PISCATAWAY, N.J. — By the five-minute mark of the second quarter, one had to wonder when the running clock was going to kick in.
In No. 4 Michigan’s 78-0 win Saturday at Rutgers, the Wolverines took a 27-0 lead on Khalid Hill’s 1-yard touchdown three minutes into the second quarter, then further humbled the Scarlet Knights when holder Garrett Moores completed a 2-point conversion off a fake field goal attempt.
It was that kind of night at High Point Solutions Stadium, as the Wolverines (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten Conference) dispatched the Scarlet Knights (2-4, 0-3) in routine fashion, scoring at least 40 points for the fifth time this season. Jabrill Peppers yet again displayed his versatility, scoring a pair of touchdowns and setting up a third with a 63-yard run in the first quarter.
With its sixth win this season, Michigan is officially bowl-eligible.
Here are five things we learned Saturday about Michigan:
- Jabrill Peppers continues to be Jabrill Peppers. The Wolverines needed a few minutes to find their footing at Rutgers, and Peppers provided the spark. Playing out of the Wildcat formation, Peppers’ 63-yard run put Michigan at the Rutgers 4 and set up Ty Isaac’s touchdown one play later. Peppers almost had a second touchdown on a 44-yard punt return that was waved off due to a block in the back with 6:30 left in the first quarter.
- Protection for Wilton Speight (6-for-13 passing, 100 yards, TD) was there early, but Michigan couldn’t get its hands on much of what Speight was throwing until late in the first quarter, when Speight scrambled and found Jehu Chesson for a 30-yard touchdown that gave the Wolverines a 14-0 lead against Rutgers.
- Against an undermanned opponent, Michigan WILL exploit its weaknesses. Rutgers entered the game at the bottom of several statistical categories in the Big Ten, including passing offense (14th, 140.2 yards.) and total offense (14th, 333 yards). By the time Michigan took a 43-0 lead at halftime, Rutgers had *one* yard of offense — one completion for six yards by quarterback Chris Laviano, and minus-5 yards rushing.
- The defensive line is in solid shape, first boosted by the return of Bryan Mone in last week’s win against Wisconsin. Mone recovered a forced fumble by Delano Hill that set up Peppers’ first touchdown, and Taco Charlton set the tone for the defensive line early in the game with a sack of Laviano, then did it again with his second sack early in the second half.
- We didn’t find out who Michigan’s new field-goal kicker will be because by the time Michigan built a 78-0 lead, no field goals had been kicked. After Kenny Allen and Ryan Tice went 0-for-3 on field goals last weekend against Wisconsin, Michigan re-opened the kicking competition, and brought freshman Quinn Nordin to New Jersey for its first road game. Allen, however, was 7 for 7 on point-after kicks and Tice was 3 for 3.
Speight’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Chesson with less than five minutes left in the first quarter opened the proverbial floodgates for the Wolverines, who appeared to be stuck in a certain quagmire, despite leading 7-0.
Does Michigan have what it takes to compete on the road? Or is the site of a game even a question? Given Michigan’s dominance, they’ll take on teams in the parking lot if it means showing the world why they’re a top-five team.
How will the bye week help the Wolverines? Michigan takes a week off, then resumes its schedule Oct. 22 with its homecoming game against Illinois. That will likely be a tune-up, as the Wolverines likely already have Michigan State (Oct. 29) and Ohio State (Nov. 26) circled on their calendars. The Wolverines need a week off to heal any injuries, to evaluate their weaknesses (one might ask, “what weaknesses?”) and to prepare for the second half of the season.
With about seven minutes left in the first half, Rutgers had 13 carries for negative-11 yards. Michigan, meanwhile, had 20 carries for 171 yards, including two carries for 70 yards by Peppers.
What it means
Michigan will enter its bye week as one of the nation’s dominant teams — with wins against two top-25 teams (No. 21 Colorado and No. 11 Wisconsin), but also with five wins against teams that have a Sagarin ranking (strength of schedule) of no more than 55 (Hawaii 128, Central Florida 63, Penn State 55, Rutgers 101). Michigan’s next test is to carry that dominance into the second half of the season.