Michigan football: 5 things I would like to see from the Wolverines on Saturday
Michigan looks to continue its winning ways Saturday in the Big House, hosting SMU at 3:30 p.m. ET (TV: Big Ten Network). The Wolverines are 1-1 now, losing to Notre Dame in the opener but playing well last Saturday in a dominating 49-3 win over Western Michigan.
SMU has started the season with two losses, first at North Texas by a 46-23 margin, and then at home to a very good TCU team last Friday, losing 42-12. (We are all rooting for TCU this weekend, by the way.) The Mustangs are struggling offensively, gaining only 111 yards in the air against TCU on 39 attempts, a meager 2.8-yard average. They rushed 131 yards, but 51 of that came on one carry from Braeden West. On their other 32 rushes, they gained only 80 yards, a pathetic 2.5-yard average. They rushed for only 4 yards on 19 carries in their opener.
This should be another cakewalk for the No. 19-ranked Wolverines, but you never know, of course. It’s time to go out and put up another big win.
Here are five things I want to see from Michigan this weekend against SMU:
1. Continued improved play from the offensive line
This was a huge problem area in the season opener against Notre Dame, much like it was for most of last season. The group of proud big guys promised to get better and they showed it against Western Michigan.
Sure, we’re aware of the difference in talent level, but playing well is still playing well, and the Michigan line did that, giving quarterback Shea Patterson plenty of time to throw and opening big holes for the Wolverines running backs. More of the same, please, and stay healthy while you’re at it.
2. Another dominant performance by the defense
Michigan’s elite group bounced back nicely from its poor start against Notre Dame, when they gave up two long drives the put the Wolverines in a 14-0 they couldn’t recover from. They should have had a shutout against Western, with the only blemish a very late field goal after a drive against the Michigan reserves.
SMU’s offense has struggled in its first two losses, especially on the ground. It’s time for Michigan’s great defensive front to control this game from the outset and leave now doubt in the result. Three points — or less — should be possible again.
3. Shea Patterson looking comfortable in the pocket
Quarterback Shea Patterson had a big day Saturday, and he had a lot of fun doing it. His first game in the Big House was something he had dreamed about since he was a little boy, and it all played out perfectly.
He had a great game, throwing three touchdown passes to three different receivers (Sean McKeon, Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones). He didn’t have huge numbers — just 12-of-17 passing for 125 yards — but he looked sharp throwing from a clean pocket and he put points on the board. That’s what is most important. Let’s see him build on that this weekend.
4. At least 4-plus runs of 20 yards or more
The running game led by Karan Hidgon gained more than 300 yards last weekend and we finally saw some of their big-play capabilities. Let’s have more of that Saturday, with at least four-plus runs of 20 yards or more.
Getting the running game going helps with play-action passes, so it’s important for the Wolverines to be efficient on the ground in every game, especially later in the year when the games really matter. The Michigan offense should have a big day Saturday, too, since SMU has allowed 922 total yards in its first two games, both losses.
5. A smile from Jim Harbaugh near the end
There’s a ton of pressure on Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh this season because it’s time for the Wolverines to step up and compete for a title in the Big Ten East. Not much can be done about that this week, but showing continued improvement and playing well in all phases is important. It sure was last week in the bounce-back win against Western Michigan.
“There was a feeling that everyone wanted to get rid of,” Harbaugh said last Saturday. “We took nothing for granted, worked really hard all week, and that’s where we want to be as a football team. One week at a time.”
Another big win would be nice, as would a few Harbaugh smiles.
Enjoy the journey, Jim.