ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan football’s schedule has drawn plenty of attention this offseason, but now that games have actually started, we have some real data on what to expect.
There’s only been one full week of college football, so none of these trends are set in stone, but we did learn a few lessons about Michigan’s future opponents.
Hawaii is awful
Unlike most teams, Hawaii has already played two games. I don’t think they could have gone much worse.
In “Week 0,” Hawaii hosted Vanderbilt, widely considered one of the worst football programs among Power 5 conferences. The Rainbow Warriors allowed 601 yards of total offense and lost 63-10. Last week, Western Kentucky dropped a 49-17 hurting on Hawaii.
With Colorado State and Connecticut on the non-conference schedule, it looked like Hawaii might be Michigan’s best competition before Big Ten play. Now, the Wolverines are favored by a cool 51 points.
Iowa’s offense might still be bad
Last year’s Big Ten Championship Game is still burned into the minds of Michigan fans, and Iowa’s Week 1 performance certainly didn’t do anything to change the narrative.
In December, Michigan’s trip to Indianapolis wasn’t so much a contest as it was a coronation. There was no doubt who was going to win that game, and the Wolverines did so emphatically, crushing the Hawkeyes by a final score of 42-3.
But I’ve insisted that this season, with the game at Kinnick Stadium, Iowa won’t be such a pushover, especially without Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo pestering Spencer Petras on every play.
Well, the Hawkeyes did my argument no favors on Saturday, when they managed just 166 offensive yards and didn’t get into the end zone against FCS South Dakota State.
Iowa scored seven points with a field goal and a pair of safeties. The Hawkeyes averaged 1.6 yards per carry, and Petras completed just 11 of 25 pass attempts for 109 yards and an interception.
The defense still looks elite, but wow, those are some ugly stats -- even worse than normal Iowa stats.
It’s only one game, so let’s reserve judgement for a little longer. Iowa has a much tougher test this weekend against rival Iowa State.
Does Penn State have a Michigan-like quarterback controversy?
Sean Clifford is back for a sixth season at Penn State. His class on the school’s official athletics website is “Redshirt Senior+.”
But, like at Michigan, there’s a segment of the Penn State fan base that wants to move on from the veteran starter and hand the keys to the hotshot youngster.
Clifford was shaky, at times, during Penn State’s opening win at Purdue. He completed just 20 of 37 pass attempts and threw an ugly pick-six that nearly handed Purdue the victory.
But in the end, Clifford accounted for all five of the team’s touchdowns and orchestrated a flawless 80-yard drive to win the game.
Five-star true freshman Drew Allar only got in for a few plays, and it seems like Clifford’s job is safe, for now. But if he struggles throughout September, Allar could be under center by the time Penn State visits Ann Arbor.
Michigan State is dangerous once again
In the preseason, it’s hard to know what to expect from a team like Michigan State, which relies so heavily on the transfer portal that the entire roster turns over from year to year.
But it’s clear the Spartans will be a dangerous opponent once again in the Big Ten East, as Wisconsin transfer Jalen Berger debuted with 120 rushing yards and a touchdown, while UNLV transfer Jacoby Windmon racked up four sacks.
Western Michigan kept the game close for awhile, but Michigan State was never truly in danger. The Spartans look to be a bigger threat than Penn State, for now.
Shocker: Nebraska is worse than everyone expected
This might sound familiar: Nebraska has a worse football team than everyone expected.
The Cornhuskers dropped their opener against Northwestern in Ireland despite coming in as a 12-point favorite.
Saturday’s sequel against North Dakota wasn’t much more impressive. Nebraska was tied with the Fighting Hawks, at home, until the final drive of the third quarter. That’s not exactly the dominance fans were hoping for to assuage their concerns.
As always, the Cornhuskers are talented enough to pull an upset at any time. But during the Scott Frost era, they never seem to, you know, actually do it.
Illinois has playmakers
It’s been 15 years since Illinois represented anything other than an automatic win for the best teams in the Big Ten. That might be starting to change.
Bret Bielema’s team found a way to lose Friday at Indiana, but racked up 448 yards and 29 first downs in the process.
Former quarterback Isaiah Williams has become the most dangerous receiver on the Illini roster, especially after the catch. He finished Friday’s game with nine receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown. Indiana defenders simply couldn’t bring him down after he got the ball in his hands.
Meanwhile, Chase Brown is a major threat out of the backfield. He’s already rushed for 350 yards and two scores through two games while catching four passes for 22 yards and another touchdown.
Bielema is letting Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito sling it around a little bit, and he’s come through, completing two-third of his passes for 426 yards and four touchdowns.
Michigan is much more talented than Illinois, but that offense is capable of racking up points. Who would have thought?