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The Michigan Medley looks for benefits of the ‘Bama blowout

September 5th, 2012 by Justin Potts


Using the Alabama game to our benefit

I’ll never say a loss is a good thing, but perhaps losing the way Michigan did on Saturday can be beneficial going forward. Most of us can agree that Michigan was overrated at No. 8 entering the season. With the unfavorable schedule and key losses, we all knew it was going to be hard to repeat the successes of last season.

After the Week 1 blowout, all of the hype and high expectations are gone, and now the team and coaching staff can get back to work in the underdog role. Of course, this is Michigan and we’re used to being the the ones at the top looking down. But the reality is that right now Michigan isn’t there. Another couple of recruiting classes like Brady Hoke has been securing and they’ll get there, but right now the underdog role suits his team quite well.

Most of us expected a loss to Alabama, but very few of us thought it would be as bad as it was. But, in my opinion, that speaks more to how good Alabama is than how bad Michigan is. Just listen to Al Borges talk about the game.

“The game plan didn’t look very effective, but the whole thing was geared to if they loaded the box up, we were going to throw the ball. If they left the box light, we were going to run it. We ran the ball into a light box 12 times and had plus-four runs three times out of the 12. And we hit two out of 10 shots down the field. So the other alternative is to plus-one run with the quarterback. We did some of that, too, but they weren’t going to let you do that. As much as you wanted to give that a shot, that wasn’t going to happen. No one’s done that to them. Look at the numbers in the past. No one’s done that to them.”

Michigan's D-line essentially went up against the Super Bowl offensive line (photo by MGoBlue.com)

In other words, Alabama dictated Michigan’s offensive game plan, forcing Borges to all but abandon the run. Now, listen to these words from Alabama defensive back Dee Milliner about the slants that were broken up early in the game.

“We knew coming in any time that they got in that formation that they like to run the quick slants backside,” Milliner said. “So I was anticipating that and knew it was coming.”

So Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart forced Michigan to essentially abandon its usual running game, and the defense knew what plays were coming. Either Hoke and his staff got severely out-coached or he decided all along that the deck was stacked against him on Sept. 1, and the rest of the season was more important than one Cowboys Classic.

With an offensive line the exact same size as the Super Bowl champions and a defense that is the best in college football, Alabama would have won with Chad Henne under center and Mike Hart in the backfield for this Michigan team. So why put the rest of the season on the line trying to run Denard 20-25 times? Work on the passing game, work out a few kinks, put up your best effort, and move on. I’m not at all saying Michigan threw the game; I’m merely saying that there’s no point in going all in against a stacked deck at the expense of the number one goal – winning the Big Ten championship.

The loss dropped Michigan all the way to 19th in both the AP and Coaches polls and already has some counting Michigan out of the Big Ten race. This season, I’d rather have Michigan coming up from behind to start the season than playing with a big target on its back. It’s just not good enough for that yet.

The loss allows Hoke and the rest of the staff to show the team they’re not as good as they thought they were. They need to work harder and execute better if they want to win the Big Ten.

The loss gives Michigan the experience of playing the best team in the nation and knowing that every game the rest of the season will be easier than that one. Not that they’ll be easy, but in comparison to the closest thing to a professional team, they’ll seem like the minor leagues. The lines won’t be as big. The linebackers won’t be as fast. The corners won’t be as strong. They’ll be what Michigan has been used to the past few years: beatable opponents.

Michigan likely won’t run the table the rest of the way. There will be some bumps along the way, but I think what happend in Dallas on Saturday will be good for this team in the long run.

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A big recruiting weekend

Much of Michigan’s success going forward depends on Hoke’s recruiting classes. He has already secured a highly-ranked class and has another on the way. It could get even better with a commitment from Rivals’ number one receiver, Laquon Tredwell. The 6’3″ receiver from Crete, Ill. is one of many highly touted recruits that will be on campus when Michigan opens the home portion of its schedule this Saturday against Air Force. He’s one of the top two remaining targets for Hoke and carries offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Ohio State, USC, and many more. But he won’t be the only one on campus. Cass Tech athlete Damon Webb, who may be Michigan’s top 2014 target, will be there as well.

A couple of basketball targets will be on campus, most notably the top overall recruit in the 2015 class, Karl Towns. The 6’11”, 210-pound center from Metuchen, N.J. is still years away from stepping foot on any college court, but just getting him on campus is huge for John Beilein. Call me a skeptic, but the Kentucky’s of the world will certainly lead for him. However, a recruit that Beilein has a much better chance of landing is Jae’Sean Tate and he’ll be there this weekend as well. He visited Ohio State last weekend and was at Michigan just a month ago. ESPN ranks him as the 46th overall player in the 2014 class.

A win during a big recruiting weekend doesn’t always mean much, but it would certainly help. Dropping to 0-2 and losing at home to a team like Air Force would put a bad taste in a recruit’s mouth. So let’s hope for a big victory for the maize and blue this weekend for more reasons than one.