Michigan 31, Bowling Green 6

Michigan 31, Bowling Green 6

September 20, 2023
Blake Corum (image via Detroit News)

That was an ugly 25-point win. Michigan is at a pretty good place in its program where a 25-point win is considered disappointing, but that’s where we are. The point differentials against MAC teams over the years have been pretty sizeable:

  • 63-10 over NIU in 2021 (53 points)
  • 59-9 over CMU in 2013 (50 points)
  • 49-3 over WMU in 2018 (46 points)
  • 47-14 over WMU in 2021 (33 points)
  • 31-3 over EMU in 2011 (28 points)
  • 31-6 over BGSU in 2023 (25 points)
  • 34-10 over Miami-OH in 2014 (24 points)
  • 34-10 over WMU in 2011 (24 points)
  • 28-24 over Akron in 2013 (4 points)

As you can see, Michigan has had some huge wins over MAC teams in the last thirteen seasons. This was one of the least impressive. Michigan was breaking in a new coaching staff after a rebuild in 2011, and Brady Hoke was proving the job was too big for him in 2013 and 2014. The former isn’t the case for this 2023 team, and I think we all know Harbaugh can coach at this level, so the latter doesn’t apply, either. But it was kind of a stinker.

Hit the jump for more.

J.J. McCarthy stunk. McCarthy was leading the country with 87.3% completions going into this one, and now he has fallen all the way to . . . #2 in the country with 85.4%. Okay, those are still great numbers overall, but he threw 3 ugly interceptions in this game. They weren’t just interceptions. They were ugly. Ugly. The most inexcusable was a floater as he rolled to his left, trying to fit a ball in over a defender to Colston Loveland. He was just trying to do too much. Personally, I felt like he was pressing. Of course this is my projection, but I felt like he knew how much more talented Michigan was than BGSU, so he just tried to will the team to a 50-point victory. With his mind. But telekinesis is a rare trait. Can he still have a great season? Sure. Did this game likely dash his chances of winning the Heisman? Well . . . those chances were very slim to start, and I think they’re all but gone unless a few other guys totally crap the bed.

The defense is awesome. Bowling Green must have watched the game against MSU from 2020 and borrowed that game plan, because they just came out throwing the ball deep and got lucky a couple times. And I’m not un-serious here. The reason MSU was successful with Rocky Lombardi-to-Ricky White in 2020 was because Michigan was down a cornerback or two (Ambry Thomas, mainly), and they got lucky. If you’re BGSU coming into the game, you’re not going to run the ball and win the game. Your only chance is to make some plays on special teams (more on that later) and get lucky with some deep balls in the passing game. The Falcons did just that with some ridiculously lucky catches on balls thrown by BGSU’s second- and third-string quarterbacks. It wasn’t enough, of course, but it was frustrating for Michigan fans.

Special teams faux pas. 247 Sports writer Zach Shaw made a dubious prediction in the pre-season that I want to circle back to. (I like Zach, so this is in no way an attempt to tear him down.) He made a prediction that Michigan would actually be better on special teams in 2023, despite losing kicker Jake Moody, punter Brad Robbins, and returner A.J. Henning. BGSU must have vehemently disagreed with that take, because they felt their best bet was to try to take advantage of Michigan’s specials. First, they kicked to fullback/tight end Max Bredeson, who fumbled. Then they kicked to defensive end Braiden McGregor, who muffed the kickoff. Luckily, Michigan recovered McGregor’s oopsie, but it was an inauspicious game for the special teams unit. I have generally been a fan of the way special teams coach Jay Harbaugh runs the special teams phase of the game, but the kickoff return team has usually been a question mark for me. Michigan regularly puts out a walk-on as the “other” returner (Joe Taylor in 2022-2023) even though he rarely gets the ball, and two of the upbacks clearly aren’t deft at handling the ball or catching kickoffs. Meanwhile, the blocking has been questionable – something Jim Harbaugh has publicly stated – and one of the biggest plays was a trick play at Maryland in 2021 when former high school quarterback Michael Barrett threw the ball across the field to Henning. Michigan currently ranks #106, placed at #56 last year, and ranked #88 in 2021. Generally, it’s just not a great unit.

A win is a win. This is my general take after an ugly victory. We have lived through years where ugly games against MAC teams result in a loss (2008 vs. Toledo) or an embarrassingly close win (2013 vs. Akron), so I’ll take it. Jim Harbaugh did say in the aftermath that it’s important to win the game and stay healthy, so maybe Michigan is sandbagging a little bit. I expected them to hit 40+ points in at least one of the non-conference games, so that’s a little disappointing. Rutgers is a decent team, so we should get a better feel for what the Wolverines have to offer on Saturday.

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