It was a win.
Not the most dominant or impressive win, sure, but Michigan fans will take it.
The Wolverines won a night game Saturday in Ann Arbor against Middle Tennessee State, 40-21, in a game that wasn’t really as close as the score. But they didn’t exactly look like world-beaters in doing so. Not even close.
There are a lot of sky-high expectations for Michigan in 2019 — favorites to win the Big Ten, and a potential berth in the College Football Playoff.
It might be time for fans to re-examine those expectations.
Last year, I covered Michigan’s game against SMU. And, as much as fans might not want to hear it, Saturday’s opener felt like that game all over again.
Sure, Michigan won that game but there were glaring issues that were all too evident. And toward the end of the 2018 season, those issues were exposed in a big way by Ohio State and Florida.
Saturday’s game against MTSU was similar in many ways.
That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom for the Wolverines in 2019. There were certainly some bright spots.
Quarterback Shea Patterson, despite losing two fumbles, was inch-perfect on several deep downfield throws. One was on a seam route that saw tight end Shawn McKeon bowl over several defenders en route to the end zone.
Receiver Tarik Black had a nice game, including running a route for a touchdown that saw him catch a pass with the nearest defender 7 yards away. Cornerback Ambry Thomas, who was questionable to play, recovered a fumble and had an impressive interception when he jumped a route in the left flat.
Freshman running back Zach Charbonnet displayed some nice cuts and toughness in his first start, and it appears the recruiting hype and fall camp reports are legitimate. He’s going to be one to watch.
Receiver Nico Collins made a nice adjustment on a post route to snag a leaping touchdown.
It was only the first game of a long season. That’s true. But there were sloppy mistakes on both sides of the ball.
Patterson had ball security problems, losing two fumbles (one on the first play from scrimmage), and the offense left too many points on the field. Michigan failed to punch in a fourth down try from the 1 yard line in the fourth quarter.
Cornerback/punt returner Lavert Hill made several inexplicable mistakes, muffing a punt and later dropping a sure pick-6.
And when you’re playing a team like MTSU, that’s probably not going to cost you the game. But against better competition later in the season, it can and will come back to bite the Wolverines. Teams like Notre Dame and Ohio State will make those types of mistakes very costly.
I hope I’m wrong about that. But it seems like we’ve been down this road before, where very flawed Michigan teams play down to their level of competition.
Eliminate the silly mistakes? Then yes, the sky is the limit for these Wolverines. It starts this week with Army, who represents a major upgrade in talent.
But I have a feeling it’s going to be a long season. Because I’ve seen this before.