There were questions about the future of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan after a 2-4 season last year and a contract extension that made it much easier for the school to part with its coach.
Five wins in five weeks is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Wolverines, including Saturday’s win at Wisconsin, where they had lost the last five meetings.
The formula this season is working. The running game has been consistent and taken pressure off quarterback Cade McNamara to carry the offense. The defense hasn’t allowed more than 17 points.
Now here’s some reality. The jury is still out on how good this Michigan team is and we won’t know much more until the end of the month. Wisconsin was the best team it has faced and the lead was just three until the Badgers lost quarterback Graham Mertz on the first drive of the second half.
That winning formula hasn’t been tested by a complete team that can slow Michigan’s running game and has the offensive firepower to test its defense. Those tests are coming later, however. Michigan State will be the first on Oct. 30. Penn State and Ohio State will follow in November.
There’s still reason for optimism as Michigan has developed an identity and confidence. The possibility of a first trip to the Big Ten title game is a realistic goal. But the story of this season is still yet to be told.
Here’s three more observations from college football’s Week 5:
Mississippi’s defense still not ready for prime time
The Rebels won games last year by outscoring people. The hope was that in Lane Kiffin’s second season and with defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin having the opportunity to fully implement his scheme that this year would be different.
And truth be told, the early results were encouraging. Mississippi shut down Louisville and Malik Cunningham in the opener. Tulane, which scored 35 points against Oklahoma, only managed 21 against the Rebels in a tune-up before this week’s trip to Alabama.
The results were different Saturday. Mississippi got pushed around by the Crimson Tide and allowed touchdowns on its first two defensive possessions. Kiffin and the Rebels offense didn’t help much as decisions to go on fourth down put the defense in bad field position, leading to short drives for scores. The game was 28-0 at halftime and any chance of an upset was over.
Winners and losers from Week 5: Alabama and Georgia show they’re nation’s best; No. 3 Oregon falters
So where does Mississippi go from here? There’s still a chance to have a great season. Next week looks like a crossroads. Arkansas and its physical running offense comes to town. It’s a test the Rebels can handle, but they have to handle it.
The best Pac-12 North team is in Oregon
It’s just not the Ducks. It’s Oregon State.
After knocking off Southern California on the road last week, the Beavers took down Washington on a late field goal, giving them sole possession of first place in the division after two weeks of conference play. The defeat of the Huskies came with quarterback Chance Nolan having an off game after nine touchdown passes in the past three games. B.J. Baylor picked up the slack with his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game and the defense got a crucial fourth-down stop in the fourth quarter that set up the winning field goal on the final play.
Much credit for the start should be given to Jonathan Smith, a former quarterback at the school who has slowly built up the program after being hired as coach before the 2018 season. Oregon State hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2013, but is now two wins from eligibility and a manageable schedule ahead could have the Beavers thinking about bigger goals.
Tough times continue at Miami
There are only so many times you can change coaches with the hope that you are going to find the one that will return your program to its former elite status.
Manny Diaz is just the latest in the line of Miami coaches that have been burdened with outsized expectations. Since Larry Coker was fired in 2006, there has been Randy Shannon, Al Golden and Mark Richt before Diaz. Only Richt managed to produce a 10-win season and he left after the following campaign.
This week’s loss to Virginia sank the Hurricanes to 2-3. A season of promise that began with the return of quarterback D’Eriq King has been a major disappointment. King has missed the last two games and the lack of experience at the position hurt the Hurricanes against the Cavaliers. It will take all of Diaz’s coaching acumen to keep this team together after most of its goals are already out the window.
Follow colleges reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith