Michigan came out and took care of business at home against SMU without having to dive too much into their playbooks heading into Big Ten Conference play. Though they did not dominate SMU like they did Western Michigan, there was never a point in time where Michigan did not have full control of the game. A lot of good to take away on Saturday, but still nowhere near where they need to be to compete for a Big Ten title.
In the previous two games U of M has played in, they either had success in the pass or run game. On Saturday, Michigan played their most complete offensive game of the season where both phases complemented each other well.
The push from the offensive line in the run game did not light up the field like it did last week against WMU, but was just shy of 200 yards on the ground coming from a variety of different playmakers on the Michigan offense. SMU had to commit extra hats to the box, which in return opened up the play action passing game behind their heads. All three of Patterson’s touchdowns came off of play action. What was seen on Saturday is how Michigan wants to attack defenses every week.
Patterson continues to improve his accuracy and decision making each week as he gets more comfortable with the offense. He missed only four throws, with one that was an interception due to his tight end not coming back to the football on the scramble drill, giving the SMU defender a window to undercut the route. A QBR(Quarter Back Rating) of 81.4 is not something to be upset about. Patterson’s best throw was early in the second quarter when he had a defender screaming down his neck in the pocket, still stood tall, and rifled a 25-yard strike to tight end, Zack Gentry, on the seam for the first down. His arm strength and accuracy was put on display there.
Another group that continues to improve is the wide receiving core for the Maize and Blue. Donavon Peoples-Jones finally lived up to his hype as one of the nation’s best receivers coming out of high school. He had four receptions for 90 yards and three touchdowns. He runs great routes, attacks the football at its highest point and uses his hands really well to beat press corners. In the absence of Tarik Black, he needs to continue to be reliable as the season unfolds.
Michigan’s front seven proved once again why they are considered to be a top-five group in all of college football. Their strength, lateral speed and gap sound run fits, make it tough to establish any type of rhythm in the run game.
There is a lot of hype around defensive end, Rashawn Gary, which is rightfully so, but the most consistent play on Michigan’s defense is the senior defensive end, Chase Winovich. He’s hardly ever in the wrong position on defense. His take-off, quick hands, strength and speed make it almost impossible to block him one-on-one. Winovich was all over the field on Saturday’s game, racking up eight tackles, constricting the pocket while maintaining proper pass rush lanes, and still, all the while playing active with his hands to bat balls down that were thrown by him. There is no better combination of defensive ends in all of college football than Rashawn Gary and Chase Winovich.
Michigan has six to seven guys that can rotate in on the defensive line and not skip a beat at that position. A strong front four improves linebacker and secondary play by default. Expect to see this group to continue to improve each week.
Needs to be addressed on offense
Michigan’s third-down conversions, especially on third and short situations, must improve. Michigan was 6-13 on third down, which is not terrible, but the play calling on third and short is what gets me. I can’t recall a time where Michigan has done anything but run the ball in those situations. Play action needs to be more part of their game plan in those spots moving forward.
Also, Patterson’s ability to run should be implemented on zone reads and designed quarterback runs, too, to keep the defenses off balance and not lock into our running backs on 3rd and short.
Needs to be addressed on defense
Coming into the 2018 season, Michigan had the number one and two projected NFL cover corners in the draft in Lavert Hill and David Long. Brandon Watson has also rotated in the mix and has had more good plays than bad. But as a unit, there has not been enough consistency with this group.
Josh Metullus and Tyree Kinnel, the safeties of the defense, are the Achille’s heel of the secondary at this point in the season. Though Metullus had an interception that was returned for a touchdown to end the first half, his overall performance was inconsistent in week 3. Both safeties got beat for most of the game in their off-man technique that they play.
SMU’s receiving core is not even close to the best group they will face this year with Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State still on the schedule. Coach Don Brown better find a way by either adjusting their alignment or changing his scheme to put them in better spots to be successful. If they don’t improve, expect Coach Brown to change his personnel on third and long situations by bringing in more true cover corner/safety type guys. If he doesn’t want to do that, zone blitzes may be incorporated more into the scheme to protect the secondary a little more.
No matter who is in the secondary, if the front four does not do its job, it doesn’t matter. The Wolverines defensive line lost contain a handful of times against SMU’s athletic quarterback. Nebraska has a true, dual-threat quarterback in true freshmen, Adrian Martinez, who will take advantage of open pass rush lanes if he sees them. Michigan had issues containing Notre Dame’s quarterback back in the season opener. Though Nebraska is not Notre Dame with their talent level, Michigan can still lose this week if they are not careful.
Michigan had 13 penalties for 137 yards. Most of them coming from the defensive side of the football. Against teams like Western Michigan and SMU, a decent amount of penalties can happen and it not truly affect the outcome of the game too much. However, with Big Ten Conference play in front of the Wolverines now, the margin for error gets smaller and smaller as the year goes on with the big four teams in front of them. If Michigan has that stat line in penalties like they did last week against those teams, they will lose every one of those big games.
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