We could’ve typed that sentence in any of the past seven weeks, and we probably will write it again in each of the next few. Heck, we could’ve scribbled it onto a note card back in July, sealed it in an envelope and locked it inside an uncrackable safe, then opened it again Saturday afternoon to exactly zero fanfare at our prophetic brilliance. The Wolverines’ dominance is the least surprising development of the season.
There’s a good case to be made that Michigan is the country’s best team. The problem with that argument is the lack of anything approaching definitive evidence, thanks to a schedule that has essentially cast the Wolverines as Andy Reid in a 1970s punt, pass and kick competition.
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) December 13, 2021
Saturday’s blowout came against Indiana, but that doesn’t matter. It looked the same against ECU and UNLV, Nebraska and Minnesota. The best team Michigan has played thus far might be Rutgers. The biggest challenge the Wolverines have faced so far might’ve been tying their shoes.
It’s not Michigan’s fault, of course, that two-thirds of the Big Ten is made up of teams that should be wearing red Starfleet uniforms — just cannon fodder for the big stars.
And it’s only partially Michigan’s fault the nonconference slate is so bad. Who could’ve foreseen Bowling Green failing to provide a true test? (Don’t answer that.)
It’s not even really Michigan’s fault that its wins vs. such overmatched competition have been so dull. It’s partially slow starts, partially boredom, and for the first three Saturdays of the season, partially because their head coach was suspended and used that time to put the finishing touches on his YA novel about a magical pair of time-traveling khakis sewn with enchanted threads by L.L. Bean himself.
The real story of Michigan’s season requires a deeper dive into the text. J.J. McCarthy has genuinely blossomed into an all-around star at quarterback. He entered Saturday leading the nation in Total QBR, and added to his tally against Indiana, throwing for three touchdowns and averaging 13 yards per pass. The ground game remains strong with Blake Corum treating end zones like Kevin Hart treats movies — he’s in all of them. The defense hasn’t allowed multiple touchdowns in a game yet. The analytics all suggest Michigan’s dominance is noteworthy, with most metrics suggesting the Wolverines have been the year’s most impressive team — that is, if watching LeBron dunk on a team full of second-graders is impressive.
The narrative isn’t markedly different for Michigan’s archrival Ohio State either. Ohio State thumped Purdue on Saturday 41-7. Yes, the Buckeyes have a win over Notre Dame — on the road, in ugly, low-scoring fashion — but the list of teams who’ve done that over the past two years includes other luminaries like … Marshall and Stanford. The Buckeyes have a stud in receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., but the rest of the offense has been like the latter seasons of “The Walking Dead” — occasionally fun, but mostly we’re just watching out of obligation.
And honestly, that all sounds a lot like Penn State, which hosted UMass for homecoming on Saturday, in a game in which the Minutemen were cast in the roll of unsuspecting insect flying leisurely across the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Sure, the Nittany Lions held Iowa without a touchdown earlier this season, but it’s also worth recalling that Iowa had given up offense in September as part of an intermittent fasting routine. Meanwhile, Penn State’s vaunted tailbacks have been far from electric so far this year, and reporters are openly wondering why James Franklin doesn’t let his QB just chuck it deep on every play like a drunk guy playing Madden.
The Ohio State-Penn State dilemma at least will be settled next week when the two face off in Columbus. After that, we’ll know for certain who Michigan’s true competition for a Big Ten title and a playoff berth might be.
But it’ll still be another month before we see Michigan play anyone likely to provide much of a test.
So, unless you’ve got yourself a magical pair of time-traveling khakis, the real answers on Michigan’s ceiling will have to wait a while longer.
Jordan Travis appreciation section
Florida State demolished Syracuse on Saturday, 41-3, to remain undefeated. There’s not much to unpack here — FSU is good, Syracuse not so much — so let’s instead make this a Jordan Travis appreciation moment.
Travis arrived at Florida State in 2019 and was effectively told by the coaching staff that he wasn’t a QB. When Mike Norvell took over as head coach, Travis offered to switch positions. Even as he led FSU to within a few points of bowl eligibility at the end of 2021, the general consensus was Travis was a heck of a runner, but not much of a passer.
How silly that all sounds now.
Against Syracuse, Travis threw for 284 yards and a touchdown (he also ran for two short scores), despite playing without one of his top receivers, Johnny Wilson. But over the past calendar year, the numbers are downright eye-popping: 65% completions, 3,035 yards, 26 touchdown passes and three picks and a 12-0 record.
The lesson here: Willie Taggart’s idea for turnover backpacks wasn’t the worst decision he made at Florida State.
The other, more important lesson: Never doubt Jordan Travis.
JMU still unbeaten
Jordan McCloud threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-13 win over Georgia Southern, giving James Madison its most emphatic victory since establishing the precedent of judicial review — or at least thumping Bucknell in Week 1.
JMU is now 6-0 on the season and 14-3 since moving up from FCS in 2022.
The Dukes’ defense has been terrific, and McCloud has emerged as one of the top transfer QBs of 2023 after spending the first five years of his career at Arizona and USF.
JMU’s reward for all of this success? It won’t be a Sun Belt title game appearance or a bowl game — both of which are off limits because the Dukes are still in Year 2 of their transition to FBS.
It’s a stupid rule, of course, but the NCAA has always been a bunch of Federalists.
Colorado collapses in non-Prime time
Deion Sanders questions his team’s love for football
Deion Sanders reacts to Colorado’s huge blown lead in its loss to Stanford and questions whether his team can match his passion.
Credit where it’s due: Deion Sanders saw it all coming.
“Who makes these 8 o’clock games?” Sanders asked last week. “Dumbest thing ever. Stupidest thing ever invented in life. Who wants to stay up until 8 o’clock for a darn game?”
First, we must argue with Prime’s take that it’s the “stupidest thing ever invented” when we’ve got emotional support goldfish in Tallahassee.
— no context college football (@nocontextcfb) October 14, 2023
Second, boy, was Prime right about everything else. By halftime Friday night, the Buffaloes had all popped a melatonin gummy, changed into their official Coach Prime pajamas (complete with cowboy hat and sunglasses-shaped eye mask) and focused on getting a good night’s rest.
Unfortunately for Colorado, Stanford‘s team is used to pulling all-nighters for their advanced theoretical physics exams, so the Cardinal kept on playing in the second half, erasing a 29-0 Buffs lead and winning 46-43 in double overtime.
Was it embarrassing for Prime? Sure. Was it an indication that, perhaps, Colorado is a fun — but not exactly good — football team? You betcha.