Pre-season is over and Michigan Wolverines 3-0 for the fourth time under coach Jim Harbaugh. The No. 4 ranked Wolverines were dominant during the non-conference portion of their schedule by outperforming their opponents by an aggregate score of 166-17.
Colorado, Hawaii and Okon, hardly a formidable trio of top-tier opponents – hell, using the term “competition” seems gratuitous – but the Wolverines did exactly what they were supposed to do over the course of these three games: win, dominate and improve. And naming the midfielder, for what it’s worth.
With the non-conference schedule complete and JJ McCarthy safely at the helm, it’s time for the Wolverines to turn their attention to the Big Ten schedule and defend the Big Ten crown. Ask any champion tasked with defending his title, staying at the top is harder than getting to the top – heavy lies at the crown.
the great John Wooden, who once won seven championships in a row – and 10 overall – recognized the difficulty of repetition: “Winning takes talent, to replicate character.” Over the course of the first three games of the season, we’ve learned that Michigan has character-defining weaknesses and strengths that could propel it to heights equal to those of 2021, or even further.
As with any team, the Wolverines showed shortcomings during the first quarter of the season and none of them were more evident than the offensive line. Award-winning defender Joe Moore’s combination did not find a reliable pass-protecting chemistry, and this was exacerbated by several players rotating in and out due to injury.
On top of that, the group occasionally experienced stressful stunts and sheer focus, which allowed their style to become sloppy and neglected. Correct handling and the start of the first year, Trent Jones and right-back Zach Zenter both made huge psychological mistakes that led to bags.
Perhaps these perceived flaws are magnified because Michigan fans expect perfection and anticipate the future. These are clearly coherent picks from three overwhelmingly positive shows that are extrapolated into future assumptions by a fan base well-versed in pain: “If Jones is beaten by a random UConn guy, what happens against Ohio State? “
harpo He said it himself 2015: “Fans have a constitutional right to expect success and have high expectations.” While I’m not entirely sure it made it into the Bill of Rights, Michigan fans should expect the highest, but let’s examine this weakness before anyone writes Team 143 in September.
The offensive line needs a chance to recover. Right now left guard Trevor Keegan is starting to get very irritable, as is reserve facilities guard Carsen Barnhart, who could become a starter on the right tackle before all is said and done. The uncertainty and inconsistency reminded us of last year when Keegan was in a central battle with Chuck Villaga at a good time of the season and Zenter, among others, was frequently injured in the first half of the year.
against Rutgers, the Wolverines averaged 2.9 dash yards per attempt facing the second-worst rushing defense in the conference before taking shape and developing into the cohesive dominant group we saw against Ohio State. Again, this year, it will take some time.
As for strengths, it’s simple: balance and bodies on either side of the ball. Michigan’s attack on the ball is just as dangerous as its throw, and defensively they have shown a tendency to stop both. Depth on both sides has proven an embarrassment of riches and potential. Can you imagine 22 individuals (tight ends, arched backs) featuring AJ Henning and Donovan Edwards on the backcourt turning into a wide pentagon with potential mismatches at every location? I go on.
Across the defensive line, a star has yet to appear, but a group of contenders have made their claim. Jaylen Harrell, Mike Morris, Mazie Smith, Chris Jenkins, Mason Graham, Brayden McGregor, Rayshawn Penny, Taylor Upshaw, Derek Moore, and Iabi Aoki all appeared in the first three matches. That’s 10 players, and I’m still leaving some.
While depth and balance are required of the protagonist, what about the character Wooden alluded to? At Michigan State returning to Blake Corum’s press conference on Saturday night, Corum spoke wisely befitting a High Personality Program regarding this team’s prospects.
“I don’t know how good we are. I feel like we look good, but we haven’t had any ordeal yet. I feel like we’re going to be great.”
Team 143 doesn’t buy any of its own stuff as Harbaugh said, or ingest any rat poison, as Nick Saban calls it.
This team welcomes adversity and understands that they cannot understand their identity and potential until they do. Every team is good on their good days, but being good on their bad days is what defines a champion. Especially the repeat champion.
Adversity will happen as always. It could be against Maryland, it could be against Michigan State Again (God is with us), but this team has developed a character capable of withstanding what it takes to claim and retain the crown of the Big Ten.
Write off the team at your own risk, but rest assured, just like last year, they won’t write again.