For the first time since 2006, the No. 3 Michigan football team is 10-0.
Even though aspects of its offense weren’t constantly clicking, the Wolverines easily marched to their tenth-straight victory, defeating Nebraska, 34-3.
Regardless of the fact that the teams weren’t evenly matched, there were still opportunities to learn. Here are three takeaways from the Wolverines’ win over the Cornhuskers.
Offensive line imposes its will again:
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Against Nebraska, Michigan’s offensive line was once again completely dominant. The Wolverines rushed for a combined 264 yards and could’ve done literally anything they wanted to do.
“I have the best offensive line in the country, they dominate up front,” junior running back Blake Corum said. “… There were no long runs (today), but it was gritty. A lot of runs up the middle, and a lot of success.”
Much of Michigan’s offensive identity comes from the fact that it can simply hand the ball to Corum and get five yards at any moment — it’s essentially a guarantee. Much of the credit for that does belong to Corum, of course, but the other part of that lies on the Wolverines’ offensive line.
It can be easy to overlook it since it’s so much of a constant at this point, but Michigan’s offensive line pushes the defense back on nearly every play. And it’s evidenced in how the unit carries itself.
“We love that we’re so physical,” sophomore offensive lineman Giovanni El-Hadi said. “We could move any team, any person, doesn’t matter who it is. And we take pride in that.”
The swagger that the Wolverines’ offensive line has is evident whenever they are on the field. And as the season comes to an end, it becomes more and more obvious that Michigan can only go as far as its offensive line and run game take it.
Offensive injuries piling up:
The Wolverines’ offensive line did all of that without a key starter in senior offensive lineman Trevor Keegan, who missed Saturday’s game with an injury. El-Hadi filled in for Keegan nicely, and the line didn’t miss a beat, but the injuries did not stop there.
Senior tight end Luke Schoonmaker didn’t play on Saturday, and sophomore running back Donovan Edwards left the game early against the Cornhuskers. On Edwards’s status, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh remained mum:
“I won’t have an update right now.”
In a game against a sub-.500 Nebraska team, those players’ absences weren’t really felt all that much, but as a huge matchup with No. 2 Ohio State looms two weeks from now, the Wolverines hope that they return quickly.
Freshmen hitting their stride:
When starters are injured, many teams look to their younger players to showcase their improvement and plead their case for more playing time.
For Michigan, one of those players was freshman tight end Colston Loveland. In Schoonmaker’s absence, Loveland provided a target for sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy with two catches for 40 yards.
Loveland wasn’t the only freshman who showed his progress, either. Defensive lineman Mason Graham and cornerback Will Johnson continued showing their growth against the Cornhuskers.
After recording his first career interception last weekend, Johnson once again got substantial playing time and made his impact on the game with two tackles and a pass breakup.
Graham popped even more, as he recorded his second full sack of the season, and once again, proved to be an integral cog in Michigan’s superb rushing defense.
“I love that kid; I think he’s going to be something special” sophomore linebacker Junior Colson said. “From the second he got on campus he’s been dominant. He’s way ahead of his peers.”
The bottom line:
In the end, Graham’s performance, along with many others, might just get glossed over — the Wolverines dominated again and it’s expected at this point.
But they’ve done so now for 10 games in a row. Although not everything has clicked at once, Michigan has put itself in as good a position as it could’ve hoped for.