Holy blowout. I thought Michigan would win by about 10 points, and I think this outcome surprised just about everyone. Michigan’s domination of Penn State’s offense wasn’t too much of a surprise, but the Wolverines’ putting up 42 points was. I was thinking more along the lines of 24-14.
Hit the jump for the rest of the recap.
Michigan’s defense is suffocating. Penn State’s offense isn’t as good this year without running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Mike Gesicki, so let’s get that out of the way first. But they still have weapons with quarterback Chance McSorley, running back Miles Sanders, slot receiver K.J. Hamler, and others. Those weapons didn’t matter, though, because Michigan had them on lockdown. Other than a couple slant passes and a bit of late-game yardage against the backups, the Nittany Lions did practically nothing all afternoon. They had 68 rushing yards and 184 total yards, while Michigan forced 3 turnovers and scored on a pick-six. They did have an opportunity for a big play early when Michigan cornerback Brandon Watson fell on a deep route, but McSorley overthrew his receiver.
Quinn Nordin and Co. dodged a bullet. The blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown by PSU (negated by a penalty) was a huge potential momentum-turner that never happened. Even though Michigan was in the process of dominating the field at that time, the score didn’t reflect it (it was 7-0 Michigan at the time). I still think Michigan would have won the game, but that play in itself may have given the Nittany Lions the life they needed to keep it within a couple scores. It also may have quieted the raucous Michigan crowd a little bit.
Dylan McCaffrey shouldn’t have broken his collarbone. This may be an unpopular opinion, but Dylan McCaffrey shouldn’t have even had a chance to break his collarbone in this game. There was a lot of talk during the Rich Rodriguez years about running quarterbacks and whether they’re exposed to more injury or not, and some stats show there’s virtually no difference. I’m not arguing with the stats, but I will say this: In this particular game, McCaffrey should have been handing off the ball to a third- or fourth-string running back and not exposing himself to injury. I think Michigan was getting greedy by running zone read option stuff near the end and hoping McCaffrey could break a big play like he did against Wisconsin, but it cost the team its second-best QB. Michigan should be running the QB when it has to, not just for fun at the end of a blowout game.
When are teams going to figure out Michigan’s zone read? It’s surprising to me that teams like Wisconsin and Penn State haven’t figured out how to stop Michigan’s zone read. Shea Patterson is shifty, but he’s not a dynamic runner. He’s the type of guy who should be gaining yards if you forget about him, or if defensive linemen get out of their rush lanes. But right now he’s a big part of Michigan’s rushing offense, because the Wolverines’ offensive line can’t necessarily be trusted to create holes up front when it counts. Running back Karan Higdon hasn’t shown the ability to consistently find and exploit holes on the backside of those inside zone blocking schemes, so if I were a defensive coordinator, I would be trying to make Higdon beat me on those critical 3rd- and 4th-down plays.
Watch out for Rutgers. There’s no question that this Michigan team is light-years ahead of Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights are coming off two weeks of relatively close games against superior opponents (an 18-15 loss to Northwestern and then a 31-17 loss to Wisconsin). Michigan can’t afford to have a letdown before Ohio State, and even if they win, they might need help to get into the playoff. I don’t think the committee would exclude a 1-loss Michigan team, but a close win against Rutgers and/or Indiana might submarine their opportunity to get in over another 1-loss team. With LSU’s loss to Alabama, that probably solidifies Michigan’s spot in the playoff if they win out, but you don’t want to leave anything to chance, such as Oklahoma creeping up in the rankings or this nightmare scenario:
- Clemson remains undefeated
- Notre Dame remains undefeated
- Alabama loses to Georgia in the SEC Championship game
- Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC Championship game
At this point we should be rooting for Georgia to lose again.
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