ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan football ripped off its third straight dominant victory Saturday against Northern Illinois, and some rest-of-season projections are starting to run completely off the rails.
Michigan definitely looks better than most of us envisioned at the start of the season. The Wolverines have taken down Western Michigan, Washington and Northern Illinois by a combined score of 141-34. None of the games were ever in doubt, with Michigan having its way on both sides of the ball.
In fact, other than the Ronnie Bell injury, the first quarter of the season has been nearly perfect. What’s dangerous is that expectations are already changing before the team does anything truly worthy of changing them.
Following Saturday’s win, ESPN’s updated FPI projections were the talk of social media. The “Football Power Index” gathers data throughout the season and tries to predict what will happen in the future.
Well, somehow, winning those first three games has impressed the FPI so much that Michigan is now projected to win each of its remaining games. Can we take a step back and consider how outrageous that is?
Before the season, even the most cynical Michigan fans expected the team to beat Western Michigan and Northern Illinois. Then, after Washington lost its opener to Montana, most agreed the Wolverines should take care of business, especially at home.
Has Michigan been more dominant than anticipated? Absolutely. But so far, from a pure win-loss standpoint, the team has met expectations, not exceeded them.
This reminds me a bit of 2017, when the Wolverines started 4-0 by pounding then-No. 17 Florida and skating past a trio of lesser opponents. The hype surrounding Michigan started to soar, but Florida turned out to be a bad team, finishing 4-7 on the season. Michigan hadn’t truly been tested yet, and went on to lose five of its final nine games.
I’m not arguing that this year’s team will crash and burn down the stretch. But as someone who watched even the 2009 and 2010 Rich Rodriguez teams start 4-0 and 5-0, respectively, my advice is to reel in those expectations.
Michigan is winless in Madison since 2001. The Wolverines are 1-5 at Penn State since the end of the Lloyd Carr era. Ohio State has beaten Michigan 15 of the last 16 meetings. All of this is supposed to change because Michigan dropped 63 on NIU?
Right now, the only definitive statement I’m willing to make is that 2020 was a fluke. Michigan has improved drastically in all phases of the game and should expect to be competitive against the upper half of the Big Ten.
But until the Wolverines win at Wisconsin, win at Penn State, or beat Ohio State, this FPI projection looks foolish.