Grades Are In: Offensive Line Has Its Best Game Of The Season

Michigan's much-maligned offensive line earned its first 5 of the year with a thorough domination of Nebraska.

Grades are distributed a 1-5 scale, with five being the best.

Quarterback - 4

By the metrics, Shea Patterson had the second-worst outing of his season, recording a 57.5 QBR (quarterback rating per ESPN.com - his low was 55.2 against Notre Dame) and a 129.0 pass efficiency rating (ND was 123.6). Patterson was hurt by a lower-than-normal yards per attempt of 5.4, which would have looked a lot better had the refs called pass interference penalties on throws to Oliver Martin and Nico Collins that were textbook PI but went uncalled (one would have gone for 30, the other 42, but instead both counted as incompletions). Backup Dylan McCaffrey demonstrated once again that he is capable in reserve, and like Patterson was handicapped by forces outside his control - receivers dropped three of his five incompletions, and his 75-yard touchdown run was negated by an unnecessary hold on the outside.

Season Grade: 4.3.

Running Back - 5

Michigan running backs totaled 275 yards, averaged 6.9 yards per rush and scored four touchdowns, including three from sophomore Ben Mason. Senior Karan Higdon, if he can stay healthy after missing the SMU game due to injury, is on pace for 1,455 yards, which would represent the best season by a U-M running back since Mike Hart had 1,562 yards in 2006. Perhaps, more importantly, the Wolverines gained even more confidence in junior Tru Wilson, who as the No. 2 each of the past two weeks has rushed for 96 yards and 5.6 yards per carry. The future also looks bright with the emergence of sophomore O'Maury Samuels and freshman Christian Turner, who got the bulk of the fourth-quarter carries and had 78 yards and a 4.9-yard average.

I would be remiss not to mention that on three occasions Higdon also stepped up into the grill of a blitzing linebacker and kept him at bay.

Season Grade: 4.0.

Wide Receiver - 4

It was a weird game for the receivers, targeted 19 times but coming down with just 10 receptions (52.6 percent). Can't do anything about the two pass interferences that went uncalled but the wideouts did drop two passes, and struggled to create the same separation in routes they enjoyed a week earlier against SMU. We did see some positives, like Collins 14-yard one-foot-in-bounds snag along the near sideline and freshman Ronnie Bell's 56-yard touchdown catch, which included a nice move at the 10-yard line to shake the last defender. But overall, this was a largely MIA game for the wide receivers.

Season Grade: 4.0

Tight End - 4

Some of those looks went to tight ends Zach Gentry and Sean McKeon, who caught 5 of 6 targets for 61 yards and a touchdown. That was an uptick of 12 yards over the tight ends' season average and about 1.5 receptions. McKeon went mistake-free after his misplay led to an interception in Week 3, while both ends - and Nick Eubanks - graded out well in run-blocking. The tight ends are now on pace for 55 catches and 715 yards this season, which would improve on last year's numbers by four receptions and 85 yards. Honestly, I'd be a little surprised if they're not closer to 60-65 grabs and 800 yards.

Season Grade: 3.3.

Offensive Line - 5

I haven't given this offensive line much credit this year, and was advocating for massive changes after week one, but the coaches stuck with the starting five and it has begun paying off, with a chemistry up front that has led to 790 yards rushing over the past three games (6.5 yards per carry), including 285 against a Nebraska team that allowed 93.5 yards per game and 2.7 yards per carry in its first two contests. The line was responsible for yielding just two QB pressures on 32 drop-backs (only one for the first unit). Dismiss that all you want, but the Huskers had racked up 10 sacks in their first two games. Yes, Michigan has to prove it against a great front seven -- and that's not necessarily Northwestern this weekend -- but they did what they were supposed to do against an inferior foe.

Season Grade: 3.3

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