The Michigan football team rolled to another blowout victory Saturday, trouncing Central Florida, 51-14.
And after our first week of classes, we at the Daily were in the mood to do some more learning in the press box.
So that’s what we did. Here are five things we learned from this weekend.
1. Beware the big play.
Of the 275 rushing yards Michigan allowed Saturday, 212 of those yards came on five plays. That doesn’t make the number any less significant — Michigan has much better teams to play this season that would happily take five big plays — but it does give it a different meaning.
Had the Wolverines given up 275 rushing yards by getting consistently pounded for 8-10 yards, that would be a sign of systemic problems on the defense. Instead, the stat can be chalked up to either a handful of great offensive plays, or defensive lapses.
UCF broke the Michigan contain more than defensive coordinator Don Brown probably would have liked, and against quarterbacks like Ohio State’s JT Barrett, that could be an issue. But there’s a lot of football to be played between now and then, and there’s no reason to believe Michigan can’t shore up some of its big-play faults.
Still, it’s a dent in the Wolverines’ armor, and one they would be wise to close up quickly.
2. The linebackers may be better than we thought.
When Michigan’s entire starting linebacker corps graduated after last season, many were (justifiably) concerned with their replacements. But through two games, the group has answered its doubters.
Redshirt junior linebacker Mike McCray was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week in Week 1, and he had another strong game against the Knights with six tackles, one and a half for loss, and a forced fumble.
Senior Ben Gedeon combined with freshman defensive end Rashan Gary for a 12-yard sack, and Jabrill Peppers continues to be Jabrill Peppers. Against Hawaii and UCF, that bunch was solid.
Soon, though, they will go up against stronger competition — possibly as soon as this week but certainly by the start of the October. McCray, Gedeon and Peppers will be judged by how they play in those games, not the ones Michigan wins by 37.
But for now, there’s not much to complain about. That’s a good start.
3. Special teams will be OK without John Baxter.
Four altered kicks alone make a good special teams day. Add in the fact that Jabrill Peppers nearly returned another punt for a touchdown and that the Wolverines started five drives in UCF territory, and it becomes a great one.
After special teams coordinator John Baxter departed for Southern California this offseason, it was fair to wonder whether Michigan’s special teams — much improved last season — would regress. Saturday should quell some of those concerns.
Tyree Kinnel tipped two punts, and Chris Wormley got his hands on a pair of field goals, in what was the best attacking day the Wolverines’ special teams have had in some time.
Only one of the kicks went down as an official block — Wormley’s first, in the first quarter — but they all contributed to Michigan’s dominance in the third phase. The Wolverines won’t be able to do it each week, but the more fear they can put in kickers and punters, the better off they’ll be.
4. Deep passes are a go.
It took Jake Rudock more than half of last season to figure out the deep passing game with his receivers. Once he found his touch, Rudock turned in one of the best quarterback seasons in recent school history, due in large part to his success throwing downfield.
Two weeks into 2016, redshirt junior quarterback Wilton Speight seems to have already found that stroke.
Speight linked up for big gains with each of his top three targets — senior tight end Jake Butt and fifth-year senior receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson — including a 45-yard touchdown to Darboh in the first quarter.
Getting the deep ball to work consistently would be huge for the Wolverines, who have arguably the most receiving depth of anyone in the Big Ten.
5. Bold Prediction: Khalid Hill gets two more touchdowns next week.
A year ago, Hill getting any rushing touchdown would be bold. Now, he has more on the season than any other Wolverine.
Since his conversion from tight end, Hill has shown high value in short-yardage situations. That value will be highlighted against a Colorado team that should be significantly better than either team Michigan has faced thus far.
The Wolverines will score, but they’ll have to work for it, and that’s when fullbacks make their name.