Michigan has had one of the more interesting schedules in the Big Ten this year, getting wins against “cupcake” Middle Tennessee, and then against an underrated but manageable Army team. This weekend they will put their mettle to the test against the Badgers in Madison.
Coming into the season, Michigan dealt with the loss of several key defensive players, but they had plenty of things to be optimistic about as well. Head Coach Jim Harabugh hired Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis who has full control over play-calling this year. The hope in Michigan is that Gattis could unlock the potential of Michigan’s offense, including its talented receiving corps and quarterback Shea Patterson.
However, Michigan’s offense has not performed to the caliber that many expected thus far. They weren’t able to come away with big wins in the first two weeks like many of the other top Big Ten teams.
Coming into the season, Michigan fans were excited about having Patterson for another year, but his play so far has left much to be desired. Patterson has not been nearly as efficient as he was in past years, after a drop in performance against teams that don’t have nearly the level of talent that Michigan has. Patterson also fumbled on the first possession against both Army and Middle Tennessee. It’s not too late for Patterson as he is still an incredibly talented QB, but he needs to step up, Michigan’s ability to win big games this season rides on him.
However, Freshman running back Zach Charbonnet has been a bright spot. The four star recruit has rushed for nearly 100 yards in each game. His numbers came with a large amount of carries though, including 33 in the Army game. Despite strong performances by Charbonnet, as a whole, Michigan's running back corps failed to net positive yardage against the Black Knights, and coughed up a fumble.
The Wolverines will face their toughest challenge so far at Camp Randall this Saturday. If they are able to travel on the road and win against a top team they can prove just how good of a team they are.
Michigan still faces one of the toughest schedules in college football after the game against Wisconsin. They have to run Big Ten East gauntlet, and will face both Notre Dame and Iowa. Many of these teams have given Michigan a tough time in the past, but they will all be forced to come up to Ann Arbor to face the Wolverines at home in the Big House.
Michigan’s hopes for the College Football Playoff already look much bleaker now than they did at the start of the season. Their defense, running back group and quarterback need to see improvement if they expect to compete with the top teams in the country. If Michigan is able to get it together it wouldn’t be mind blowing to see them in the Big Ten Championship with their CFP hopes still alive, but their needs to be improvement.
The Badgers will serve as one of their toughest tests this season and will gauge whether or not this team is CFP material.