Cleat Geeks

How Good is Michigan?

Coming into the season, it was a challenge to try and prognosticate just how Michigan would fare in 2015. Most observers felt Michigan would be much improved, but with so many question marks, especially on the offensive side of the ball, it was anyone’s guess as to how improved they would be.

As we sit here today, the Wolverines are 5-2 and ranked 15th in the current AP poll. Their two loses coming against top ten teams – Utah and Michigan State – by a combined 11 points.

So how good is Michigan?

It’s still hard to say exactly, but let’s take a look at the state of the team and try to assess how good this team really is.

Defense – Grade: A
There is no doubt the defense is the strength of this football team, as they currently hold the 2nd-ranked total defense in the nation. The Wolverines are allowing just a touch over 210 total yards/game and a per play average of 3.45 yards.

MchiganLewisOf course, the entire nation saw Michigan hold three consecutive opponents scoreless, shutting out BYU, Maryland and Northwestern.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise this season has been the much improved Michigan secondary. Jourdan Lewis has emerged as a real leader amongst this position group and Jabrill Peppers has bounced back nicely from an injury plagued freshmen season and is beginning to showcase his talents on both sides of the ball.

The hallmark of this defense, however, continues to be their rush defense. The Wolverines are allowing just 2.14 yards/carry on the season and have allowed just four rushing touchdowns up to this point. If a team is unable to run the football, it is very hard for them to win a football game and the Wolverines certainly are not allowing teams to run the ball.

Offense – Grade: B-
One of the main concerns coming into the season was how a Michigan offense, which really struggled last season, would play. The offensive line was horrendous the year prior, but have continued to improve with each passing week in 2015. Now, they may not be one of the best in the conference, but they are a much improved veteran group and are no longer a glaring weakness.

MichiganLewisWith the improved offensive line play, the Wolverines are beginning to establish a rushing attack led by De’Veon Smith. Smith has run for 436 yards on 98 attempts so far this season, but more importantly, he is bringing back a toughness to the Michigan ground game that has not been seen in recent years.

Smith is running through, would be, tacklers and dishing out copious amounts of punishment to those attempting to bring him down.

Through the air, Michigan has a nice array of weapons. The two leaders being the explosive Amara Darboh (28 catches for 328 yards) and the sure-handed tight end, and NFL prospect, Jake Butt (23 catches for 278 yards).

However, the weakest link on the offense may be the most important position on the field – QB Jake Rudock. Rudock transferred to Michigan being billed as a steady game manager who, while not explosive, would not hurt the team in critical stretches.

So far, the results have varied. Rudock has already thrown more interceptions this season (6) than he did all of last season (5). Furthermore, he has only thrown five touchdown passes and, most discouragingly, has missed open receivers on deep passes throughout multiple games.

For the Wolverine offense to start clicking, Rudock will have to play better.

Special Teams – Grade: B+
We all know the special teams were responsible for the most horrific ending to a football game in the history of Michigan football, but up until that point, they had actually been playing very well.

MichiganKennyAllenP Blake O’Neill has been punting the ball nicely, averaging 41.1 yards/punt and routinely pinning the opposing team deep in their own territory.

K Kenny Allen has been a very effective as well, hitting on 10-of-12 field goal tries.

The Wolverines have a kickoff return for a touchdown, courtesy of Jehu Chesson on the opening play against Northwestern and Jabrill Peppers is a constant threat to bring one back to the house as the punt returner.

So, overall, just how good is Michigan?

They are a very good football team. This is a team that has played well enough to be in the playoff conversation, but due to a very fluky loss, are going to be on the outside looking in this year.

There is still plenty to play for though. Win the remaining games on the schedule and they can still find themselves playing in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship. Win in Indy, and a prestigious New Year’s Six Bowl Game would be in store for the resurgent Wolverines.

As we sit now, this team should win at least 9 games and has a great shot at winning 10.

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