Grades Are In: Running Backs Earn 'A' To Lead Stellar Offensive Performance

On an impressive day for Michigan's offense, the Wolverines' ball carriers led the way with the highest grade.

A year ago, Michigan beat two Group of 5 conference schools by a combined 38 total points, so Saturday’s demolition of Western Michigan by 46 points was a step forward.

We look at how the offensive units graded out after watching film.

(Scale is 1-5, 5 being the best)

Quarterback – 4

We’ll have an official Shea Patterson breakdown later in the week, but by my math, he receives a positive review on 16 of the 19 plays he was significantly a part of, or 84.2 percent (ProFootballFocus.com rated him 91.1 but I don’t love their rating scale).

ESPN.com had his QBR (quarterback rating) at 80.6, the 29th-best tally in college football in Week 2.

Patterson would probably like a handful of plays back – but so would every quarterback in a given week – but a 3:0 touchdown-to-turnover ratio, and successfully leading six touchdown drives, merits high marks.

Through two games: 4.0

Running Backs - 5

In Harbaugh’s first three seasons, Michigan played six Group of 5 non-conference opponents and its top three running backs averaged 165.2 yards per game on the ground and 5.9 yards per carry. Saturday, senior Karan Higdon, junior Chris Evans and junior Tru Wilson combined for 296 yards on 29 attempts, averaging 10.2 yards per rush.

Both Higdon (43 and 67) and Evans (a pair of 27-yarders) produced two 20-yard runs, adding that big-play element that puts defenses on their heels.

Pass pro, though, limited, was also improved.

Through two games: 4.0

Wide Receivers – 4

The receivers were featured more than tight ends and running backs, responsible for eight of 13 receptions, 107 of 143 yards and three of the four pass-catching touchdowns. Sophomore Nico Collins was on the other end of the day’s biggest pass play, a 44-yard play-action TD, and classmate Donovan Peoples-Jones had, perhaps, the best grab of the day on a five-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

However, the unit also suffered two drops – one each from senior Grant Perry and redshirt freshman Oliver Martin. Both would have moved the sticks forward. The misplays didn’t cost Michigan Saturday, but we expect more, especially from Perry.

Through two games: 3.5

Tight Ends – 3

After being targeted 10 times against Notre Dame, and coming up with only five receptions for 31 yards, the tight ends saw their opportunities diminish against Western Michigan – juniors Zach Gentry (once), Sean McKeon (five times) and Nick Eubanks (zero) were targeted on just six pass attempts, and had three catches for 33 yards and a touchdown.

They didn’t have any drops and graded out above-average in run-blocking, but overall, they felt missing in action.

Through two games: 2.5

Offensive Line – 4

When a team rushes for more than 300 yards (308 to be exact) and averages 8.8 yards per carry – its best marks since Week 9 of 2017 against Minnesota (371 yards and 10.0 YPC) – the offensive line will, deservedly, receive credit. Sure, it was Western, but a week earlier, Syracuse averaged only 5.4 yards by comparison.

The five did allow three QB pressures and a sack on the 13 occasions Michigan quarterbacks operated from the pocket (about 30%) but that is a step forward following the unit’s horrific performance against Notre Dame in the season opener when the line was credited with allowing 18 QB pressures on 39 drop-backs.

Through two games: 2.5

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