Michigan football is still alive, but now is the time to do what this program never does
ANN ARBOR, me. Michigan football held onto its lean Big Ten title and playoff hopes with a win over Indiana this weekend, but now it’s time for the program to do something it hasn’t done in a long time hat: End the season strongly.
The game on Saturday went as expected. Michigan hosted a team that is winless in the Big Ten playing with a third-string quarterback, and the Wolverines scored 400 yards and 29 points while closing the Hoosiers with a tune of 195 yards and a score.
It was a dominant effort from start to finish and a necessary recovery from Michigan’s crushing stranglehold on East Lansing. Cade McNamara was solid again and passed for 168 yards and two touchdowns after just 18 tries. Hassan Haskins cemented himself as the team’s best running back with a total of 188 yards.
Michigan Wolverines’ Luke Schoonmaker # 86 breaks the tackle of Micah McFadden # 47 of the Indiana Hoosiers to score a second-half touchdown at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan on November 06, 2021. (2021 Getty Images)
The only worry for Michigan getting out of this game is injury. Erick All and Donovan Edwards did not see the field. Blake Corum hobbled away in the first half. Top cornerback Gemon Green left and never returned. Both Andrel Anthony and AJ Henning were eliminated early.
The Wolverines can’t afford to miss any of these players as they envision yet another tough road test at Penn State.
History of the limp to the finish line
It’s no secret that Jim Harbaugh’s program tends to struggle late in the season. That goes back to his best team in 2016.
That year, the Wolverines were 9-0 before losing three of their last four games – in Iowa, Ohio and the Orange Bowl to Florida State. These three defeats came to a total of five points.
Michigan was 8-2 before losing three straight times by the end of 2017, 10-1 before losing the last two games in 2018, and 9-2 before suffering consecutive losses in 2019. All of these seasons had one thing in common: when the schedule got tough, Michigan collapsed.
As in previous seasons, Michigan didn’t have many chances to prove itself against high-profile competition in 2021. His only game against a real contender was against Michigan State, and everyone knows how that turned out.
Michigan Wolverines’ Taylor Upshaw # 91 celebrates Jan. (2021 Getty Images)
Well, just like 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, Michigan will face some of the toughest challenges in November. History suggests it won’t go well.
Penn State sorrow
The Wolverines also hope to reverse their fortunes in Happy Valley, where Penn State has won five of their last six encounters.
Harbaugh defeated James Franklin on his first trip to Penn State in 2015, but the 2017 rematch was a massacre in the wrong direction. Michigan should have won on its last trip to Penn State, but when the Nittany Lions took the 21-0 lead, it proved fatal.
Last year Penn State came to Ann Arbor with a 0-5 record and bullied Michigan for their first win of the season. Franklin has now won three of the last four against Michigan, and Penn State is 7-4 in heads-to-head matches since losing nine games in the 2008 rivalry.
Penn State took their first win in over a month against Maryland on Saturday and would like to play against spoilers in the Big Ten East. Wins in Wisconsin and against Auburn prove that this team is still dangerous.
If Michigan can find a way to survive in Penn State and Maryland for the next two weeks, there will likely be another top 10 rivalry game – this time at home against Ohio State.
The Buckeyes have rounded in shape and appear to be heading for another college football playoff push. Michigan and Michigan State are the only obstacles on their way.
Michigan has other things to worry about first, but it’s about breaking trends – a decade has passed since the last win against Ohio State. A decade.
The next three weeks will determine whether 2021 will be remembered as a special year for Michigan or just another season building hopes to make it crash.
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