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What Is Going Wrong For Michigan?

What's going on with Michigan?

The Michigan Wolverines have their bye week next up on the schedule in Week 3 and it may be coming at a much-needed time. Although the maize and blue have won the first two games of the season, the victories didn’t come with ease. 

In Week 2, Michigan survived a narrow 24-21 overtime win over Army for its second straight ATS loss after failing to cover the 36-point spread against Middle Tennessee in Week 1. Failing to cover in the early stages of 2019 doesn’t represent anything new – since quarterback Shea Patterson has been under center for the Wolverines, they are just 6-9 ATS and haven’t covered since Week 10 of last year against Penn State, a span of six games. 

Below I outline some of the reasons why fading the Wolverines may be a profitable bet as we progress through the college football schedule.

Offense Still Has No Identity

There were high hopes for a new innovative, modern offense for the Wolverines in 2019 with the hiring of offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. Last year, at times, Michigan’s offense seemed a little stale with simple runs up the gut, yet Karan Higdon still had 1,178 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Higdon is no longer with the squad, though, as he signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent and is currently on the practice squad.

The Wolverines’ running game appears to be in fine hands without Higdon, though, as true freshman Zach Charbonnet has amassed 190 yards on 41 carries with three majors thus far and was selected Big Ten Freshman of the Week in Week 2. This points to the fact that Michigan will still have success because of its ability to run the ball, especially against weaker sides. However, it is the passing game that is a concern.

Michigan averaged just 215.7 passing yards per game last season to rank 80th in the nation and it appears things haven’t changed in 2019. Through the first two games, the Wolverines have averaged 226 passing yards per game to rank 72nd. Quarterback Shea Patterson is in his senior season and his yards per completion (7.1) and completion percentage are the lowest they’ve been since his freshman season.

The poor passing isn’t a result of lack of talent in the receiver corps as Michigan’s three starting wideouts are five-star, four-star and three-star recruits, led by junior standout Donovan Peoples-Jones.

There were positives in the offensive scheme at times against Middle Tennessee, but against Army, there were more runs up the middle, which is that stale, archaic offense I alluded to above. Gattis suggested that was to drain the clock and keep Army’s offense off the field, but I will believe the change for good when I see it.

If there isn’t a big offensive shift when the Wolverines return from their bye week against No. 14 Wisconsin, which hasn’t surrendered a point yet this season and will also be coming off a bye week, fans will be calling for head coach Jim Harbaugh’s firing, I’m sure.

Unforced Mistakes

In combination with the struggling offense in the early stages of the season, Michigan has been shooting itself in the foot. The Wolverines rank 111th in the nation with 17 penalties and 78th in FBS with 113 total penalty yards. This can account for some of the questionable play-calling when you are getting pushed back and facing long first-down yardage over and over again.

Furthermore, quarterback Shea Patterson is tied for the most fumbles in the nation, while Michigan as a team ranks dead last in college football with five lost fumbles already, forcing the defense to be on the field more than it should be and getting the offense out of sync.

Overall, the Wolverines are still 2-0 heading into conference play, but in a season with high expectations, there are signs of a potential letdown against an ever-strengthening Big Ten conference.