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College Football 2018 Week 1 Recap
Wednesday, 2018 September 5 - 2:07 pm
Michigan loses in a game that looked like last year; NCSU struggles but comes away with the win; Penn State was a couple of plays away from a major upset loss.

Michigan 17, Notre Dame 24
This game was somehow still in reach in the closing minutes, but let's make no mistake... Michigan got walloped here. The defense got gashed throughout the first half, and the offense struggled to move the ball; Notre Dame jumped out to a 21-3 lead before a 99-yard Ambry Thomas kickoff return made it 21-10 at the half. The defense stiffened in the second half and the offense eked out a late touchdown, but it was simply too little, too late.

I dunno, man. The offensive line looked as porous as it did last year; the tackles are a major, major concern. The first half defense highlighted a somewhat lesser problem at the defensive tackle spot; DEs Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary were stellar but often got in the backfield only to find that a poor push by the DTs left a huge lane for ND QB Brandon Wimbush to step up in the pocket or take off running. The problem seemed to get fixed in the second half, but we're going to need consistency at that spot to keep us in the game.

There were some coaching oddities, too. The first drive featured something like six inside-zone runs and one bubble screen, mostly from four- and five-wide sets; not sure what the goal was there, because that's clearly not our offensive identity. And Michigan sure didn't seem to have practiced the hurry-up offense much, because with a two-TD deficit and time winding down, the offense was burning 30 seconds off the clock between snaps.

Now, a lot of the Michigan fanbase is ready to burn the whole program down, but the reality was that Michigan faced a quality opponent and came within a touchdown. It's not as bad as it seems. (Is a good loss better than a bad win? See NCSU, PSU, and MSU below.) I can't say that the issues we have are fixable this season. But if the players can learn a few things from this game, there's still a good chance for a successful season, especially seeing that the Big Ten East defenses are probably not as good as everyone thought they might be.

Western Michigan is up next, for Michigan's home opener.

NC State 24, James Madison 13
Ugh. This game was very much in doubt going into the fourth quarter. Ryan Finley had a good outing and the defense looked decent, but the running game was positively anemic; State finished with just 83 yards on the day on 29 attempts. That contributed to an inability to finish drives, especially in the second half.

Meanwhile, give JMU credit; they had 163 rushing yards, completed 80% of their passes, and had nearly the same number of plays and first downs as NCSU. A couple of breaks and this game could have resulted in an embarrassing loss.

Next up is Georgia State, which should (theoretically) be an easy tuneup before the big matchup against West Virginia in week 3.

Penn State 45, Appalachian State 38
This went to overtime, you guys, on the anniversary of the game that no Michigan fan will ever talk about. App State looked like the better team for a lot of the day, and you've got to question whether Penn State's defense will be good enough to compete against better competition. Now granted, App State was playing out of their minds, making some crazy completions against pretty good coverage at times. But they still managed to outgain Penn State despite 100 yards in penalties, and that's a definite warning sign.

Fortunately, Trace McSorley is still a clutch quarterback, and Miles Sanders looks like a more-than-adequate replacement for Saquon Barkley. Offensive weapons shouldn't be a problem. But the defense needs some serious work, especially on the line.

Next is Pitt, and that'll be no picnic either.

Notable Games
Editorial note: This section will be a lot smaller than in years past; I won't bother talking about all the significant outcomes, just a couple of games that I found particularly interesting.

Michigan State squeaked by Utah State (yeah, USU, not Utah) 38-31. USU is a team that went 6-7 last year in the Mountain West conference. Yikes.

Miami lost to LSU 33-17 and forced no turnovers, so the "turnover chain" can suck it.

Maryland beat Texas (again), 34-29.

Virginia Tech demolished Florida State 24-3. I think FSU fans might be more miserable than Michigan fans this year.

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