Last week, the Rich Rodriguez era of Michigan football got off on the wrong foot as the maize and blue lost their first game of the season to Utah. Many people wondered if the offense was worth noting, as Utah gave us several drives via penalties and our defense seemed to only shut down the Utes when they were taking their foot off the pedal.
Make no mistake about it, Miami is nowhere near as good a team as Utah, but hey a win is a win, no matter how you play it. Today was a day in which Wisconsin and that school in Columbus both trailed a Conference USA opponent and a MAC team respectively by at least eight points at some point in the game. Michigan however did not trail at any point during the game, and while our defense gave up a couple of big pass plays, we kept Bo's alma mater out of the end zone all afternoon. Our line was particularly impressive with it's speed and ability to put pressure on the quarterback.
Going into the Notre Dame weekend let's look at some of the pros and cons so far.
Defensive line; if Brandon Graham continues to have the season he's having this year so far, he might be a contender for all-American. The best part about that is, while opposing lines are trying to focus on stopping him they might let loose one of his equally capable, yet less heralded teammates.
Steve Threet can run the ball when he needs to. Granted the defensive ends for the Redhawks are nowhere near as fast as the DE's for Utah, Threet really executed the zone read extremely well today. Everybody was surprised by that, most of us came into the season expecting Steve Threet to be like John Navarre at very best, but he's quick, he's made some good decisions and, for right now, he's our man at Quarterback. I don't care what anybody else says, he's our guy right now.
Our O-line this year, is nowhere near as bad as Notre Dame's was last year. While that might not be saying much they are practicing against the same line that molested Jimmy Clausen last year so badly he saw yellow wings in his sleep. While Mark Ortmann's injury is a HUGE loss that can't be understated, due to our lack of depth on the line, at least we can keep the opponents our long enough for a play to develop, sometimes.
The McGuffie sweep works. I'd be surprised if we don't use it more often, Wham bam Sam might not have the reputation of Noel Devine or Steve Slaton yet, but he's getting there.
And last but certainly not least, our defense has not missed any tackles. Last year the biggest problem for our team's defense was letting guys slip through our fingers. Now while we haven't played anybody like Travis Beckum or Beanie Wells just yet, the fact that nobody's pulled out of the polygrip so far has been, in my opinion the most impressive thing about this team so far this year.
The secondary still has problems. Morgan Trent was a projected pre-season all-American this year, but he's shown that he is probably the only player that has trouble making tackles. Donovan Warren has been good, making crushing hits and breaking up key passes, Brendan Harrison broke up a sure touchdown against Miami. But Stevie Brown continues to set a bad example for the secondary by letting sure pick sixes slip through his fingertips.
The return game has not improved. Granted we don't have Steve Breaston, but it would be nice if we had somebody who could get us out of the bad field position Miami had us pinned in all day long.
McGuffie sometimes zigs when he should zag. This is a typical freshman running back mistake, probably every running back, including Barry Sanders, has probably made a mistake like that at some point in his career. I'm not asking McGuffie to be Barry, clearly he isn't, but what i am saying is he needs to learn how to move better when his O-line lets him down. It's clear that he can break tackles and is one tough mo, but he needs to be able to shake and bake with some more consistency if he's to be carrying the mail for this team.
Finally, the passing game. To say it's been lackluster, save a few big plays would be a gross understatement. Sheridan's problem is that he's under throwing too much, Threet's problem is that he's overthrowing too much. Thankfully for us Threet's overthrows have trouble staying on the field so far, so no INT's. We haven't seen very much good execution on the bubble screen which was so dear to the success of West Virginia the last couple of years. But hey, what did you expect, Pat White?
Speaking of which, i think both guys are glad not to be Pat White this weekend, i'm not even sure he'd want to be.