Following another superb Notre Dame and Michigan battle, the Wolverines are suddenly one of the rising teams in the country. They crept their way into the top 25 and have one of the best young quarterbacks in the country.
The Rich Rodriguez allegation talk has subsided for now, and optimism seems to be at its peak as U-M moves into its third game of the season against Eastern Michigan University.
But before we get to that game, let's take a look at five elements that came out of the Notre Dame win.
1. Tate Forcier
This seems to be a no-brainer to me.
Forcier played poised and under control in just his second collegiate start and showed everyone why he speaks the truth when he says he doesn't get nervous. Forcier led Michigan to a come-from-behind victory, and I doubt that it'll be the last this season.
One thing that speaks volumes as well is that he isn't too amped up to tuck the ball and run with it. He was able to move the ball around, finding six different receivers, and made his runs count. It seems like he may have a better handle on being a complete quarterback than his Big Ten counterpart—Terrelle Pryor.
There is no doubt that his stock is rising, and with every win and throw, Forcier seems to gain immense confidence. The Wolverines haven't really ever had a quarterback like Forcier, but fans across Michigan are finally excited at the prospect of having a dual-weapon signal caller.
Notre Dame's defense was much improved entering the game, with top prospects throughout the units, but Forcier led the offense to 38 points.
I mean, the kid even had a 50-yard punt that was downed inside the 20.
2. Brandon Minor and the rushing attack
The senior running back did much to prove his worth in his first playing action this season. Minor led all Michigan rushers with 106 yards on just 16 carries and showed the power the Wolverines need.
He has goal line ability and also has the speed to break a long run. His versatility and veteran presence in the offense give Michigan a valuable weapon.
Forcier once again used his legs to his advantage, obviously apparent on his bolt to the end zone in the early moments of the fourth quarter. He racked up 80 yards, and fellow freshman Denard Robinson also notched 21 yards on four runs.
If Michigan—like they did Saturday—can find that healthy balance of running and passing the ball, this team will be dangerous heading into the Big Ten schedule.
Michigan did much better in its second meeting with Notre Dame under Rodriguez. The first contest saw six turnovers from Michigan, which led to the loss.
However, Michigan committed just one turnover against the Fighting Irish in its second meeting, with Forcier's interception being the lone miscue.
This is obviously a huge positive moving forward.
Minor is an experienced runner and probably won't be prone to losing the ball, and Forcier seems to have made good decisions so far. He isn't forcing the ball and making risky throws downfield.
Turnovers were one of the team's biggest problems in 2008, but so far in 2009 they haven't killed the Wolverines, and it's reflected in the 2-0 record.
4. The Michigan defense
If there was one pitfall in a great victory, it was the defense—which allowed 34 points and gave up nearly 500 yards.
Are they reverting to their 2008 form?
I highly doubt that they are as Notre Dame is very formidable and should be one of the better offenses in college football this season. They have a couple of receivers that should be considered two of the best in the nation.
However, there are some areas of concern.
The Michigan defensive line failed to tally a single sack on the day and was unable to shake Jimmy Clausen as the junior quarterback threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns.
The defense allowed almost a 50 percent third down conversion percentage (6-for-14) and allowed Armando Allen Jr. to rack up 139 yards rushing.
Senior defensive end Brandon Graham and senior linebacker Stevie Brown were both able to get two tackles for loss, but the squad needs more pressure on the quarterback to be successful. Notre Dame's line was mammoth compared to the smaller, quicker Michigan defenders, which could be part of the reason, but the defense needs to do a better job if they are going to have a successful season.
5. The dependable receivers
Daryl Stonum took a kickoff past all 11 Notre Dame defenders and 94 yards into the end zone. Stonum also hauled in four catches for 54 yards against the Fighting Irish.
Greg Mathews showed his athleticism and reach in grabbing an impressive 40-yarder early in the first quarter and then helped Forcier out by snatching the game-winning touchdown. The senior's presence outside makes it harder for defenses to key on the run, which in turn opened up holes for Minor and Forcier.
Even though tight end Kevin Koger isn't the No. 1 option, he has caught a touchdown in each of the first two games and has proved a big target for Forcier. It has been a while since Michigan had a reliable tight end, and Koger is proving to be dependable both blocking and catching the football.
Sophomore Martavious Odoms has yet to develop a rapport with Forcier, but his speed and agility can't be ignored for long. He did receive three passes against Notre Dame. Expect more production from him as the season continues.
Someone—like Junior Hemingway in the opener—has stepped up in each game, and I see that continuing even as the games get tougher.
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