ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan has reached the halfway point of the 2016 season, and has its bye week before it hosts Illinois at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 22 for homecoming. With the turn of the season approaching, Landof10.com will take a look at how Michigan (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten Conference) has fared so far this season.
Michigan returned the bulk of its offensive lineup, including All-American tight end Jake Butt and wide receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. But Michigan also had to name a new quarterback to replace graduate transfer Jake Rudock, who threw for 3,017 yards and 20 touchdowns in his lone season at Michigan.
Entering the season, the Wolverines needed more production from their running backs.
Here’s a look at Michigan’s offensive standing through six games:
|BY THE NUMBERS||2016||Big Ten rank||NCAA rank|
|3rd down %||48.19%||3rd||19th|
|20+ yard plays||36||1st||T-30th|
|50+ yard plays||3||T-9th||T-74th|
QUARTERBACK GRADE: B-plus
Named as Michigan’s starting quarterback just before its season opener against Hawaii, Wilton Speight hasn’t been lights out, but he has been consistent. He’s averaging 199 yards passing a game (98-for-159 passing, 1,194 yards, 11 touchdowns, two interceptions) and is sixth in the Big Ten in pass efficiency (145 yards).
Speight’s grade would be higher, but Speight got sacked four times against Wisconsin (a stat that’s not necessarily on him), and he was lifted against Rutgers for John O’Korn and Shane Morris after Michigan built an ample lead against the Scarlet Knights. Speight passed for 100 yards and a touchdown (6-for-13 passing) at Rutgers.
RUNNING BACKS GRADE: B-plus
While nobody has taken over the role of “No. 1 running back,” Michigan’s backs have overachieved in comparison to the last five seasons during which no running back eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark.
Even this season, it’s hard to figure out who would be on pace to crack that plateau, although the Wolverines are third in the Big Ten in rushing (255 yards a game). Freshman Chris Evans leads Michigan with 400 yards and two touchdowns on 48 carries, while De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac and Karan Higdon have all contributed.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS GRADE: A-minus
Michigan’s pass offense is eighth in the Big Ten (215 yards) even though it’s had four games of at least 200 yards passing; however, the Wolverines had a drop off during two of Michigan’s last three games. Against Penn State on Sept. 24, Michigan compiled only 189 yards passing (after averaging 254.3 yards in its first three games).
Against Rutgers on Saturday, the Wolverines passed for 119 yards, but Speight was lifted early in the second half and Michigan concentrated on thrashing Rutgers’ already weak rush defense (14th in the Big Ten through its first five games, 227.4 yards).
The second-half schedule could help Michigan. Two of Michigan’s next six opponents are 9th and 12th in the Big Ten in pass defense: Indiana (205.8) and Michigan State (229.7).
OFFENSIVE LINE GRADE: B
The offensive line has come a long way from 2013 and 2014, when it could barely open holes for its rushers, and when it gave up 65 sacks.
This year’s unit hasn’t been perfect, but it has been consistent, meshing after it lost left tackle Grant Newsome to a season-ending knee injury Sept. 1 against Wisconsin.
Juwann Bushell-Beatty made his first start at left tackle, in place of Newsome, on Saturday at Rutgers, but he injured his right knee in Michigan’s first series. Bushell-Beatty returned, but it forced the offensive line to reshuffle, as Mason Cole moved to left tackle and Patrick Kugler to center. This shows the line’s versatility.
OVERALL GRADE: B-plus
Check out the grades for other aspects of Michigan’s 2016 season: