Kirk Herbstreit: Michigan ‘feels like they’ve got some angst against the world’

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Certainly, no one thought that Michigan football would be 5-0 in 2021. Even if the Wolverines were to get past what appeared to be a daunting task hosting Washington in Week 2, everything would likely come crumbling down in Week 5 at Wisconsin.

Yeah, about that.

The maize and blue have played just two bad quarters of football offensively and less than that defensively. The Wolverines have the No. 6 scoring defense in the country, allowing just 12.8 points per game a year after being 95th and allowing nearly triple that (34.5 per game) in 2020.

On the ESPN College Football Podcast, College GameDay host Kirk Herbstreit praised specifically the job that Michigan did going into Wisconsin and showing a fire it hasn’t shown in some time, while also noting it’ll be another tough test with a night game in Lincoln this next week.

“Michigan — I can’t wait to see Michigan to go to Nebraska,” Herbstreit said. “They sent a loud message with an impressive win against Wisconsin. How about them, end of the third quarter, Jump Around? Michigan’s right there, they probably built the entire week around, ‘When they go to Jump Around, we’re jumping with them! Let’s go! We’re doing this!’ They got a little bit of swagger, confidence, they are just believing. Aidan Hutchinson being back is in the middle of that. It’s fun seeing that they’re 5-0 and right now, they’re gonna go to Nebraska.

“And you can say Nebraska and Scott Frost, they’re not any good. Careful. That’s a team that’s found an identity, that’s a home game. That’s a tricky game for Michigan, I’m looking forward to seeing how they play. But I think they sent a message.”

But why is Michigan so improved?

For Herbstreit, while schematics and a new staff assuredly are playing a part, it’s more of the culture change, especially given what happened a year ago when the team went 2-4. He gave specific praise to quarterback Cade McNamara, who had to drive the offense more in Week 5 than in any other week thus far, for being the guy against Wisconsin.

“I think any time you’re embarrassed and you have such pride — and they were all embarrassed after last year, the last couple years — they look like, remember that one year they had like ‘revenge tour?’ They had a good run and weren’t quite able to finish it,” Herbstreit said. “But this team feels like they’ve got some angst against the world. They’re mad at the world after last year and that’s how they’re playing. And we’ll see if it keeps going.

“But Cade McNamara — I was really happy to see him get a chance. More early-down passing, hitting the shots vertically. They just looked like they were running the football and now they’ve got balance. They’re throwing it. I mean, you lose Ronnie Bell, and that guy is a player! The fact he’s out and they’ve had to find different ways to attack people. Teams are going to be loading up against their run game, and Nebraska will be no different. They’re going put the game into the hands of Cade McNamara and those receivers and tight ends and Michigan and Josh Gattis are like, ‘OK, you’re gonna play us like that?’ McNamara is efficient, he’s gonna make throws. We’ll see if he can do it this weekend.”

Beyond the podcast, Herbstreit gave two different honors to Michigan in his weekly awards. Head coach Jim Harbaugh was his No. 2 top performing coach in Week 5:

And Michigan was tied for first (with five others) as far as overall team performances:

Michigan plays at Nebraska on Saturday with a 7:30 p.m. EDT kickoff time. The game will be broadcast nationally on ABC.