We wanted a win and no injuries! Mission 50% accomplished. As far as the final score, all I really wanted was a Michigan victory to keep the chances of a Big Ten title and the playoffs alive. I know there was some consternation about whether Michigan would win big or not, but it doesn’t really matter at this point. The other part was a little bit harder to accomplish. Berkley Edwards was sent off on a stretcher after being the target of a helmet-to-helmet hit on a kickoff. Indiana’s starting right guard jumped on Chase Winovich as he laid on the ground, resulting in Winovich being sent off for the rest of the game. Edwards is surely in concussion protocol – perhaps among other things – and Jim Harbaugh said that X-rays were negative for Winovich. I would not expect Edwards to return for next Saturday, and it’s unclear whether Winovich will be available next week, or whether he will be hampered by whatever injury he suffered. The Winovich injury would be a huge blow for the Wolverines, as he’s perhaps the team’s most consistent defensive player and the third-leading tackler. Against an Ohio State team that excels at passing the ball, the absence of Winovich could be a game-changer.
So…about Winovich’s injury. I saw a lot of people insinuating that Winovich’s injury was the result of a dirty play and crying foul. Personally, I didn’t see much of an issue with it in the framework of the game of football. That type of play happens frequently, in which a lineman falls on top of a defender who’s already on the ground. As a pass rusher who could very well crawl to grab an ankle of a quarterback, he’s still a threat that needs to be neutralized by the blockers. If Winovich hadn’t been injured, we wouldn’t have heard a peep about the play. If you want the rule changed, lobby the rules committed. As I said on Twitter, this isn’t the UFC where you have to wait until an opponent gets his hand off the ground before you can start kneeing or kicking him; Winovich was fair game as long as he was a potential threat to the ball carrier.
Also, there’s this:
❌ichigan fans calling Indiana’s player dirty, like their own didn’t do the same shit. pic.twitter.com/O9oDZZEDbM
— 🏈 𝒜𝓁𝓁𝓎𝓈𝑜𝓃 🐯 (@Allysonstoocool) November 18, 2018
Winovich is a scrappy player who plays with a chip on his shoulder. I’ve been saying this for a few years now, ever since I saw him playing defensive end for the first time at the open practice at Ford Field: He’s the type of guy who’s pretty good, but he’s also going to get under the skin of the guys he plays against. That helps him and gives him a mental edge, but he’s not going to unscathed. You can’t be a pain in the rear for your whole career and not expect any blowback. I’m certainly not saying that I want him to get injured, but when you play that style of football, that’s the risk you run.
The red zone troubles are legit. Michigan’s offense bogged down in the red zone on Saturday afternoon, leading to a school-record 6 field goals for true freshman backup kicker Jake Moody. I had a feeling it was going to be a tough game going into it, because Indiana plays hard against Michigan lately. That feeling was only reinforced by Michigan’s first field goal. The Wolverines should be able to impose their will against an opponent like Indiana, but Michigan’s offensive line isn’t there yet. People keep talking about Michigan’s improved offensive line, but these are mostly the same guys who were playing last year, and the advanced stats don’t show an upper echelon offensive line.
Indiana has Jim Harbaugh’s number. Whether these games take place in Ann Arbor or Bloomington, Indiana seems to have Harbaugh’s number. Michigan has more talent at virtually every position, but the wins aren’t coming like they should. The Hoosiers run the same offensive stuff year after year (spread offense, tempo, inside zone, slot fades, crossing routes, etc.), and they just keep executing well enough to have Michigan scared every year. Meanwhile, Michigan can’t get anything easy on offense and has to fight for every yard and every score. The superior talent for the Wolverines ends up winning out, but Michigan isn’t showing the schematic advantages that one might expect over a lesser program.
Thank goodness for Jake Moody. A lot of people (including me) questioned Michigan’s decision to offer a grayshirt to Moody in the last recruiting cycle, not because of his talent, but because of the presence of two scholarship specialists already (Quinn Nordin, Brad Robbins). But without Moody, this might have been one of the highest profile upsets of the season. He hit field goals of 33, 32, 31, 30, 29, and 23 yards, and he was 6/6.
So close, yet again! Last week I predicted a 45-7 win for Michigan, and they won 42-7. This week I picked Michigan 31-17, and they won 31-20.
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