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Position Grades: Michigan

This is gonna be so much fun...

NCAA Football: Michigan at Penn State Chris Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning! Still have that grin stuck on your face from Saturday night? Me too! Well, that grin likely won’t be turning into a frown anytime soon after you take a look at these position grades I’m doling out.

Quarterback: A-

The minus is for Trace McSorley’s interception thrown when PSU was already up 14-0 in the first quarter and marching deep into Michigan territory, threatening to finish off the Wolverines before they even had a chance to do anything, as well as the near-interception Trace threw into the hands of Michigan linebacker Khaleke Hudson (who thankfully doesn’t possess Saquon Barkley’s juggling skills). Aside from those instances though, it was a banner night for Trace, as racked up 282 yards passing and a TD while also rushing for 76 yards and a hat trick of TD’s on the ground. Trace was very sharp and decisive when it came to deciding whether to keep the ball himself and take off or pitch it to Saquon and displayed that general gamer moxie of his that we’ve all come to know and love.

Running Back: A

Barkley set the tone from the second play of the ball game when he shifted over under center at the last second, took the direct snap, cut to his left, and was off to the races for a very nice 69-yard TD. He then came right back and scored on an option pitch from Trace on the next drive for PSU, and reached the end zone again. This of course, followed later on with showcasing his little-known juggling talents as evidenced below:

Just hand him the damned Heisman, already!

Shout-outs also go out to Miles Sanders, who racked up 29 yards on six carries and displayed some nice shiftiness and foot speed, and Andre Robinson, who caught a ball to keep the chains moving.

Wide Receivers/Tight End: A

This unit may not have racked up any TD’s themselves, but DaeSean Hamilton appears to be emerging as Trace’s go-to receiver, much like Chris Godwin was last year. Hamilton racked up 115 yards on six catches, providing a real spark to the passing attack. Meanwhile, Mike Gesicki had another great leaping grab to add to his highlight reel on PSU’s second scoring drive of the game. This unit also continues to excel in getting downfield and blocking someone, turning decent gains for Trace or Saquon (or whoever is carrying the ball) into huge ones.

Offensive Line: A

As you know, I have been rather harsh on the offensive line this season, as they struggled to live up to their potential. To give up only two sacks to this ferocious Michigan front seven and effectively open up creases for Trace and Saquon to run through is a testament to Matt Limegrover and the big guys in the trenches who stepped up at a time when they were the biggest question mark coming into this game. Here’s to seeing that type of performance from the O-line for the remainder of the season.

Defensive Line: A

The D-line was responsible for four of the seven total sacks on Michigan QB John O’Korn (shout-outs to Shaka Toney, Kevin Givens, Parker Cothren, and Curthis Cothran) and also did not allow much running room for Michigan’s tailbacks to try and plow up the middle or between the tackles. This young unit will need to continue in their rapid maturation in Columbus as they try and stifle Ohio State running back JK Dobbins and get adequate pressure on JT Barrett.

Linebackers: A

Another week, another game where Jason Cabinda is the team leader in tackles (Cabinda had 13 of them, including a sack). Koa Farmer and Manny Bowen also were in on the action, racking up seven and six tackles, respectively. Along with the D-line, the linebackers made damn sure that Michigan was not going to establish any kind of rhythm and flow on the ground.

Secondary: A-

Marcus Allen was his usual self, picking up six tackles and making sure Michigan’s receivers picked up little to no yards after the catch. Troy Apke was also solid in these respects, as well. Even though they did give up some big pass plays, they did hold O’Korn to a semi-pedestrian 166 yards through the air. Christian Campbell gets the biggest shout-out though, for his strip-sack of O’Korn with PSU leading 28-13, which set up the game-sealing Trace-to-Saquon touchdown pass just a couple of plays later. This unit will face its biggest test of the season next week against Ohio State’s rehabilitated passing attack led by JT Barrett.

Special Teams: B+

Blake Gillikin only punted twice, but averaged nearly 50 yards per punt, including a long of 56 yards that he booted from PSU’s own end zone. Perhaps the biggest shocker of this game (aside from PSU winning by 4 TD’s) was the fact that neither team attempted a field goal. Despite that, Tyler Davis had arguably the better night than Quinn Nordin, as the latter shanked an extra point in what sure felt like karma had come back to bite him in the ass for his infamous recruiting antics, not to mention the post-game Twitter shade Gillikin threw in Nordin’s direction (and is deserving of infinite rap airhorns).

Davis however, only put two of his seven kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and one of those non-touchbacks led to Michigan returner Ambry Thomas taking one all the way near midfield. In general though, the kick and punt coverage was solid as usual. Barkley returned one kickoff but was stopped at his own 15-yard line, while DeAndre Thompkins had two punt returns for a total of 20 yards.