Michigan football: 5 things I'd like to see from Wolverines this weekend
The sky is falling, the sky is falling. That’s what happens when you lose a football game and things are gloomy in Ann Arbor after Michigan started the season with a loss at Notre Dame. In comes Western Michigan for the home opener (Noon ET; TV: Fox Sports 1), and it’s time for things to get better.
Here’s five things I want to see from the No. 21-ranked Wolverines this weekend:
1. Stay in the moment
Because there’s no way to cure the nation’s perspective of the Wolverines this weekend, just go out and play at a high level and enjoy yourself. All the “can’t beat a good team” stories were written after losing to Notre Dame, and because it’s simply Western Michigan this weekend, nothing can change that narrative until later in the year.
So just go out and play. Go do your job, and have fun doing it. You’re 28-point favorites, so go out and play like it. And then, just maybe, smile a little bit. Football is meant to be fun.
2. Pound the ball with purpose
Michigan struggled on offense against Notre Dame, and much of the blame was directed at the offensive line, and rightly so. This opponent comes at a perfect time, because the Wolverines should be able to run the ball at will.
Western Michigan gave up 334 rushing yards to Syracuse last week in 55-42 home loss, so expect more of the same this weekend. The running game should be much better this week, especially after posting only 58 yards on 33 carries against Notre Dame last Saturday. Strap it on, and get after it. And a run longer than 10 yards would be nice. There were none last Saturday. Not a single one.
3. Let’s see Shea Patterson get comfortable
Michigan’s new quarterback was running for his life last weekend and it showed. Even Paterson completed 20 of 30 passes for 227 yards, he was constantly under pressure and completed just one deep throw.
I’ll be curious to see how he looks when given time to throw. Western’s defense is, simply, not very good so this will be a nice game for the Wolverines offense to start clicking. That starts with the offensive line and ends with Patterson making accurate throws. Expect all of that to happen.
4. Get a 60-minute defensive performance
Michigan’s defense was dominant at times against Notre Dame, which is what you would expect from a top-5 defense. But it needs to be that way from start to finish. That did not happen in the opener. The Irish averaged 12-plus yards per play on their first 14 snaps, but only 2.4 yards the rest of the way.
Michigan gave up those two long drives to start the game and it put them in a 14-0 hole it could never recover from. Don Brown’s group needs to set the tone here and make big plays right from the get-go.
5. Get some more special teams love
It’s that simple, really. Sometimes it’s this unit that needs to spark a team. Last week they got that from Ambry Thomas. The sophomore from Detroit took a kick back 99 yards for a score and it got Michigan back in the game.
Another return Saturday, either on a kickoff or a punt return, would be nice, too. At the very least, use the return game to flip field position. That always helps.