Michigan football: My 5 least-favorite memories from the 2018 season
On the way to Columbus on the day after Thanksgiving, the Michigan Wolverines had a lot to be thankful for. They were 10-1, ranked No. 4 in the country and unbeaten in the Big Ten. All that was left was to beat Ohio State, securing its first Big Ten East title and spot in the conference championship game.
A College Football Playoff spot likely was theirs for the taking as well, but then everything went horribly wrong. Michigan lost to Ohio State 62-39 in the rivalry game, and then finished the season with a dud in the Peach Bowl, losing to an average Florida team 41-15. The Wolverines finished with a 10-3 record and were ranked No. 14 in the final AP poll.
It was an ugly ending to what had been a great season. So, needless to say, those losses dominate my list of my five least-favorite moments of this season. So here we go:
1. Not adjusting on defense at Ohio State
When you have the No. 1 defense in the country, it’s just inconceivable to think that any team could hang 62 points on you, but that’s exactly what the Buckeyes did. Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the nation’s leader in passing yards, torched the stout Wolverines defense with six touchdown passes. He threw for 396 yards and the Buckeyes ran for another 171. It was a complete embarrassment in a game that meant so much to the Wolverines.
Much of the blame falls on defensive coordinator Don Brown, who was slow to adjust to what Ohio State was doing. They kept running crossing routes against Michigan’s man-to-man defense, and guys were open constantly. They simply could not stop the Buckeyes, and it was a huge disappointment, especially considering how much — conference titles, playoff berths — was at stake.
2. Offensive line gets ripped apart by Buckeyes
There was plenty of blame to go around in the the Ohio State loss. Michigan’s offensive line, a much improved unit in most of 2018 after being the weak link of this team for years, had a horrible day.
Not only did they struggle to open running lanes for Karan Higdon, but they also didn’t protect quarterback Shea Patterson, who was forced to throw on the run all day. The O-line picked a bad day to revert back to the struggling ways.
3. A complete no-show in the bowl game vs. Florida
With the playoffs out of the picture, No. 7 Michigan still got invited to a New Year’s Six game, with a matchup against No. 10 Florida at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Michigan has seen a lot of Florida lately, beating them easily twice in the past three seasons.
It didn’t happen this time. Florida picked them apart in a 41-15 rout, and Michigan struggled on both sides of the ball in the ugly loss. Sure, several future NFL stars skipped the game, but that’s no excuse. There was plenty of talent still on the field for the Wolverines, but they didn’t show up. The lack of effort had a lot to do with that No. 14 ranking at the end of the season. Those final two losses were a bad sight, even on a national perspective.
4. Slow start in opener at Notre Dame
The best season-opening game of the year paired Michigan with Notre Dame in South Bend, and even that early, there was plenty of talk about this game impacting the College Football Playoff race. The game didn’t disappoint, but it was Notre Dame who came on top, winning 24-17.
Michigan’s defense was a no-show early, allowing two long touchdown drives to the Fighting Irish on their first two possessions to jump out to a 14-0 lead. Michigan did play better the rest of the way, but that early hole was too much to overcome.
5. Struggling to finish drives against Indiana in late November
Michigan won 10 games in a row after the Notre Dame loss, but the 10th win — a 31-20 victory over Indiana the week before the Ohio State game — showed some ominous signs. The score is deceiving, because this game was tight the whole way.
Two big concerns showed up in this game. Michigan couldn’t finish drives, which led to six field goals by Jake Moody, all in the red zone. Indiana actually led at halftime and it was still a one-score game in late in the fourth quarter. Indiana also showed the blueprint on how to attack Michigan’s defense, hitting a lot of open crossing routes. A week later, Ohio State would do the same thing.