The easiest conclusion to draw from Utah beating Michigan 24-17 to open the 2015 college football season for both teams? Jim Harbaugh is in for long rebuilding job for a program that continues to struggle with anything on offense and remains a big name, nothing else.
It was the third straight time Utah beat Michigan, as a Travis Wilson rushing touchdown in the third quarter gave the Utes a 17-3 lead, and while Michigan kept clawing back to try and somehow cause an upset (Utah were the favorites heading into the game, despite receiving less exposure from the media), another intercepted pass, this time returned for a touchdown, finished the story of the Wolverines’ visit to Salt Lake City.
Jake Rudock, a transfer from Iowa, beat Shane Morris for the starting quarterback job because he’s less prone to turnovers. He ended up throwing three interceptions in an awful debut, while also throwing a couple of touchdown passes to Amara Darboh and Jake Butt. The running game looked bad (76 yards on 29 carries) and the defense was the only thing holding Michigan together, on the brink of collapsing.
I thought we were playing a little bit tentative in the first half and not coming off the ball like we need to. We did miss some holes, backs missed some holes. All things to grow and improve on, and I thought we did that as the game went on.
Utah had their own fears about their quarterback situation, as Travis Wilson did turn the ball over once but overall did a good job of keeping it together, rushing for 53 yards and one touchdown. He kept things simple, and provided enough of a distraction so Devontae Booker could have some moments of freedom. He rushed for just 69 yards on 22 carries with one touchdown, but Michigan focused their entire defensive effort on him.
This season, despite the head coaching change, might not be too different for Michigan than under Brady Hoke. Jim Harbaugh needs more time bringing in his own talent and getting this offense a little bit of juice, which it’s severely lacking at the moment. Things were neglected for such a long time, that even such a welcome change like Harbaugh returning to his alma mater can’t cure those ills.
Utah are also very much like they were last season. Very simply offense, strong defense. It did, for a short while, make them look capable of doing some serious damage in the Pac-12 last season before a number of close losses. Nothing promises that things will be much better this season, but the Utes are making the right steps towards being another force to be reckoned with in what last year was the best conference in football.