Saturday’s win over Bowling Green was ugly, disjointed, but a victory nonetheless. But what does this mean for the rest of the season?
Does Saturday’s 31-6 win over Bowling Green look like a 25-point win for the Michigan Wolverines? Or did it feel like a mindless race to the finish line led by a perhaps arrogant team, too focused on the destination rather than the journey?
In the years 2004 Dodgeball: A True Underdog StoryGlobo Gym – run by antagonistic gym owner White Goodman (Ben Stiller) – has a demeaning and “motivational” company slogan that appears during their commercials: “Here at Globo Gym, we’re better than you… And we are soaps. .”
Here’s how the Wolverines played Saturday: We’re Michigan, we’re better than you, and 10 percent of our attention and effort is enough to beat a MAC team. And that feeling wasn’t exclusive to the Wolverines this weekend.
Georgia trailed by 11 at halftime at home to South Carolina before pulling away. Florida State held on for a two-point road win against a Boston College team that is a week removed from a three-point game against Holy Cross. Texas entered the fourth quarter tied Wyoming 10-10, and Alabama only outscored a bad South Florida team, 17-3, in what was supposed to be a game revenge for the Tide after a home loss to the Longhorns. Meanwhile, Tennessee and Kansas State had the worst of the weekend as they struggled and lost on the road.
Fortunately, the Wolverines were able to pull out a comfortable victory, but that attitude is what caused the upsets. That’s how Michigan lost to Iowa in 2016; that’s how Michigan lost to Appalachian State in 2007; that’s how Michigan lost to TCU in the College Football Playoff last New Year’s Eve.
Over the past four years, Michigan has been through this many times and survived to fight another day. Last season, after a blowout 59-0 victory over UConn, Michigan struggled to knock off Maryland, 34-27, in the Big Ten opener.
The same can be said to an even greater degree about the 2021 conference opener. After a dominant 63-10 win over Northern Illinois, Michigan needed two massive fourth down stops to beating Rutgers – which finished the season 5-8 – by seven points. This specific performance saw the Wolverines average less than three yards per carry and completed just one forward pass amid a second-half shutout. Going back to 2019, the Wolverines needed a missed field goal and overtime to beat a would-be Army team 5-8 in the Big House.
So the question facing this current team is simple: will the Bowling Green game be a wake-up call like it was in 2021 and 2022? Optimistically, perhaps Michigan is just a week ahead of its usual humility game, and with Jim Harbaugh returning to the fray, this team is ready to refocus and attack its schedule conference.
Or is this performance indicative of deeper issues and a possible disappointing season like 2019? After that close win over Army, no one predicted that No. 7 Michigan would be run by Wisconsin the following week in Madison. Even Ben Bredeson’s quote after the Army game could apply to Michigan’s game against Bowling Green.
“We made some mistakes, some penalties, some turnovers, some things we need to clean up. It’s difficult to get into an offensive rhythm with that, but I really like that the team fought until the end of the match, despite all these mistakes, to be able to close the match.
What we learned Saturday is that the Wolverines are in a dangerous situation right now. This team behaves overconfidently like a team that has won three straight national championships, when in reality they haven’t won anything. Sure, Team 142 and Team 143 won Big Ten championships, but is that the ultimate goal for Michigan and Team 144? Another Big Ten title, then forget about the race for the ultimate prize?
Perhaps the program’s mantra should then be changed to: “Those who remain will be Big Ten champions.” Michigan needs to quickly realize that no team is going to give it the national championship, no matter how many preseason polls and media pick it to win.
If this team can’t introduce some humility and hunger into their weekly approach over the next nine to 12 weeks, they’ll be home in early January having once again fallen victim to a few average players with no one to blame except themselves. And maybe Chuck Norris.