That was a VERY satisfying way to take a 5-4-1 series lead over the Cornhuskers. Onward to Evanston!
TABLE: FIVE FACTORS
Raise your hand if you had Week 4 circled as the first “take ’em to the wood shed” performance from Michigan’s offensive line. Nobody? Me either. In my opinion, the raw statistics tell more of the story than the S&P Five Factors do, because I did not remove garbage time for my analysis. And by garbage time, I mean the entire second half. Michigan was able to take Shea Patterson out in the 3rd quarter after another solid performance, and again Dylan McCaffrey was strong in his mop up role. For me, the most encouraging sign for the offense was the return of the explosive run play. The offensive line not only achieved great initial push along the front, the big run plays imply that blocks are being maintained at the second level, including by the wide receivers.
Nebraska managed to salvage a small edge in Finishing Drives because they cashed in on both of their scoring opportunities, while Michigan went 6-of-7 thanks to an interception thrown by the third string QB. However, Nebraska did not cross Michigan’s 40-yard line until their sad, “no shutout” field goal in the 3rd quarter. Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich did not play any longer into the 3rd quarter than Shea Patterson did. Devin Bush is clearly a step (or two) faster than Nebraska’s best offensive weapons. Again, the lopsided raw statistics are more indicative of the butt kickin’ in this game. Nebraska increased their Yards per Play above 3.0 by finding some room to breathe against the 2nd and 3rd string Wolverines. It was the first truly dominant performance in 2018 from Don Brown’s guys. Let’s hope there is more where that came from!
S&P+ THROUGH WEEK 4
Overall: 21.2, 6th (up 4)
Offense: 37.7, 24th (up 14)
Defense: 12.9, 4th (up 3)
REGULAR SEASON PROJECTIONS vs. RESULTS
vs. Nebraska: UM 56 NEB 10
Pregame S&P+: UM by 8.6, 4-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 11, 3-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 3.6
vs. SMU: UM 45 SMU 20
Pregame S&P+: UM by 20.0, 3-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 39, 2-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 2.6
vs. Western Michigan: UM 49 WMU 3
Pregame S&P+: UM by 10.8, 2-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 25, 1-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 1.6
@ Notre Dame: ND 24 UM 17
Preseason S&P+: ND by 0.1, 1-0
Preseason Clint: UM by 4, 0-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 0.6
@ Northwestern: Overall 3.1, 60th
M Offense 37.7 (24th) vs. O Defense 20.6 (24th), Midpoint: 29.15
M Defense 12.9 (4th) vs. O Offense 24.0 (96th), Midpoint: 18.45
PREGAME EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ gives a 10.7 point edge to Michigan. The Wildcats have not been impressive at all, but this Michigan team still needs to show it can be sharp on the road.
GAME WEEK UPDATE: The match-up to watch is Michigan’s offense versus Northwestern’s defense, as both are ranked #24 in the S&P+. Harbaugh will look to maintain balance between pass & run, while wearing down the Wildcats into the 3rd and 4th quarters.
Michigan 31 Northwestern 14 (PRESEASON: Michigan 17 Northwestern 14)
One team out-hit the other by a significant margin. The scoreboard reflects which is which. To his credit, Scott Frost did not try to spin any fictional moral victories during his 2018 post-game press conference.