Evan: I’ve got 3 letters for you, can you guess them?
Evan: Bingo. I know SMU’s defense isn’t exactly Alabama, but DPJ has been excellent through three games and it all came together with a three-touchdown breakout performance. He still makes all 110,000 fans hold their breath every time he is back to return a punt, but his route-running and speed have been phenomenal for Shea Patterson and the passing game. Couple that with a brilliant over-the-shoulder catch in the end-zone and DPJ is rapidly becoming a superstar. How about you?
Alex: It’s amazing what having a QB who can throw a pass accurately will do to a young receiver’s production. It’s also amazing that you decided to start this piece off with optimism since you were quite disturbed with the way the game began if I remember correctly. That said, for me, what stood out was James Proche. This may be one of those games where we look back in 5 years or so and simply remember it as the James Proche Game, because he was on fire. I know the safeties have some issues in coverage, but the kid can play. We knew that in the scouting report coming in, but he was excellent, tormenting Michigan’s defense all over the field.
Evan: I think I’ve been refreshed this week by two things: seeing that Michigan’s defense (although they have failed the eye test) is the best in the country in terms of opponent yards per play (min. 3 FBS opponents) and Daxton Hill’s commitment. But if you want me to bash Josh Metellus and the first quarter offensive play-calling I certainly will.
Alex: I actually thought Kinnel was a bit worse in coverage than Metellus, but everyone was having problems, even the stellar Brandon Watson and LaVert Hill the few times they were put on Proche. Play calling was rather odd, and it seemed like they had a strange obsession with the I-formation on a day when the offensive line’s run blocking was not as good as normal. We did get a Ben Mason 1-yard TD dive though!
Evan: Ben Mason is quickly becoming a fan favorite, or at least a WCBN Sports favorite. I have to say, Michigan has come out slowly in every game. They have yet to put it together on either side of the ball in any game. They only have 3 weeks until Wisconsin comes to the Big House, and the week after that they go to East Lansing. Despite improvement from several individual players, the offensive-line and secondary have been far too spotty for me to feel confident yet. Not to mention, special teams has been just ok. I don’t know why they’ve picked up this trend of starting every game besides OSU slow the last season and a half, but it is not ideal.
Alex: Counterpoint, after the last two weeks, Michigan State and Wisconsin might both be bad so who knows! Also I think there is something to be said for the coaching staff saving the playbook for big games, given that they crafted an excellent game plan vs OSU last year. No doubt they’re holding things back for the big contests. Still, it would be nice to see an opening drive TD anytime in the next few weeks. I think it was nice to see competent pass protection again. I know it’s SMU, but after the Notre Dame game, I wasn’t sure there was a single DE in college football that Michigan’s tackles could block.
Evan: That’s fair. I have to say, I’m really most frustrated by the fact that I have no idea how good this team is after a quarter of the season. Notre Dame has looked awful the last two weeks, so our benchmark is kinda off. I don’t think we will really know how good (or not good) this team is until after the MSU game. Shea has been very solid, the skill position players have all looked great, and the stars in the front seven on defense look like stars. But what we expected to be the two biggest weaknesses pre-season, o-line and the safeties, are still hampering this team’s ceiling. That being said, they should roll this week.
Alex: I mean, you can be frustrated but it’s sorta what we expected, right? The way the schedule set up, there was only one real game in the first half of the season, and even that comes with caveats (being the season opener). Still, there are various things we can pick up on, like the fact Patterson has a 70.8% completion percentage and a 6:2 TD/INT ratio. He’s good. He’s less good when there are unblocked dudes looking to murder him, but he’s good. And a million years better than what Michigan had masquerading as a QB last year. We also know the pass catchers are good, that the defense as a whole is good. There’s only so much we can learn right now, but the same can be true with the rest of the conference, even as we watch many of the teams stumble early on.
Looking at Nebraska…. the poor Huskers are… very bad.
Evan: If Adrian Martinez doesn’t play, Nebraska might not score against this Wolverine defense. If Adrian Martinez plays, Nebraska might not score against this Wolverine defense. This game is going to be a bloodbath and poor Scott Frost is going to start 0-3. My one worry is another slow start, which could become even slower with Khaleke Hudson in the first half (it felt like the defense dropped off substantially after he exited in the 3rd quarter with the targeting penalty). But this one shouldn’t be a problem for Michigan.
Alex: It should be another easy blowout and Nebraska’s defense is simply brutal, so it should be an opportunity to light up the scoreboard for the Michigan offense. I don’t think there is too much to be gleaned from this game overall, but another smackdown like the one Michigan had against WMU in week 2 would be much appreciated. Fun fact for our readers, Michigan’s next 5 games are against teams that lost their most recent game, starting with Nebraska, who succumbed to Troy a week ago. Week 3 was not kind to the Big Ten.
Evan: No, it was not. The conference looks significantly weaker than it was expected to be. Ohio State has to be feeling great about their playoff chances right now, especially with the way Dwayne Haskins is playing. Each of the other top competitors appears to have a pretty major flaw: Michigan’s o-line and safeties, Penn State’s defense, Wisconsin’s passing game, MSU’s… everything. Let me get us off track for a second: rank the top 5 teams in the conference right now.
Alex: Hmmmmm… Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State? I don’t know if PSU is actually the second best team in the conference, but they don’t have a loss so I feel like they go there until they’re beaten. Among the one loss teams, Michigan’s loss is by far the best. Wisconsin’s is the worst, but Wisconsin was also a better team than MSU last year. I could go either way on 4-5 right now. And even with Ohio State, the Buckeyes have flaws. They gave up 500 yards last week. It’ll be a fun show of offense when they head to Happy Valley.
Evan: That’s a fair ranking. I think I would probably say the same. I really don’t have a sense of how good Arizona State is, so I’m not willing to say that’s a better loss than BYU yet. Anyways, what are you watching for this weekend?
Alex: I’m interested in #BackupWatch yet again. The 2nd teamers didn’t get in last week but if Michigan can blow it open early, I want to see what backups come in, specifically on the offensive line. Also we need to see a strong bounceback performance from the secondary.
How about you + prediction/MVP?
Evan: I’m interested to see how the secondary bounces back. Aside from the pick-6 by Metellus, the safeties had a brutal game. Can they recover? Will Brad Hawkins play? These are the key questions for me. My score prediction: After the first quarter: Nebraska 7 - Michigan 7. At the end of the game: Michigan 52 - Nebraska 7. The MVP will be Shea; he is going to light this defense up. Your thoughts?
Alex: My score is Michigan 51-Nebraska 10, so very similar. But I’m going with a defensive MVP, Devin Bush.
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