Michigan Wolverines football coach Jim Harbaugh speaks to the media after the 38-7 win over Maryland on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.
Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press
Did Michigan show any susceptibility to a letdown?
Earlier this week, Michigan players were asked if they were guarding against a letdown. It was a valid question, considering the Wolverines had just demolished then-No. 7 Notre Dame and were preparing to face a much weaker foe on the road for a noon kickoff. Players expressed no concern they’d lose their focus.
Within seconds of the start of the game Saturday, Michigan showed everyone they had no reason to be worried about its ability to play with the same sense of urgency. Giles Jackson returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, setting in motion a 38-7 rout of the Terrapins.
Michigan looked strong from start to finish as they clamped down on defense, made a series of explosive plays on offense and achieved several victories on special teams.
In its entirety, it was a strong performance.
“You worry about coming off a big win like we had the week before,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “What’s the mindset going to be like? It was to put the pedal down, to put the foot on the gas. I admire that the most.”
Has Michigan reverted to being a run-dominant team again?
As they faced rain and wind during a 45-14 victory Notre Dame, the Wolverines adjusted their strategy accordingly and ran the ball 57 times in 71 plays.
The lack of balance was anomalous; it was more circumstantial than anything. But it has become clear the decision to favor the ground game wasn’t.
After Michigan’s latest win Saturday, the Wolverines are running the ball 58% of the time.
Against the Terrapins, Shea Patterson attempted 22 passes before Dylan McCaffrey relieved him late in the third quarter.
An effort to establish the ground attack was made at the outset when Hassan Haskins carried the ball on four of the first five plays. While Josh Gattis promised speed in space when he joined Michigan as the offensive coordinator last winter, the Wolverines can still ground and pound with the best of them. Michigan showed that again Saturday while gaining 155 rushing yards.
Is Michigan’s bye week coming at an opportune time?
Michigan will be off next Saturday, sitting idle for the first time since the third week of the season.
It will be an opportunity for the Wolverines to rest and recuperate.
“We will be doing that,” Harbaugh said.
But while some time away from football may be welcomed by the players enduring the grind of the season, is this the best time for the Wolverines to have a bye?
A case can be made it isn’t.
Michigan is playing its best right now. It has won five of six and has dominated its past two opponents.
With the Wolverines facing rivals Michigan State and Ohio State as well as a sneaky good Indiana team in the month ahead, they will need to harness the momentum they’ve recently accrued. Will a week off get in the way of that?
It’s a question Michigan will have plenty of time to consider.
Updated: Big Ten football standings
Michigan Wolverines QB Shea Patterson and LB Josh Uche speak to the media after the 38-7 win over Maryland on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.
Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press