With 11 national titles, the Michigan Wolverines are historically one of the biggest college football programs in the country. But the team has experienced some struggles in the last two decades, as its most recent championship came in 1997. Michigan reached a low point between 2008 and 2014 when they had just one season with double-digit wins and one victory in a bowl game.
Things have improved since 2015 when former QB Jim Harbaugh joined as head coach and went 10-3 in three of his first four seasons. But the Wolverines’ performance in their first two games of 2019 should concern Michigan fans.
An ugly win is still a win
Coming off their bye, the Wolverines are 2-0 on the season. But they didn’t look impressive in those wins. Michigan opened the season at home by beating Middle Tennessee State. However, they fumbled the ball four times en route to a 40-21 game. The following week, Michigan hosted Army and won 24-21. But the Wolverines needed two overtimes to defeat the inferior Black Knights.
The Michigan Wolverines’ offensive struggles
As a former quarterback, Harbaugh’s specialty is supposed to be offense, and Shea Patterson was supposed to be the answer to the team’s quarterback dilemma. But the senior QB has struggled with ball security. Against the Army, he lost two fumbles — bringing his total for the season to four — deep in the opponent’s territory. Patterson also wasn’t as accurate passing. He overthrew a receiver for a would-be touchdown and sailed the ball on another potential touchdown.
While Patterson’s miscues potentially cost his team up to 25 points, he didn’t get much help from the offensive line, who missed several blocks. As the Wolverines begin to face true competition, Patterson needs to improve his performance. Otherwise, Michigan fans will be clamoring for Harbaugh to hand the reins over to junior backup QB Dylan McCaffrey.
Offensive gameplan to blame?
This offseason, Josh Gattis was hired as the offensive coordinator, but he’s not been impressive. With the O-line’s struggles in the Army game, we expected Gattis to change the game plan and not rely on the inside run, which he continued to call.
Harbaugh hired Gattis because he was supposed to offer more offensive creativity — something Michigan has lacked in recent years. Gattis has failed to do that in his first two games. He should become more comfortable with his players as the season progresses, but the Wolverines don’t have the luxury of time as they face the meat of their schedule.
The Wolverines look ahead
Things will only get tougher for Harbaugh and the Wolverines as they begin their conference schedule. This weekend, they leave “The Big House” for the first time this season to visit Big Ten rival Wisconsin. Michigan’s remaining non-conference foe won’t be a cakewalk either, when Notre Dame visits Ann Arbor on October 26. Michigan hosts in-state rival Michigan State on November 16. They’ll end the season with its biggest rivalry on November 30 as Ohio State comes to town for the latest edition of “The Game.”