Michigan Football Chatter Pre-Penn State Game
• There are a lot of positive vibes in and around the program this week as they head to State College, largely from aspects on the field that the Wolverines are confident can help them beat Penn State.
However, there is some concern that mentally, Michigan is not in the right place to pull off the upset.
"There was some disagreement about the best way to approach this game and what it means in the scope not only of this season but in regards to the program and its future," a source said. "Ultimately, the coaches and players take the lead from their head coach, and Jim Harbaugh's approach is to not build it up into a monster game that will determine the fate of ... everything.
"I can understand that, don't put any more pressure on his team than is already there, but there has been very little talk about the road record, the struggles against top 10 teams and all that. That's a media and fan talking point but not one the team is using as motivation.
"There is some concern that ignoring the elephant in the room doesn't do anyone any favors, but again, the feeling is, 'This game is all about execution and effort Saturday night and not what's happened in the past.'"
• If you haven't figured out yet, Michigan intends to sink or swim with senior QB Shea Patterson. While we may see Dylan McCaffrey this weekend, it would look similar to Middle Tennessee when the coaches intended to use both quarterbacks as a strategy to give the Nittany Lions something else to worry about.
However, the coaches have been very deliberate in building and reinforcing Patterson's confidence through on-field actions and what they say to the press.
"The feeling inside the program is he's been consistently one of their best players offensively, and that he proves over and over again that when the team needs a big play from their quarterback, he makes them, whether it's a throw or a key read-option run," another source shared.
"When Michigan played Wisconsin and lost, this team was ready to come apart at the seams, and there were very strongly divided Patterson and McCaffrey camps.
"With McCaffrey's injury, the entire team had to rally behind Shea because they had no other choice, and if Michigan goes on a run in the second half, it's because all the coaches and players got on the same page, finally."
• Michigan's running game looked a bit different last week at Illinois after the coaching staff employed some pull-and-power concepts that the offensive line had shown to be effective doing in seasons past. In fact, this offense has been evolving considerably to get back to things U-M did well a year ago.
"Routes, first-reads for Patterson, getting him outside the pocket, concepts in the running game - there has been a lot of work and a lot of internal self-reflection to make adjustments that can best benefit this Michigan offense," one of our insiders shared. "They're not abandoning Josh Gattis' offense, but they've stopped forcing a square peg into a round hole.
"Now, there's room to grow. They're still trying to figure out the best way to get the ball down field because Gattis' approach isn't working. Patterson is much more comfortable when it's a true play-fake and his No. 1 target is the deep guy.
"So there's a little bit of 'it can't always be RPOs' and I think you'll see more and more play designs and calls from what they did well last season. The goal is to win a Big Ten championship and it was becoming clear to the coaching staff they weren't going to get there offensively without some changes."
What does that mean for Michigan's offensive identity crisis going forward ... for now, U-M is punting that concern in favor of plays its offensive line and quarterback are more comfortable with.
• Don Brown's defensive unit feels extremely confident heading into Saturday night's game. The Wolverines expect to get junior defensive end Kwity Paye back while the emergence of redshirt freshman linebacker Cam McGrone and freshman nickel back Daxton Hill gives Michigan two defenders capable of disrupting crossing routes … in the case of McGrone with his physicality to knock 'pick' players off their stride, and in Hill, the speed to get around the pick and stay stride for stride with his receiver.
If there's a concern it is that teams have begun identify the weakness of senior Jordan Glasgow to cover in space, and have been motioning running backs out of the backfield and using them as crossers when Glasgow is in man coverage.
Inside the tackle box, Glasgow is a force, and Michigan needs to have a counter chess piece for offense's trying to exploit him in space.
"We've talked about this a few times, but the feeling in the program and outside the program is Don Brown is having one of his finest seasons ever, obviously the Wisconsin game notwithstanding. But the team is very confident in their plan for Saturday. There is a lot of talk that Michigan is going to win this one 17-14 or something like that, very similar to the Iowa game with defense and special teams, taking care of the football, field position and taking a few shots offensively.
"Like, if it all went according to plan, I think you'd see the Michigan State game play out from last year, keep it tight, limit what they do offensively, take the crowd out of it by snuffing out their offense, and then strike strategically to get 17-24 points."
• It's not really the time for it so we won't share the names we've heard, but don't expect redshirt freshman tight end Mustapha Muhammad to be the last high-profile Wolverine to enter the transfer portal this season. At least three other four-stars and a three-star (we're using the 247Sports.com composite) are seriously mulling over a decision to leave, largely due to a lack of playing time as opportunities expected to be there this season have vanished.
In today's college football, that's not unexpected news. That's just the way it is. Of the names we're hearing, it wouldn't be a surprise for one to announce before the season concludes, while the rest would likely wait until after the season.