Michigan Football: The Soul of the Final Tune-up Against Maryland

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Here comes Michigan Football to those final two games, ready or not. The Wolverines used their final tune-up against Maryland to give us (some) hope.

As good as that first half against Maryland felt, the second half felt almost as bad. It was the type of game that would tempt you to go full-bore Dickensian—best of times, worst of times, yada-yada.

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But, if you look at it with cool rationale, there was a lot of sound and fury in the second half, with Maryland moving the ball so much between the 20’s that the Terrapins actually out-gained Michigan when it was over. But they didn’t score much and were never threatening.

Maybe it was easier for them to move the ball because the Wolverines were missing their star cornerback, Lavert Hill, who sat out the second half with concussion protocol. Michigan was also missing Karan Higdon with what appeared to be an ankle injury, though he could still walk off the field with a slight limp. This made it harder to keep the chains moving on offense and keep the ball away from the Maryland offense.

The second half must have resembled that legendary one-on-one hoops game between Jim Harbaugh and D.J. Durkin, when Durkin coached for Harbaugh at Stanford. Before long, calling fouls was a thing of the past. There was little scoring, but much damage inflicted. Yeah, sounds like a Dickens novel in itself.

So, back to the actual football being played. What did we see?

Michigan opened up the playbook a bit more. Brandon Peters had a chance to get more involved in the passing game. Chris Evans looked mighty good in space, and he has become a viable option running up the middle. That legendary Harbaugh/Drevno stubbornness has paid off there. But it’s going to be tough to ask Evans, along with Kareem Walker and O’Maury Samules, to go into Camp Randall and carry the running load, if not the whole offensive load, on their backs against a stout Wisconsin defense. The Wolverines need a healthy Ty Isaac or Higdon in order to make a game of it.

There are many questions going into this game, and I’m not sure what the answers will be. Can the defense revert to form and stop everything that moves? Or will they be vulnerable to small backs and receivers with speed? Wisconsin is not famous for those types, but they do have the No.1 rusher in the Big Ten with true freshman Jonathan Taylor. If the Wolverines are at less than full strength on defense, it could be a long day.

So, coming in with several injuries and adding to the list in this game may be the worst thing that happened. Michigan has lot of injuries right now that it could use some good news on for these last two games of the regular season.

The Wolverines also have a few other distracting storylines. Will Peters have enough experience under his belt to handle the challenge of these last two games? Will Wilton Speight be available at some point? Who will be available, and how close are they to totally healthy?

Will the young, brilliant Quinn Nordin regain his form? What was up with that public spat between him and Harbaugh? Should we take Harbaugh’s word that it was just a little kindling of competitive fire? Is this how he always motivates specialists? Should they take their differences to the basketball court?

These are the type of storylines that can bring a team together or draw them further apart. It would be nice to see most of them handled in a positive manner, and soon. If so, they can put their best foot forward and learn some strong lessons about themselves in the crucible of these two huge games.

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Don’t expect too much, Wolverines fans. Neither Rome, nor good college football programs, were built in a day.