Let’s be honest: no one thought Michigan football would have somewhat limped through the first three weeks as it has. That’s not to say that the Wolverines haven’t been impressive — they have — but perhaps it wasn’t quite as emphatic as many would have expected from the No. 2 team in the country.
There are certainly reasons for that, which we’ll get into momentarily, but what does ESPN’s advanced stats guru Bill Connelly think of the maize and blue thus far?
Coming up with his own rankings, Connelly has the Wolverines ranked seventh (subscription required) which is probably fair given the lack of overwhelming scores or style points against inferior competion.
7. Michigan (3-0)
SP+ and FPI rankings: 3rd and 14th
SP+ strength of schedule to date: 126th
Odds of reaching 12-0, per SP+: 12.9%
Connelly chalks up the fact that Michigan faced three teams it would beat easily while also not having head coach Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines as reasons why perhaps the Wolverines have looked unimpressive.
However, we note several different things to this point:
Michigan hasn’t played its starters beyond the middle of the third quarter in any of the three games.
The starting defense has only allowed six points — both to Bowling Green. One was a field goal after the Falcons drove the field and the next was a short field due to a special teams turnover. Otherwise, the starting defense hasn’t really let any offenses do anything.
The team entered the season extremely banged up. Multiple players who could have played if the games were bigger have seen either sparing time or have yet to make their season debut.
Despite the lack of style points or overwhelming scores, Michigan has coasted to the point where the game has been out of reach before the second half in the first two games and early into the second half in the third.
The coaches may be spread a little thin having to take on more responsibility with Jim Harbaugh there.
The team may be a little disinterested. The bulk of them were in the College Football Playoff each of the past two years and are currently in coast mode until they play an opponent that appears to be more on its level.
We’ll see. Michigan hosts undefeated Rutgers on Saturday, but will that be enough to get the Wolverines’ juices flowing?