ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On average, Michigan has won each of its nine games by a score of roughly 48-11. Opening 2016 with a 63-3 win over Hawaii set the tone, and this past weekend’s 59-3 win over Maryland all but reaffirmed the Wolverines’ far-superior offensive skills.
Stomping, crushing and demoralizing opponents.
Yeah, there was that one close one versus Michigan State, a 32-23 win in East Lansing. And yeah, there was the first half versus Colorado, which raced out to a 21-point lead but lost 45-28.
Other than that, nobody has gotten within an arm’s length — or two or three — of Jim Harbaugh’s 9-0 superpower. Perfect through six Big Ten games, Michigan has taken control of its league through efficient execution, great effort and discipline.
And, of course, points. Consistently scoring them — and not allowing others to get them — has been a major difference for the No. 3-ranked CFP team in the land.
“I think we know what we need to do, and I think we know how to win — we know how to attack each week. At this point last year, games were starting to get really close and we weren’t playing our best football,” said fifth-year senior DT Ryan Glasgow, referencing a 29-26 road win over Minnesota and a 48-41 double overtime road win over Indiana.
The Wolverines were gassed, to an extent, by this time one year ago. They closed the regular-season with a 42-13 loss to Ohio State.
“I think, this year, we’ve really hit our stride,” Glasgow said. “I think it starts from the top-down, with our leaders and with our quarterback — he’s playing his best football right now…”
With a rating of 158, Speight leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency; he’s improved on a weekly basis, even surpassing initial expectations set by coach Jim Harbaugh. Penalties have been drastically cut: Through 13 games in 2015, Michigan had been penalized 87 times for 778 yards. Through nine games in 2016, Michigan has been penalized 42 times for 409 yards.
“I don’t like to compare to the past, but I’d say we’re very disciplined — yes. We really attack practice…” said Glasgow, later adding “don’t get a late hit and don’t jump off-side — as long as we do that, (defensive line) Coach (Greg) Mattison’s happy… so we’re happy.”
Simply said, Michigan hasn’t given away much of anything. Each play and each individual effort has demonstrated its renewed focus on being as sharp as possible. That means everywhere.
Throw a block to extended a 50-yarder to a 53-yard run. Knowing when to “go for it” or “play with technique” has also influenced players, specifically fifth-year senior DT Matt Godin, who said so during an interview this week with “Inside Michigan,” the school’s official TV program.
One year ago, the Wolverines allowed 24 touchdowns. This year, they’ve allowed 12 scores: eight through the air, and four by way of ground. During the 2015 season, they rushed for 2,054 yards and 27 touchdowns. Nine games into 2016, they’ve rushed for 2,265 yards and 36 touchdowns.
By all accounts, Michigan appears to be better prepared for this season’s home stretch. Remember November — yeah, that makes sense. That’s the month when the heavies either create separation or fold.
With that said, every weekend has been November-like for Michigan through nine games.
“It’s not so much being prepared for a whole month, it’s just us preparing, you know, every day — how we prepare,” said senior cornerback Jourdan Lewis, an All-American candidate. “And it’s just getting us ready for the games every week, so that’s really what it is.”
Preparation. Sounds simple enough, right? But has it really been that elementary?! For a team that’s likely to conquer the rest of its schedule and possibly make a run through the College Football Playoffs… yes… actually.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 9, 2016
“That’s pretty much it,” Lewis said with a grin. “That’s really, I guess, the key factor in all our success — just going out there Tuesday through Friday, going out there and honing in on our craft and our game plan.”