Evan: I like winning games. And I like doing it by substantial margins. This game was much more reminiscent of the 2016 season than any game last year, so that’s an encouraging sign. I do have some frustrations from the game though… Overall the team played great and I’m not downplaying that, but the coaching staff still has me worried.
Alex: Would you care to elaborate on those frustrations?
Evan: You don’t want to start with the fun stuff? Ok fine, I’ll get this out of the way. When your running backs have been solid, and your run blocking has been decent, what’s the point of continuing to run the ball when you’re up 21, 28, 35, etc.? Throw the damn ball and let your quarterback who’s played one game with his receivers build some chemistry. Also, why are Juwann Bushell-Beatty/Jon Runyan seeing almost 100% of the first team reps against Western? We all know what’s coming. It’s inevitable. Do you want Jalen Mayfield or James Hudson’s first start to be a night game at MSU? Or a home game vs Wisconsin/Penn State? I’m not at practice everyday, so who know what’s really behind these decisions, but c’mon.
Alex: Well, I think given what Offensive Line Coach Ed Warinner said in media availability today, it could not be long until Hudson and Mayfield jump over Runyan and JBB. As for the throwing, I do have to think there is some element of honor issues going on here. When you’re up by huge amounts, the sportsmanlike thing to do is just to run the ball and let the time run out. I see the argument but also it’s not polite to be pouring it on against Western Michigan.
Let’s talk about the fun stuff now: which player stood out to you the most?
Evan: Offensively, Donovan Peoples-Jones continues to impress me. I know he’s had some special teams blunders, but he has a great rapport with Shea Patterson already. He leads the team with 12 targets and he’s caught 10 of those. I know Karan Higdon and Chris Evans looked great but I’ll wait to see what they do against defenses that are playing tackle football instead of two hand touch. Defensively, Josh Metellus stood out as the guy with the most energy. He committed another terrible penalty and was immediately pulled, but out of everyone on the field for either team, he seemed to have the most fire. I’m sure having to watch 3.5 quarters of the ND game fueled that, but I was impressed nonetheless.
Alex: It’s worth noting that Peoples-Jones caught his first career TD against Western and it was an even better throw by Patterson. I thought Nico Collins stood out, with a second straight deep pass hauled in from Patterson. He now appears to be a bona fide deep threat and a weapon good enough to make Tarik Black’s injury seem not so bad. I also liked what I saw from the interior of the line, Ben Bredeson in particular. A clear thing we saw in this game is that Michigan moved people. Didn’t really happen last year even against bad teams like Cincinnati and Air Force. But there were huge holes opening up last week and that was in part thanks to the interior of the line.
Defensively, Josh Ross had a much better game than the opener against Notre Dame. He seems to be seizing the job at weakside linebacker from Devin Gil and made an excellent stop on one 4th down play and was laying the boom on a couple of hits. But yes, Josh Metellus being out there with the backups in tandem with Brad Hawkins’s increased playing time is probably the most interesting story of this week. Do you think he wasn’t out there because coaches are sending him a message to be more disciplined? Or is he actually getting passed on the depth chart?
Evan: When he was in the game, he played well - again aside from the penalty. But aside from mistiming his jump on the touchdown against ND, Hawkins has been pretty good. Given how absolutely loaded Michigan is in the secondary, I’m sure we will continue to see both. A brief glimpse after a couple games at what the depth chart looks like:
CB1s: Lavert Hill, David Long, Brandon Watson
CB2s: Ambry Thomas, Casey Hughes (Is he alive?)
Safety 1s: Tyree Kinnel, ???? (Brad Hawkins/Metellus)
Safety 2s: Jaylen Kelly-Powell, ???? (Hawkins/Metellus)
All those guys would be the top DB on 90% of teams in the country. It is absolutely insane. My one concern on defense is the line. With Aubrey Solomon out for the foreseeable future, I haven’t been all that impressed with the rotation of guys on the inside: Kemp, Mone, and Dwumfour. Don Brown appears to be fully embracing 3-4-4 and 3-4-5 sets in lieu of good enough DTs, but Mo Hurst is really being missed right now.
Alex: Harbaugh has said that Solomon’s thing is a week by week thing. My guess is that he probably had arthroscopic knee surgery or something like that if it’s a week to week thing. Michigan will definitely be happy when he comes back, as Dwumfour has only been okay. I will say, I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Kemp, but we still need to see more. Before we begin talking about SMU, I want to get your thoughts on the second team offense and Dylan McCaffrey.
Evan: Let me give you one sentence about each of Michigan’s four scholarship quarterbacks.
Alex: I like this idea
Evan: Shea Patterson: Easily the best Michigan quarterback since Chad Henne
Dylan McCaffrey: At first glance, and this is totally unfair to him, will be better than Shea.
Brandon Peters: He’s transferring.
Joe Milton: Might be the most talented on the roster, but won’t play this year (redshirt).
Does that help answer your question?
Alex: Saying “____ is the best Michigan quarterback since Chad Henne” feels really sad but it’s a sign of Michigan’s recent history. I mostly agree with those assessments. I think there are legitimate questions about McCaffrey’s arm strength but he looks fluid and mobile and will be the easiest to slide into the Patterson role. I’d like to potentially see more of Peters in the coming week because he still has a role to play should an injury occur (which isn’t inconceivable).
I liked what I saw from the rest of the second team offense, particularly the offensive line. They shoved WMU around. Seeing more of Hudson and Mayfield is the most logical next step. Now onto SMU. Have you done any scouting of the Mustangs?
Evan: I watched the first half of their game against TCU, which was a little scary. TCU was playing terrible and making a ton of mistakes, but SMU’s defense looked formidable. Then I went to sleep, woke up and saw the score, and was no longer worried. They produced very little offensively the whole game, and this should be another 40+ point blowout.
Alex: It was not an impressive performance from SMU, especially following a week where they went out and lost to North Texas. This may be Michigan’s easiest game on the schedule and it should be the best opportunity to hit the 60+ point clip if the Wolverines are aggressive. Let’s wrap it up by making our predictions. Week 1’s prediction contest went to you, while in week 2 I was more accurate. Give me the score, MVP, and thing you’re watching for.
Evan: Michigan 52 - SMU 0 (Do I get bonus points if it’s actually a shutout?). The MVP will be Patterson. I expect Harbaugh to open up the playbook a little bit more. I’m watching for someone to step up at that Defensive Tackle spot. You?
Alex: Sure I’ll give you a bonus if it’s a shutout. I’m saying 59-7 Michigan. MVP as Karan Higdon, who will feast yet again on his quest for 1,000 yards. I’m watching offensive tackle rotation and whether Mayfield and Hudson get snaps with the 1’s.
That’s all, see you next week!