It’s amazing how little you can learn from seven touchdowns.
The Michigan football team did that thing again, where it steamrolls an opponent so thoroughly that it feels like Marshawn Lynch is calling the shots. Over and over and over and over …. and over and over and over again — that’s how it went Saturday against Penn State. That’s how it’s gone all season long, one quarter excepted.
Wilton Speight said his team ran the same play “like, eight times in a row” on Saturday, flipping it back and forth. And if that doesn’t illustrate how thoroughly Michigan imposed its will, try the box score.
Penn State was 2-for-12 on third down. Michigan was 11-for-16. The Wolverines posted 515 offensive yards and held the Nittany Lions under 200. They’re still averaging 52 points. Still hard to block, still have Jabrill Peppers and yet there’s still not much to take away.
One-third of the way through the 2016 season, we know Michigan is good, but we have very little conception of how good because the Wolverines haven’t been forced to show all that much.
Outside of a few sweeps by Peppers and Eddie McDoom, Michigan’s offense has been largely vanilla and is still averaging 467 yards a game. It pounded the ball for 326 yards against the Nittany Lions, and Speight still hasn’t been forced to take the kinds of shots he will soon need to.
In one week, mercifully, that should change.
Next Saturday, No. 11 Wisconsin will roll in, undefeated and fresh off its second top-10 win of the season. The Badgers beat No. 8 Michigan State on Saturday, using a stout defensive line and opportunistic secondary to all but assure a top-10 matchup against the Wolverines.
For the first time all season, Michigan can go in expecting a brawl. So far, the Wolverines have been throwing punches and catching the few thrown back at them.
Against Penn State, Michigan forced a three-and-out with two sacks on the game’s first series. Peppers nearly returned the ensuing punt for a touchdown, muffing it, picking it up, and then running it 53 yards down to the nine-yard line. He stumbled for the last 15 yards, and aside from that quarter against the Buffaloes, it might have been the longest the Wolverines have stumbled all year.
It was a drubbing, one that saw Michigan’s converted tight end Khalid Hill snag his fourth rushing touchdown of the year as a fullback and Speight go his third straight game without an interception.
The Wolverines dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and for the fourth straight week, the backup quarterback saw the field. The defense added six more sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
These types of sentences aren’t supposed to be boring, but after four straight weeks of seeing Michigan do this, they are. Having 13 tackles for loss isn’t normal, but for the Wolverines, it’s pretty much the average.
That’s why next week should be so fun. Colorado might have come out and punched Michigan in the mouth last week, but the Badgers are built to do it for longer than a quarter. The Wolverines might have to open that playbook a little wider, deploy Peppers with more offensive regularity or use what seems like it could be a stellar goal-line defense, if it was ever needed.
Saturday, Penn State coach James Franklin elected to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. His team was down 28-0.
After the game, Franklin told reporters he just wanted to get points out of that possession, and that’s a statement in itself. But next week, finally, Michigan will have a chance to make a louder one.