Top 10 moments from first half of Michigan football season

Michigan 6-0 midway through season

Who's got it better than Michigan?

Midway through this college football season, the answer is simply, nobody.

Few teams have been as dominant as Michigan, which is 6-0 with an average winning margin of about, ahem, 40 points. And the Wolverines' defense is absolutely nasty -- leading the country in total yards and passing yards and tackles for loss and guys who really like beating up on Rutgers.

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The result of Michigan's dominance is a top five national ranking as it enters the bye week. Only two of six games have been within 30 points and only five of six games have been within 75 points (sorry, Rutgers).

Blowouts have certainly cut down on the number of high-leverage plays during the first half. Heck, most of Michigan's games were over by the end of the first quarter. But there were still a few really big plays and some very memorable moments throughout the first half.

Here are my top 10 moments from the first half of the season:

10. Michael Jordan helps kick off new era

When you hear "Michigan football," the first name that comes to mind is surely ... Michael Jordan?

Okay, so maybe it's a little strange seeing the basketball legend on the sideline rocking a Maize and Blue Jumpman logo, but it was pretty cool for Michigan, and kicked off a new era of Nike in style.

Jordan hung out with Derek Jeter and Charles Woodson before the game and served as an honorary captain for the Wolverines' 63-3 opening win over Hawaii.

Michael Jordan. Derek Jeter. Charles Woodson. Jim Harbaugh sure knows how to start a season with greatness.

9. Wait, which team was from New Jersey?

Chris Ash and Rutgers really built up their home matchup with Michigan. Rutgers nation called it their "national championship game," fans vowed to "stripe the birthplace" with alternating colored shirts and the coaching staff invited over 200 recruits to attend the game.

It didn't go so well.

Harbaugh stormed into the rich recruiting ground and left Rutgers longing for the old Big East days. Michigan scored 11 touchdowns and Rutgers scored zero points. Recruits watched two New Jersey residents reach the end zone, but neither wore black and red.

Jabrill Peppers and Bobby Henderson, who played high school football in New Jersey, combined for three touchdowns in the game, adding insult to injury for Ash, who somehow has to convince recruits to join the hometown team after THAT. Two different levels of football were being played on the field, and it's hard to believe top recruits will want to play for the one losing by 78 points.

https://t.co/iueJkjjJNf

— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) October 9, 2016

It was a glorified satellite camp for Michigan, and Harbaugh loves satellite camps.

8. Freshman frenzy

It case you've forgotten, Michigan's recruiting class was a pretty big deal this offseason, especially when Harbaugh landed the school's first ever No. 1 overall recruit.

Well, 110,000 fans at the Hawaii game hadn't forgotten. When Rashan Gary made his first career college tackle and his name rang out through the Big House, the cheer was as loud as any of Michigan's nine touchdown celebrations.

On top of the Gary love, a new fan favorite was born, when fans roared "Doom" for freshman wide receiver Eddie McDoom's first career touch. The hype surrounding Michigan's freshmen was at an all-time high this offseason, and Harbaugh didn't wait long to fuel the fire.

7. Go for two!

It took about 10 minutes into the Michigan-Rutgers game to realize it would be a huge blowout. But that didn't stop Harbaugh from rubbing it in a little bit more.

With Michigan leading 27-0 in the second quarter, Harbaugh called a fake extra-point run for Garrett Moores, who scampered into the end zone for a 29-0 lead.

Remember when Chris Ash scheduled a satellite camp in New Jersey on the same day as Jim Harbaugh's satellite camp in New Jersey? Yeah, he shouldn't have done that.

Harbaugh let the starters pound Rutgers for a half, then all the backups pounded Rutgers for a half. Poor Chris Ash.

Okay, I'll stop picking on Rutgers now. At least until we get to No. 5.

6. Michael Hirsch makes first career catch

On a serious note, Michael Hirsch's catch against Hawaii was awesome, and for his family and friends who know what it took for him to get on the Michigan football team, those 15 yards would be numbers 1-10 on this list.

Hirsch played junior varsity football for Harvard as a freshman in college, but had to quit playing football when he was diagnosed with Wegener's disease. Despite his battle with the disease, Hirsch managed to graduate from Harvard on schedule in 2014.

Amazing, right? But his story gets even crazier.

Hirsch put his finance skills to work with a job in New York City, making trades for Citigroup. But he always wanted to play Michigan football, so after getting back in shape, exchanging some emails with the coaches and meeting Harbaugh in person, Hirsch earned a spot as a walk-on masters student. He won back a year of eligibility from the NCAA and put on the winged helmet for his first game on Sept. 3.

With 9:56 left on the clock and Michigan leading 56-3, Hirsch got into the game and caught a short pass from Shane Morris. Hirsch turned upfield and gained 15 yards to convert on third-down. Five plays later, the Wolverines scored their final touchdown of the afternoon.

Rock on, Michael Hirsch.

5. C'mon Rutgers, it's only 10 yards!

It was a truly impressive feat when Michigan held a Division I college football program to zero first downs for three straight quarters.

Here's how Rutgers' first 16 drives ended: Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt and punt. Then, Trey Sneed's long-awaited 12-yard run helped the Scarlett Knights move the chains for the very first time. They enjoyed it so much, they did it again on the next drive.

Rutgers finished the game with two first downs and went 0-17 on third down attempts. Few defenses in the country could hold a team without a first down for the first 50 minutes of a college football game, but Michigan was up to the task.

Thanks to my strict one-Rutgers-moment-per-top-five policy, this will be the final Rutgers mention of the countdown. Take a bow, Scarlett Knights.

4. See Michael Jocz block, see Grant Perry score

Colorado is a good football team, and nobody knows that better than Michigan fans. The Buffaloes stormed into the Big House and took a 14-0 lead on the No. 4 Wolverines before many people could even find their seats. Sefu Liufau led an impressive touchdown drive after a Michigan punt to start the game, and then the Colorado defense scored on a strip sack.

Desperate for a spark, Harbaugh sent heavy pressure after the first Buffalo punt, and Michael Jocz burst through the line for the block. Wide receiver Grant Perry picked up the ball and rumbled into the end zone for a touchdown.

With the offense struggling, and the defense bending to Liufau's will early in the game, the special teams score was exactly what Michigan needed. If Jocz and Perry didn't make that play, who knows how the game would have turned out.

3. Speight to Darboh

Michigan's undefeated record was only truly tested once this half-season -- during a Top 10 showdown with Wisconsin.

The Wolverines scored on an 11-play, 77-yard drive early in the second quarter and carried that lead well into the second half. But Wilton Speight's first interception of conference play gave the Badgers a short field, and they tied the game with 8:03 left in the third quarter.

Tension rose in the Big House as Michigan missed a field goal and punted twice with the game tied, giving Wisconsin three chances to take its first lead. But the defense stood strong, and Speight came up with one huge play to put his team up for good.

With under nine minutes left in the game, Michigan faced a critical third down and 7 in its own territory. The Wolverines had been awful on third down all game, but Speight came through with a huge completion to Darboh over the middle. Darboh was tackled in Wisconsin territory and fans heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Before they could even catch their breath, Michigan sent the stadium into a frenzy on the very next play. Speight threw his best pass of the season -- a 46-yard dime to Darboh -- for the eventual game-winning touchdown. The crowd exploded, understanding the magnitude of that play, which preserved Michigan's perfect record and gave it a huge conference win.

2. Jabrill Peppers to the house

Nothing excites Michigan fans more than Peppers, who's one of the most naturally gifted players to ever wear the Maize and Blue.

The most dazzling display of his abilities came late in the game against Colorado as Michigan tried to seal the victory. With 11:37 left on the clock, Peppers fielded a low punt on his own 46-yard line and turned on the jets. He shot through two pairs of defenders near midfield, broke a tackle attempt at the 20-yard line and juked past the final defender before carrying him into the end zone.

pic.twitter.com/4RakL4XKJa

 

— Curtis (@Curtos07) September 17, 2016

Peppers' score iced Michigan's perfect nonconference season and sent the Big House into a frenzy. Hopefully Michigan fans enjoyed that play, because teams have stopped punting to Peppers ever since.

1. Jourdan Lewis, stop it.

Choosing the No. 1 moment of the season is easy, not only because it sealed Michigan's biggest win of the first half, but also because of the sheer insanity of the play itself.

Wisconsin had one final chance to erase Michigan's 14-7 lead in the fourth quarter, and when Alex Hornibrook heaved the ball downfield on fourth and 10, for a split second, it looked like the Badgers would do just that.

Luckily, Michigan had an All-American to handle it.

Jourdan Lewis tracked the pass the whole way, left his feet at the 38-yard line and came down with the ball at the 44. Oh yeah, he caught the pass with one arm while falling backwards.

pic.twitter.com/FX451fD4v6

— Michigan Moments (@UofMMoments) October 1, 2016

Fans didn't even know he caught the ball until he stood up and started celebrating with Dymonte Thomas. That's how ridiculous the catch was.

Lewis has been one of the best cornerbacks in college football for more than a year. Now the whole country knows it.

It was a very successful first half of the season for Michigan, but with College Football Playoff implications on the line, there will be plenty more moments to add to the postseason edition of this countdown.

Midseason position grades


About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.