have started to bring in an extra defensive back to cover, which makes Don Brown a great coach understanding his weaknesses and improving them by game planning around it.
At some point, Michigan is going to have to be able to rely on a field goal kicking game. They got bailed out with a dumb penalty by Penn State that should have been a touchdown and a big momentum play in the game off of the blocked field goal attempt in the first half. If their kicking woes do not get addressed with Quinn Nordin in these next two weeks with Ohio State on the horizon, it may hurt the Wolverines from getting over the hump and defeating Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. Scoring any type of points is crucial in the red zone in games like that.
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