Michigan Football: Is This the Worst 5-0 Team You've Ever Seen?
Michigan is 5-0 on the season following its 42-13 win over Minnesota, and as such, it is the owner of the Little Brown Jug for about the 50th time in a row (it's actually only eight times, but it is the 22nd time in 23 years).
Don't let the score fool you, though. Michigan football isn't exactly back to its awesome self.
Yes, you can argue W's are the only thing that matter, and if we were talking about what happens on Sundays, you'd be right.
However, this is Saturday and W's only matter so much. Otherwise, Michigan wouldn't have dropped in the polls for two weeks in a row.
In the current world of college football, where style-points matter as much as actual points, Michigan has failed to impress for three games in a row.
Anyone who saw the game on Saturday afternoon, saw a Michigan team that wasn't as in control as the score would suggest.
How is that possible when the Wolverines won by 29 points? Well, let's examine the details and the opponent played, shall we?
First, there's Michigan's run game, which saw the team rack up just 113 yards on the ground against the eighth-ranked rushing defense in the Big Ten (giving up 131 yards a game coming in).
Minnesota, on the other hand, ran for 136 yards against what was statistically the second-best rushing defense in the league (giving up just 79 yards a game coming in).
One of these two things doesn't compute with how this game played out—until you look at the passing numbers.
Devin Gardner was a steady influence for the Wolverines in this one, going 13-of-17 passing for 235 yards and a touchdown in the win. The Wolverines also were efficient in the pass game, averaging 13.8 yards a pass.
Minnesota wasn't terrible in efficiency, with Mitch Leidner completing 66.6 percent of his passes. However, he couldn't hit the bigger plays he needed to keep his team in it after going down 14 points in the early part of the second half.
Leidner hit for just 145 yards on those 14 completions and couldn't find the end zone with his arm.
Ultimately, it was the pass game that set Michigan apart and allowed it to run the ball well at the right times, scoring four times from 12 yards or less on the ground.
Add in a pick-six for the defense and you have the margin of victory.
However, the rest of the numbers show a team that still hasn't gotten things corrected following the bye week.
Minnesota killed itself with untimely penalties (six for 35 yards) and a passing game that is clearly still evolving as it transitions to Leidner under center (for now at least).
Is Michigan a True Contender in the Big Ten?
Even Gardner's 235 yards through the air wasn't impressive, not when you consider Minnesota was giving up an average of over 250 yards through the air coming in to this contest.
So, for the past two weeks the Wolverines have slipped in the polls and came into this week ranked No. 19 in the nation.
Will they stay there after this win? It's hard to say, considering Michigan didn't win this game as much as Minnesota lost it when you take a look at all that happened.
But give credit where credit is due, what the Wolverines did do was take advantage of the opportunities the Gophers gave them.
Then again, W's get you further toward the ultimate goal of a Big Ten Championship, and if you ask anyone in the Maize 'N Blue locker room following the win, they're just happy to be raising the Little Brown Jug and moving forward.
However, from the outside looking in, this game didn't do anything to erase the doubts that this team is a true contender going forward—after all, this was just Minnesota, right?
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