Rece Davis Breaks Down Implications for Michigan Against Wisconsin

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Rece Davis Breaks Down Implications for Michigan Against Wisconsin

Football

Rece Davis Breaks Down Implications for Michigan Against Wisconsin

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan enters Week Seven already with a one in the loss column, much like the team it hosts: No. 15 Wisconsin. Which means there’s a lot on the line when the Badgers come to play at The Big House on Saturday night.

If Michigan wants to achieve the goals it had set out for at the beginning of the season — namely the College Football Playoff — it’s a must-win. At least that’s how ESPN College GameDay host Rece Davis sees it.

The popular ESPN Saturday morning program will be broadcast live from Ingalls Mall on the Diag on the University of Michigan’s Central Campus on Saturday morning, and Davis and crew will go across all of college football, breaking down the biggest matchups for the day. But, for Michigan, right here, right now, the Wolverines will be entrenched in the biggest must-win these Wolverines have faced to this point this season.

“I think it’s gargantuan – I think their entire season hinges on this game,” Davis said. “They haven’t won these types of games with Harbaugh being here. Now, I know the’ve beaten Wisconsin at home – they’ve won a couple of home games. I know it’s not the rivalry thing. But you lose this game, and you might not be mathematically done, but you’re done. They have to win this game. If they want to take the next step – now listen: they’re not going to shut down the program. They’re not going to change the coach. I’m not saying any of that. They have to win this game if they’re going to take the next step. If they are legit and if they are aspiring to be at Ohio State’s level, then they win this game.

“You can dance around it all you want to, but that’s where we are. If they’re going to be a legit contender, then they win this game. If they don’t – then they’re still building.”

There’s something of a perception — a misconception — that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh can’t win the big games. Of course, the record shows his team as being 1-6 against its rivals, but two years ago, this Wolverines team beat the then-8th-ranked Wisconsin team (which finished 9th) 14-7 and decimated the eventual Big Ten champion Penn State 49-10.

Davis says he doesn’t believe it’s inherently a Harbaugh thing or anything like that, but more so some struggles on the offensive side of the ball.

Now, there certainly could be some mental factors at play. But now, with the offense starting to work as expected once Harbaugh arrived, there’s little excuse for the Wolverines to falter in big games, Davis says.

“Multitude of reasons, and I’m sure the coaching staff could answer better than I, but I think they haven’t necessarily had explosive play at quarterback,” Davis said. “Some of it’s been bad luck. The Michigan State game on the punt play – which, I’m sorry I brought it up here for you guys – that’s bad luck. Tough call at Ohio State.

“You win a couple more of those and you feel differently about what the record is and – well, maybe they haven’t gotten to the playoff, they haven’t done this – maybe if they won the Ohio State game they would have. But I think it’s been a multitude of factors. Most of it seems to be centered around maybe the offense hasn’t been as explosive as they would have liked. I think you’re starting to see some improvement in that area. The number of passes that have traveled 10 yards in the air or farther have been much improved – much improved over the last year.

“Shea seems to be getting more comfortable utilizing weapons, finding new ones. The big, bruising fullback that they’ve got now they’re using at tailback. They’re finding a multitude of ways and it looks a little bit more like Jim’s offenses at Stanford.

“I don’t think they haven’t won these games because of mental block or whatever. But, it can weigh on your confidence and make you start pressing when you’ve lost several of them. And the good thing about a game like this is – I don’t think I undersold at all how important that it is for Michigan – but the good news is that if you win this one, then the next one, as it pertains to the rivalry is even bigger and then the next one after that is really huge. So that’s the reward for winning big games is that the next one becomes bigger.”

Of course, losing the season opener at Notre Dame tampered fan enthusiasm at the season’s outset. A year in which some — including ESPN’s Desmond Howard and 247Sports’ Barton Simmons — saw great things for Michigan was quickly derailed by faltering to the Irish in South Bend.

Or so it would seem.

As Davis says, Michigan has everything ahead of it. Notre Dame — now ranked No. 5 in the country — is as close to a quality loss as a team could have. And if the Wolverines continue to get better and better, regardless if Notre Dame loses or not, who knows what the future could hold for this Michigan team.

But, it’s all up to the Wolverines to make their College Football Playoff dreams come true.

“It happens early in the season,” Davis said. “If you have an early loss in a game that was deemed at the time to be huge to playoff implications, even that early, people will say, ‘Oh, what’s wrong with Michigan?!’ And then, it turns out that Notre Dame is pretty good.

“Notre Dame has been an odd team, because when I ranked in my AP vote, I had them preseason top 5 – I really liked Notre Dame. And then, after the Michigan game, the next thing – I didn’t like Notre Dame as much. Now they’ve put Ian Book in and that offense is complementing that defense and to turn your question back towards Michigan – that’s not a bad loss. It’s just a loss! It’s a one touchdown loss on the road against a playoff team.

“So, Michigan’s resume, if they can follow that up – if we’re talking playoff, they have to win the Big Ten, right? Winning a Big Ten Championship and your only loss is in September on the road against Notre Dame? That doesn’t necessarily mean to me – and now, it might, especially if Notre Dame is undefeated – that doesn’t mean that forever and always that Notre Dame has to be stacked ahead of Michigan. It was in September! Teams change. If Michigan looks like a better team at the end of November and Notre Dame stumbles and bumbles down the stretch but is somehow still in it, you can reasonably say Michigan is now better. I don’t think that’s wrong. That’s why we have the committee. That’s why we have the playoff. But in terms of just objective data of what that loss means, that’s not a bad loss. It was just a loss against a really good team on the road, tough place to play, opening night. It was a hard-fought game, and it’s okay.

“Well, you know what I mean. It’s not okay to lose – it’s not disqualifying.”

It starts on Saturday, with Michigan hosting Wisconsin. Kickoff is slated for 7:30PM at The Big House.

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