CLOSING

Josh Gathis says Michigan can't give up the first hint of adversity, says that missed big plays hurt the morale of the Wolves in the loss to Wisconsin. Recorded September 25, 2019
Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press

Michigan football seems to be at a crossroads.

The Werewolves were blown by Wisconsin last weekend in a game filled with mistakes on both sides of the ball. Perhaps more worrying is that U-M seemed unprepared for the Badgers, even though it was coming down from Tea Week; In addition, he does not appear to be playing with the necessary physics or effort, as coach Jim Harbaugh later said.

Now it's in the past. Michigan has spent this week trying to move forward and prepare for its next opponent, Rutgers, who has gone 204-37 in his previous four meetings with the Wolverines – all losses.

Rutgers is the perfect opt-out opportunity for Michigan. We'll see if it benefits.

Let's get into the mailbag this week.

More: Michigan vs. Rutgers Football: Scouting Report, Prediction 'Can't Quit' with First Turnovers

What are your updated forecasts for the season: wins and MVP. Many players seem to be "bent" – do we think it's just an unlucky or a sign of more physical practice to try and accelerate the schematic transition, which is obviously half-baked. – @seanksaint

Before the season, I predicted Michigan to go 10-2, with losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State. If I had to guess, my predictions for these two games would remain the same. But coincidence in Penn State also seems extremely difficult, given how poorly Michigan played – and how much the Wolverines struggled to overcome adversity, especially in Wisconsin.

As far as MVPs are concerned, Zack Charbone seems to be the frontrunner early on – the running game didn't exist with him, limited against the Badgers. In defense, I would say Aidan Hutchinson. He plays hard and seems to be the rising star of a unit that desperately needs one.

To the second part of your question: I think it's just bad luck. Michigan has always been physically fit in its preparation under Harbaugh – remember, when it first arrived, it began grueling, four-hour practices. And there is only so much you can do in this sport to prevent injuries. At some point this will happen. Do you think the defense would look better like a more traditional 3-4 with Hudson and Uche as external links?

– @NMolk

Kwity Paye (19), Carlo Kemp (2) and Josh Ache (6) during action against the Army. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

Maybe. Michigan already looks like this; The Werewolves are predominantly 3-3-5, and Hudson and Uche have played a lot. This goes back to getting your top 11 on the field. Michigan seems to believe that the top 11, three are safety liners – and this is a departure from every other year during Harbaugh's rule. Werewolves are usually a defense that uses fours. What has changed? Staff on the inside of the defense line. Michigan does not have the depth it had last year, nor the star power – without Willie Henry, Ryan Glasgow, Mo Hurst Jr. – made it earlier in the Harbaugh era. That's why defense coordinator Don Brown turned to back-to-back Jordan Glasgow in a 3-point position and asked him to attack passes against Wisconsin. U-M could try to improve its defense by giving freshmen Mazie Smith and Chris Hinton a chance, both were highly publicized recruits. Or maybe try Donovan Jether and Michael Dumfour, two veterans who missed time with injuries.

Josh Gatis seems to agree with the sentiment that his crime is trying to do too much right now and you need to slow down speed, establish a base and then build from there? – @ArmchairQB_UM

He may, though based on what he said Wednesday, accept the sentiment that Michigan's crime should stop hurting itself with self-inflicted wounds. So far, turnover has been a major problem; Werewolves really need to do a better job of holding the ball. Michigan also failed to turn away from those turnovers. Practice seems to be at a completely different level from what we've seen in games, according to Gattis. Obviously, part of that falls on him as a player. He can do more to help the crime: One would be to find something that the unit can consistently perform at a high level and try to build on its success. However, the fight against crime is a collective issue. It's hard to slow things down when the team is immediately in a two-hole hole in Wisconsin. Gattis can only do so much if players roll or fail.

[ Windsor: Harbaugh’s fire is missing. Michigan football won’t recover without it ]

Contact Orion Sang at osang@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang . Read more about Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines Newsletter.