Devin Bush said afterwards that Michigan was out to make a statement today, and that's exactly what they did. This wasn't mere domination but a complete and total dismantling. The Wolverines broke Nebraska's spirit, ripped its manhood away, and then stomped on it on a beautiful fall day in Ann Arbor.
One stat tells the tale: Michigan's 39-0 halftime lead was the largest halftime deficit the Cornhuskers have ever faced.
Here's another stat:
That's 2016 versus Rutgers type stuff. And before anyone points out Nebraska came in 0-2 for the first time since 1957, here's something else to consider:
Those are not the usual markings of an 0-2 team. So while I'm the first person to say "consider the competition" (see my post-Western Michigan analysis), in this case I think today was the best all-around football game the Wolverines have played since Maryland at the end of the 2016 season.
Michigan had 14 tackles-for-loss from 11 different players. Hit a 50-yard field goal. Had a punt return for a touchdown (and what a scintillating return it was by Donovan Peoples-Jones). Had a 64-yard punt. Had 11 different players catch at least one pass (including freshman Ronnie Bell's first touchdown), and seven different players rush at least once. And a fullback, Ben Mason, scored three touchdowns (which is probably Jim Harbaugh's favorite stat).
Michigan's offensive line took control of the game from the outset, and when was the last time we got to type those words around these parts? The play-calling was creative, which is another sentence we haven't typed around here in awhile. In fact, it's probably not a coincidence we get to say both of those things at the same time, for one leads to and complements the other. I particularly loved the several variations we ran off the jet sweep, which tells future opponents when they look at this film they're not going to get away with jumping a tendency.
For the first time this season, this looked like the team playing with the character and cruelty we were hoping for.
A missed PAT by Quinn Nordin looked like it was going to be the only red in the ledger on Saturday, until Khaleke Hudson was called for targeting in the waning moments of a blowout, and will now have to miss the first half of next week's game at Northwestern as well. And unlike last week's questionable call, this one was a no-doubter, as Hudson launched himself head first at the Nebraska quarterback. A good call, and a stupid play in what's been a star-crossed season for Hudson so far.
The Bottom Line
For the first time we got a glimpse of what this team is capable of when the play-calling is aggressive and imaginative, the defense stops give opponents third down conversions via penalties (like they'd done an inexcusable 14 times heading into Saturday), and the offensive line asserts itself from the jump. Now, as Lloyd Carr used to say, college football "isn't a game of perfect." So no one, unless you're a historically great team, is going to turn its weaknesses into strengths on a consistent basis. But if the Wolverines can cease the two of these three they have the most control over-- the play-calling and the penalties -- that would go a long way in not exposing a still developing offensive line.
This is a talented team, and there aren't too many teams remaining on their schedule capable of beating the Wolverines when they don't beat themselves.