I'm going to save my NFL week one takes for tomorrow because we still have 2 Monday night games to be played tonight. I want every team to play before I give some very early, very quick takes.
That being said, just real quick, I do not understand why AT&T UVerse decided to get rid of the NFL Network and the RedZone Channel. I do not like to watch single NFL games, and the RedZone Channel was totally commercial less. This is crazy, and makes me not want to watch any games, except the Packers. This is a dumb move, and this whole streaming wave is taking away good channels from us poor schmucks that still pay for cable. Just needed to say that. It was a very frustrating realization yesterday when I tried to turn on the channel.
Now that that is out of the way, I want to get to my topic for the day.
I am a big time Michigan fan. You all know this. I have lived and died with this football team as long as I can remember. And, as you all know, I was very, very high on this particular team coming into this season. I liked their defense, even though they lost 4 key starters, and I was very hyped for their new offense, and offensive coordinator. And while some people were disappointed in their week one win over Middle Tennessee, I found reasons to be happy. They made a ton of mistakes, but they still scored 40 points, looked faster and won that game going away. In fact, 2 of MTSU's touch downs came on very short fields due to fumbles by the QB and punt returner. It was easy for me to overlook that performance.
This past Saturday felt different though. Now, I am not going to go all doom and gloom like a ton of people I saw doing on Facebook and Twitter after their win, yes they did win. But, I do have some questions and concerns after needing double overtime to beat Army this past Saturday. I watched this game very nervously. I even stated on our football preview pod that this game would show me a lot about this team. Army is a good football team. Don't get that twisted at all. They went 11-2 last year, took Oklahoma to overtime, and crushed pretty much every other team in their way. Just take a look at their bowl game last year. I don't remember who they played, but I believe they scored close to 70 points and absolutely dominated that game. Army is solid and disciplined. I even pointed them out as a non power 5 team to watch this season. So I do not want to take anything away from them. They run the triple option to near perfection, they play sound defense and they play all the way to whistle, and sometimes even after it. They're good. I could see them easily winning double digit games again this season. But, Michigan shouldn't have struggled like they did on Saturday.
First and foremost, and this could become a very, very big problem, they are not securing the football. Patterson waited a little bit longer this week to fumble, but he still fumbled on Michigan's first offensive possession, and that led to Army's first TD of the day. He has been way too loose and uncharacteristically flippant with the ball. He is holding it like a loaf of bread and he is getting striped with ease. He should spend the entire bye week working on ball security. He also seemed a bit off with his throws all afternoon. He was either a little to high, or way too hard with the ball. He looked good on slants, but that was it. He missed open receivers deep and checked it down far too often. I don't think they need to change QB's like a lot of other people are saying, but Patterson needs to be better. He is a senior, they are running an offense that suits his skills and he needs to be the leader that this team has not had since Chad Henne was their QB. I loved Denard Robinson, but Henne was their last real, reliable QB.
I really liked what I saw from freshman back Zach Charbonnet. He had 33 carries, ran for 100 yards and scored 3 TD's. Yes, he did fumble too, but he is a teenager, and he was playing in his first real test of a football game. He was the rock for this team, and they needed him because they were so sloppy. But, the fact that it took him 33 carries to get 100 yards has me rethinking the o line, which I thought was a strength. The o line looked sloppy, missed blocks and never really opened up any big time holes for any of the backs. They need to gel much better. People can point out the Andrew Steuber injury, but he was the only new starter, and the backups should be ready no matter what. The o line has got to get better. Hell, I will heap praise on Charbonnet again because he was the best pass blocker they had on Saturday. Army blitzed a ton, but every time Charbonnet was in their, he picked up his man.
I thought the receivers and tight ends were solid, they just didn't get enough chances. Michigan threw the ball over 20 times, but with the way the pass game was working, it should have been closer to 30 or even 40 times. Their wee big gaps in the zone defense, and when Patterson had time, he was hitting Nico Collins and Nick Eubanks and Ronnie Bell with ease. Bell was great by the way. Next to Charbonnet, he was the best player the Wolverines had on the field Saturday.
When I look at their offensive performance overall, it was sloppy and a poorly called game. They shouldn't have scored anymore than 7 points with the calls they called all afternoon. I know, and I really want to believe, that Harbaugh was not going to be involved with the play calling. I want to believe that Josh Gattis is getting his much deserved shot to run this offense on his own. But Saturday felt a lot like the end of last season, and when John O'Korn, Brandon Peters and Wilton Speight were running the offense. This felt like Jim Harbaugh was overriding some calls, and trying to force the run game. Again, Charbonnet had 33 carries. Not since Mike Hart in 2007 had one running back had so many carries. And some of those run calls on fourth and short, out of shotgun mind you, were baffling. I like what Harbaugh has done in his 4 plus years, but the one thing that irks me is how stubborn he is with his offensive play calling. This just felt like Harbaugh wanted to push the ground game, no matter what they consequence, and how poorly it was, or wasn't, working. The Wolverine offense looked very sloppy, predictable and stubbornly called. It was very frustrating to watch this team, with all the speed and weapons they have, seemingly try to hammer the run game no matter what.
The defense, at least in my opinion, did really well. They held Army to one of its lowest total yards in a good long time. They forced some fumbles. Levert Hill had a critical interception late in the third quarter that really helped Michigan in the long run. They only got gashed on an outside run once, and that resulted in 0 points for Army. The d line did a solid job of making the fullback work. My biggest frustration with the D on Saturday was their inability to put Army in third and fourth and long situations. With the caliber player Michigan recruits, and plays on the field, they should have been able to slow Army down even more than they did. This game was going to be close, but the defense could have given their offense more chances if they were able to play a little more disciplined on some of Army's very long drives. But, I will say that the defense bailed Michigan's offense out. Without their performance, Michigan would have been beaten soundly.
Moving forward from here I have a couple thoughts about the rest of the season. One, Army is good. I have stated that plenty. I also think Michigan, especially being a top 10 team, is not as good as myself, and others, thought they would be. They are not going to be able to be this loose with the ball, or try to force the run game, when they play Wisconsin in 2 weeks, or when they go to Penn State, or when MSU comes to Ann Arbor or when the University of Ohio State comes to Ann Arbor as well. Michigan has a very tough schedule, and it is only going to get tougher and tougher as the season goes on. There are no more gimmes on the schedule, if there were any to start with. This team needs to clean up the messes, and start to play with some urgency and intensity if they want to be taken seriously. And Josh Gattis needs to have full control of this offense, and if he does, he needs to open up the playbook. I haven't seen the whole "speed in space" that was promised in the offseason. Start utilizing the skills of the skill players, pepper in Charbonnet here and there. Give him 16-22 carries a game, not 33. And the o line needs to step it the hell up. Also, the defense needs to tackle better.
Michigan is 2-0, and ranked 10th in the country, but right now, that feels very hollow. They need to clean this up, and they need to clean it up in a hurry. The season is going to get more and more real for them in the coming weeks. Time to see if they are really ready to play modern college football offense, and keep having a top 10 nationally ranked defense. It is clearly put up or shut up time in Ann Arbor.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast. The Head Editor is imploring Michigan to get their stuff together. It is early September and Ty does not need this heartburn all season.
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