Midseason grades: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan get high marks for run game, defensive turnaround

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It’s the half-way point of the 2021 college football season, at least for Michigan, and Jim Harbaugh’s team happens to be on a bye.

So what better time to do some mid-season grading than now, with the 6-0 Wolverines ranked eighth in the country and riding a wave of momentum. They’ll host struggling Northwestern next Saturday, Oct. 23, in Ann Arbor with a real opportunity to move to 7-0.

There are plenty of things going right for Michigan, fresh off a disappointing 2020 season that prompted plenty of change, but there are still some question-mark areas. Let’s get into all of it, the good and not so good …

Quarterbacks —

Through six games, Michigan’s passing offense remains one of the least productive units in the country. It ranks 101st nationally at 194 yards per game, below nine other Big Ten teams, including Iowa. But that’s not necessarily because of Cade McNamara. While things have picked up in recent weeks, the Wolverines still rank rather low in the FBS (115th) in pass attempts — a sign that, at least comparatively, Michigan is just not throwing the ball often. But when McNamara is asked to throw, he’s been rather efficient — completing 60.5 percent of his passes 986 yards and five touchdowns. His attempts rank 10th among Big Ten QBs, his passing yards rank eighth and his efficiency rating rankings seventh — a sign that he’s slightly outperforming his expectant numbers.

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