He’s as good as advertised
Last Friday night I had the chance to go see the nation’s top receiver, and one of Michigan’s top remaining targets, LaQuon Treadwell, play in person. His Crete Monee Warriors played previously unbeaten Glenbard South and came away with a dominating 45-7 win. Treadwell racked up 181 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches through three quarters of play. With such a big lead, he didn’t play the fourth.
Treadwell’s team is loaded with talent, most notably linebacker Nyles Morgan, fellow receiver Lance Lenoir, and defensive back Jaylen Dunlap, but it was ever apparent that the offensive game plan could have simply been to throw it to Treadwell on every single play. And it would be just as effective. But in a team sport on a squad with other Division 1 prospects, they have to spread the wealth.
For a high school senior, he has perfect size, good hands, and enough shiftiness to turn a crossing route into a 75-yard touchdown. I was skeptical prior to the game. After all, how good can this kid be? But I was impressed. I guess that’s why the kid has offers from nearly every school in the country. Florida receivers coach Bush Hamdan (far right in photo) was on hand and Oklahoma State will be there this week. Treadwell visited Ole Miss on Saturday and would be a huge pick up if Brady Hoke is able to land him.
Treadwell also plays safety and kicker for the Warriors. At safety, he seemed to shy away from contact, and the one time he tried to make a big hit, he whiffed on the receiver who then ran untouched for an 84-yard touchdown. But that doesn’t take away from Treadwell’s receiving skills as he’s clearly a receiver first and foremost.
His teammate, Morgan, may have been the most impressive player on the field that night. He has offers from Michigan State, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Illinois, and Purdue, with interest from several others, including Michigan and Alabama. He’s currently just a junior, so he’ll be one to watch next season. He visited MSU last weekend. Please don’t end up there.
I’ve been meaning to pump the #Eating fundraiser for some time now, but it kept slipping my mind. Now that I’ve remembered, it has already reached its goal. But that doesn’t have to stop you from donating to this great cause.
If you’re not aware of it yet, it’s a project by former Michigan receiver Martavious Odoms. He’s trying to start a community garden in his hometown of Pahokee, Florida to “create jobs and provide job training, as well as provide positive activities for the youth.”
If you don’t know much about Pahokee, it’s a relatively poor town in south Florida with higher than average crime rates, but has produced an astonishing number of big time athletes. Unemployment rates are currently around nine percent and the percentage of college graduates is very low as well. Regardless of political affiliation, this is a cause to get behind since it involves one of our very own Wolverines serving and giving back to his community.
While the goal has already been met, there’s nothing that says Hope for Pahokee doesn’t need more. If you’re leery about where the funds will go, you can read about it on the Kickstarter page. Hope for Pahokee is using Urban Greenworks of Miami, which has successfully installed five urban gardens in Miami, to facilitate the project.
We’ve talked previously about the Legends jerseys that will be awarded this season and our view on them. I, like many others, thought Craig Roh was the logical choice to get Ron Kramer’s No. 87, but it was awarded to senior tight end Brandon Moore on Saturday afternoon. The previous week, Bennie Oosterbaan’s No. 47 was awarded to sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan. This clears up a couple of things. First, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an upperclassman. Secondly, with Moore, it doesn’t have to be a star or a player who has made major contributions on the field.
It appears that the jerseys will be sought after by the players who get the distinction of wearing a jersey that commemorates a Michigan football legend and a special locker in the locker room. That means Desmond Howard’s No. 21, which was worn by Junior Hemingway last season and Roy Roundtree this year will likely be given to someone else next year, as will Kramer’s 87 that Moore will done for the remainder of 2012.
The next question is, who will be awarded Gerald Ford’s No. 48 and the Wistert brothers’ No. 11? Since it appears that each of them will, in fact, be awarded, my vote for 48 now goes to senior center Elliott Mealer. Unfortunately, unless Michigan can get the rules changed, which is highly unlikely, it has to go to a quarterback, running back, receiver, defensive back, or linebacker. So how about Desmond Morgan? Like Ryan, he’s a young starting linebacker and plays the type of hard-nosed defense that would make ford, the former center, proud.
No. 11 also falls into the same number classification under NCAA guidelines, so my vote goes to Devin Funchess. Would the coaching staff give it to a freshman? Would they give it to another tight end? I’d say at this point it’s probably unlikely, but given the potential star ability of Funchess, it would be great to see. If not, how about sophomore quarterback Russell Bellomy? He’s likely to be the starting quarterback next season and according to Sports Illustrated, the best player to ever wear No. 11 in the NFL was Eagles quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. But watching the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald pull down touchdown passes in No. 11, I can’t help but think how great it would look on Funchess before he makes a name for himself in 19.
Posts Tagged ‘Martavious Odoms’
At the beginning of the season, new head coach Brady Hoke took a page out of Lloyd Carr’s book to set the tone for the season. When Hoke was an assistant at Michigan, Carr gave the 1997 team pickaxes during the national championship season to symbolize climbing a mountain, based on the book “Into Thin Air.” This year, Hoke themed the season after SEAL Team 6, which brought down and eliminated Osama Bin Laden at the beginning of May. The correlation was teamwork and unity. Each and every member of the team was in this together.
Prior to the Nebraska game a week ago, Hoke had a group of Navy SEALs speak to the team and provide inspiration. The team was given actual tridents that the SEALs wear. On Saturday, Team 132 stepped off the team bus wearing the tridents around their neck and proceded to fight for 60 minutes to achieve the supreme mission it set out for when the season began: beat Ohio.
The seven-year plague the Buckeyes strolled into Ann Arbor with had not been lost on maize and blue faithful across the country and even though the season was a bust for OSU, everyone knew they would put up a fight in college football’s greatest rivalry. No one, however, expected what was about to ensue.
Ohio State took the ball to start the game and came out passing. An offense that hadn’t thrown the ball more than 18 times in a single game all season and slumbered through the first 11 games looked like a force to be reckoned with, whipping the ball around the field.
It was clear from the outset that the tendencies broken by OSU Offensive Coordinator Jim Bollman were not expected by Hoke and Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison. On the Buckeyes’ first possession, freshman quarterback Braxton Miller found a wide open Corey Brown for a 54-yard touchdown to stun the Big House crowd. On the play, safety Thomas Gordon broke on the inside receiver, DeVier Posey, and no one followed Brown.
In the second quarter, Miller broke loose and ran for a 19-yard touchdown, and on the ‘Bucks next possession Miller connected with Posey for a 43-yard touchdown – the second long touchdown pass of the game against a Michigan defense that hadn’t given up big plays all season.
Miller played a great game for a true freshman in his first Ohio State-Michigan game, but missed a number of wide open receivers that could have sealed Michigan’s fate. And that was the difference in this game. While Miller played well and took advantage of Michigan’s defensive mistakes but couldn’t make the big plays when needed, Denard Robinson silenced his critics with the best game of his career.
Robinson threw for 167 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Most impressive is that he had as many touchdowns as incompletions. He connected on 14 of 17 passes and looked in complete control of the offense all game. Aside from a second quarter fumble that gave Ohio the ball at the Michigan 31 and resulted in an OSU touchdown, Robinson turned in the type of performance that has made legends out of the rivalry over the years.
He became just the fourth Michigan quarterback to throw for three touchdowns against Ohio State – the first since Drew Henson in 2000 – and his 170 rushing yards were the third-highest total for a Michigan rusher in The Game, behind only Tim Biakabutuka’s 313 in 1995 and Jamie Morris’ 210 in ’86.
But while Robinson accounted for all of Michigan’s touchdowns and the majority of the total yards, he didn’t do it all alone. Fitz Toussaint rushed for 120 yards on 20 carries – his third straight 100-yard game – and surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Robinson and Toussaint became the first Michigan duo to record 1,000-yard seasons since Gordon Bell (1,388) and Rob Lytle (1,030) did it in 1975.
In addition to Robinson’s and Toussaint’s performances, the receiving corps player perhaps its best game of the season. Each receiver was sharp and held onto all of the catchable balls. Whether it was Junior Hemingway coming back to catch Michigan’s first touchdown or Martavious Odoms catching a bullet in traffic and weaving through five defenders into the end zone or Drew Dileo hauling in a 28-yarder on Michigan’s final drive, they all came to play.
Defensively, while the 34 points allowed were the most given up all season, credit has to be given to the unit that tightened up in the second half, allowing just 10 points, and made the stop to seal the win. Michigan sacked Miller four times and freshman linebacker Desmond Morgan led the team with 10 tackles. On the outside, freshman cornerback Blake Countess made a great leaping pass break-up in the first quarter on what would have been a long gain, and Courtney Avery picked Miller off to end the game.
Credit is also due to placekicker Brendan Gibbons who made just 1-of-5 field goals last season, but stepped up with a clutch 43-yard field goal with two minutes remaining to force the Buckeyes to have to drive the length of the field and score a touchdown instead of a field goal.
Twenty three seniors played their final game in the Big House and they exemplify what a Michigan Man is all about. While many of their former teammates left when the going got tough or decided to jump ship early, these 23 men stuck it out through three different head coaches, multiple coordinators and different schemes. It wasn’t easy, but each and every one of them will tell you it was worth it.
When Denard took the final knee and the clock hit zero, the team unity that was built over the last few months on the principles of the Navy SEALs was on display for all to see. Just as the team does at the end of practice every Friday, the ball was thrown up in the air, and when it landed, the entire team fell to the ground, as if a bomb had gone off. It was a fitting display of a Michigan band of brothers playing for each other and overcoming adversity. And just like SEAL Team 6 ended Bin Laden’s reign of corruption in the middle east and dumped his body out to sea, Michigan’s Team 132 put an end to Ohio’s seven-year reign in a sea of maize and blue.
The victory, and what is likely to follow in the coming days with the expected hiring of Urban Meyer to become Ohio’s next head coach, restore the vigor to the rivalry that has been in hibernation the past few years. Miller looks to be the real deal for OSU and Robinson will be a senior next season. With Hoke’s reinforced significance on beating Ohio, Mattison’s defensive genius, the youth that has stepped up on Michigan’s defense, and the emergence of Toussaint as a feature back, it’s exciting to look forward to the coming years of Michigan football and beating Ohio yet again.
Until the teams meet 364 days from now in Columbus, Michigan has the upper hand and the bragging rights, and Ohio State will have to figure out a way to win without access to free cars, under the table cash, and free tattoos.
Coming into the season Nebraska was one of the early favorites to win the B1G Ten Legends division. Coming into this weekend’s game Nebraska was still in the running for the top spot in the Legends division and a chance to play in the first ever B1G Ten Championship game. Michigan was having none of it as the Wolverines thumped the Cornhuskers 45-17 en route to their ninth win of the season.
Michigan was in control pretty much from its second series on, although Nebraska made it interesting for a few minutes in the second quarter. But the Wolverine offense and defense played what I thought was their best game overall this year.
Michigan couldn’t get anything going on its first series, going 3-and-out, but Nebraska did the exact same on its first series. On the first play of Michigan’s next drive we saw something we got accustomed to last season, but haven’t seen all that much of this year: a Denard keeper for a big gain. After that, a screen pass and a short run, both by Toussaint gave Michigan another first down. After a short keeper and an incomplete pass, Michigan was faced with 3rd-and-9, but Denard hit Roy Roundtree for a gain of 46 yards. A personal foul penalty moved Michigan inside the 3-yard line, and on 2nd-and-goal Denard faked it to Stephen Hopkins, rolled left, and hit Jeremy Gallon across the middle of the end zone for six points.
Nebraska looked like it was going to get rolling after a first down option keeper by Taylor Martinez went for 11 yards, however, Michigan had other thoughts. Mike Martin stuffed Rex Burkhead, and Kenny Demens had a pass break up on third down to get Michigan the ball back after a punt.
Michigan took over in great field position at its 45-yard line. A play-action found no one open so Denard took off and gained 15. Two straight carries by Toussaint gained 14 yards and set up a Denard keeper for about seven. Denard was almost picked off on a pass attempt to Kelvin Grady and was then sacked for a loss of 13 on 3rd-and-8. Fortunately, Michigan was still within field goal range and Brendan Gibbons nailed through a 42-yarder to put Michigan on top 10-0.
But Nebraska wasn’t ready to lay down and die. On the third play of its next drive, Martinez hit a wide open receiver down the field, who broke a couple tackles then walked into the end zone from 54 yards out. 10-7 Michigan.
Michigan turned the ball over on its next possession as Denard’s pass on a second down was tipped and picked off. Nebraska looked like it was going to squander its opportunity as Jordan Kovacs stuffed Burkhead in the backfield for a loss of five. Faced with a 4th-and-14 Nebraska booted a 51-yarder in to tie the game at 10.
Michigan took over on its own 26 and ran Toussaint a couple times for a first down. A couple plays later, a third down pass to Hemingway kept the drive alive, and then a Denard keeper for eight kept the drive going once again on a third down. A play later, Toussaint broke free for 16 yards, and two plays after that, Denard visited the end zone on a QB keeper up the middle to put Michigan back ahead.
After two straight first down plays Michigan’s defense stepped up, first stuffing Martinez on a keeper for a loss of seven, then Jake Ryan tripped up Martinez as he tried to scramble. Michigan returned the favor and went three-and-out as Denard came up just shy of the marker on third down. Nebraska also went three-and-out and then Michigan ran the clock out to end the half.
Nebraska got the ball to start the second half – or so they thought. Return man Kenny Bell fumbled the ball and Courtney Avery was there to fall on it. Michigan made the most of the turnover, as its has done a lot this season, punching it in for six points a few plays later. The drive was aided by a pass interference that was a bit questionable, but who are we to argue with professional referees? Denard scored his second rushing touchdown of the game and Michigan took a 24-10 lead.
Michigan’s defense held again as Mike Martin stopped Martinez on a 3rd-and-short to force the punt. Punter Brett Maher bobbled the snap and Josh Furman took advantage of the situation, blocking the punt. The ‘Huskers recovered but couldn’t get it past the marker, giving Michigan possession at midfield.
Toussaint took the first two plays and went for 11 and 10 yards, respectively. After the 10-yarder he was hit out of bounds and the officials tacked on another 15 yards to set Michigan up inside the red zone. Denard was stuffed on 3rd-and-1 and Hoke sent the field gaol unit out. However, holder Drew Dileo took the snap and carried the ball down to the 1, setting up first and goal. Toussaint walked in for another Michigan touchdown to blow the game open at 31-10.
After Nebraska went 3-and-out, the punt pinned Michigan back at its own 4-yard line, where the Wolverines proceeded to go 3-and-out as well. Nebraska benefited from the field position game and took over at the Michigan 31. After a Martinez first down through the air, Nebraska ran the same play three straight times – a pitch right to Burkhead. On the third try the ‘Huskers picked up a first down. It was their first third down conversion of the day, with just over a minute and a half to go in the third quarter.
On 2nd-and-goal Martinez handed the ball to Burkhead on an option read but Burkhead pitched it to Ameer Abdullah who took it in for six. That made the score 31-17 Michigan, but there was plenty of time remaining for Nebraska to come back.
In what may have been the most critical play of the game, Michigan received a gift. After being stuffed on third down, Michigan lined up for the punt. Just as the ball left Will Hagerup’s foot, a ‘Husker defender came in and ever so slightly nipped his non-kicking foot as it was off the ground. The officials conferred and ruled it roughing the kicker, and first down Meeeeshigan!
The Wolverines made the most of the gift as Toussaint made some nifty moves on first down for a gain of 13, and then after a snap infraction by Molk, he broke a couple tackles for a gain of 8. On 3rd-and-short, Denard hit Martavious Odoms for the first down, then two plays later for a 38-yard touchdown on a deep pass. 38-17 Michigan.
Nebraska gifted Michigan another fumble on the kickoff return and J.B. Fitzgerald recovered on the ‘Husker 22-yard line. Michigan couldn’t get anything going and was forced into a 4th-and-long field goal attempt from 42 yards out, but Gibbons missed it wide right.
The defense held strong on its next series. Jake Ryan sacked Martinez on second down, and then forced a Martinez fumble on third down, which was recovered by Ryan Van Bergen.
Toussaint capped the scoring as he broke several tackles and broke free for 31-yard touchdown run on Michigan’s first play. 45-17 Michigan.
Nebraska is not a top five team, or maybe not even a top 10 team, but after a complete dominance by Michigan on both sides of the ball, the Wolverines proved they are for real. If there are still doubters about this Michigan team out there, and I know there are, then this performance should have them taking down their ‘fraud flags’ because these Wolverines are not just good, they’re really good. For the first time since 2006 I actually feel good heading in to Ohio week. Heck, I feel better than good, I’m expecting a Michigan win!
Six days after Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon announced he was firing embattled head coach Rich Rodriguez, the speculation, flight-tracking, and rumor-mongering was put to rest with the announcement of the hiring of Brady Hoke as the 19th head coach in Michigan football history. But while the waiting ended, questions abound as to whether this was the right move.
After proclaiming in last Wednesday’s press conference that he would seek out a “Michigan Man,” Brandon met with Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles, both former Wolverine players under legendary coach Bo Schembechler. Harbaugh was considered the top choice for most Wolverine faithful, and when he accepted the head job with the San Francisco 49ers, Brandon seemingly turned to Miles. While Miles’ ethics were called into question by many Michigan fans, most accepted him as a logical choice to replace Rodriguez given his success at LSU.
We went to bed Monday night expecting Miles to become Michigan’s new head man on Tuesday. However, early Tuesday afternoon, Miles was taken out of consideration when LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva stated, “Les has led this program to many great successes on the field and his players represent LSU well off the field. We look forward to many great years of LSU football under his leadership.”
It didn’t take long before Hoke was named head coach and Michigan fans are left with more questions than answers. Brandon insists Hoke was the guy from the beginning and that Harbaugh and Miles were never even offered the job, but if that’s the case, then Brandon has a lot at stake in the coming years.
Don’t get me wrong; beginning with Hoke’s introductory press conference on Wednesday, I’ll fully back the new coach and root for him to become Michigan’s next Bo. If he can turn the program around, he will certainly become a legend in Ann Arbor. But that doesn’t mean I think it was the right move for the short term or the long term.
For starters, I think Brandon jumped the gun and caved into the pressure in his first year as Michigan’s AD. Of course he will mask it by saying that leaders have to be willing to make tough decisions even when unpopular, but in reality, the pressure from the media and boosters was too much, forcing Brandon’s hand at least a year early.
Rodriguez had improved each season, from 3-9 to 5-7 to 7-6 and a New Years Day bowl game. Granted, the bowl wound up being the worst bowl loss in Michigan history and the three-year stretch is the worst percentage-wise in in Michigan history, but that’s as much a reflection on the original decision to hire him as it is about his ability to coach. Fans, boosters, and alumni were screaming for change when Lloyd Carr retired and then-AD Bill Martin hired just what they wanted. However, it was going to take time, which apparently was never agreed to by those requesting the change. The year-over-year improvement at least warranted a fourth year, given the number of returning starters and the vast amount of youth on the defensive side of the ball. At the very worst, if Rodriguez failed to improve in year four, Hoke would still be available and Brandon could make the decision much earlier in the process than Jan. 11 so as to not hurt the incoming recruiting class.
This is nothing against Hoke as a man or as a coach. He represents everything a Michigan football coach should: a passion for Michigan football, previous coaching experience at Michigan, a history of success, hard-nosed recruiting, and unquestioned ethics. I grew up with his niece and nephew, proud that I had a connection to a Michigan coach during the glory years of the late 90s. I like the guy and think he will succeed at Michigan…eventually.
Unfortunately, I think this decision means another two or three years before we can expect to challenge for Big Ten titles. The past three years have been spent recruiting for the spread offense. Recruiting Denard Robinsons instead of Tom Bradys, Martavious Odoms instead of Braylon Edwards, Vincent Smiths instead of Tyrone Wheatleys, and Patrick Omamehs instead of Jake Longs. In short, Hoke will have to fit Rodriguez’s guys into a completely different system than what they were recruited for and have practiced in the past three years, which is exactly the issue that landed Rodriguez on the unemployment line after just three seasons.
Brandon said one of the pieces of criteria for the new coach is the ability to adapt his system. The biggest question Hoke will face early on is whether he can adapt his traditional pro-style offense to fit the skills of Robinson, the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. If Robinson chooses to remain in Ann Arbor, this move could ultimately help his NFL potential by making him a more complete quarterback. Perhaps Hoke will bring back former UM quarterbacks coach Scott Loeffler who developed John Navarre and Chad Henne, and in his most recent gig, Tim Tebow at Florida.
Regardless, it’s hard to imagine hiring Hoke as being an upgrade from keeping Rodriguez for a fourth year. Will 2011 yield better results with Hoke? It’s doubtful.
Next season’s Wolverines are going to be a good team no matter who is coaching, with 10 starters returning on each side of the ball and the addition of senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk who missed the entire year with an injury. The schedule sets up nicely with Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State all at home and Penn State and Wisconsin off the schedule. A fourth year in Rodriguez’s system and a second-year starter in Robinson would have surely improved on its 33 points per game. And the defense would have been better with the return of Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd, who missed the final five games, and simply because as the nation’s 110th-ranked total defense, there’s virtually nowhere to go but up.
A serious run at the Big Ten title was not out of the question for next season under Rodriguez, and with several top recruits including Demetrius Hart, who had committed to Rodriguez (and has since committed to Alabama) in the fold, the program was destined for success. It just didn’t happen quickly enough for an impatient and arrogant fan base.
Now, here we are with the irony of all ironies, with the same fans and boosters who were clamoring for change because nine wins a season wasn’t good enough now calling for a mulligan. The school was embarrassed the past week with a national coaching search which, at least on the outside, looked like a joke, because of a decision that leaves Brandon in a tough spot if the transition this time around turns out similar three-year results as the one he just ended. I don’t think we’ve become Notre Dame yet, but if that happens, we’re well on our way.
All that said, I hope Hoke proves to be the best possible option for Michigan football and goes out and wins the Big Ten championship in 2011 and restores a sense of pride and the air of ‘the Victors’ to Ann Arbor. He certainly knows Michigan traditions, the importance of beating Michigan State and Ohio State, and how to win in the Big Ten. While I can’t fault Rodriguez for lacking those attributes, it’s one area in which Hoke is an improvement. And who knows, maybe it means more than we think. Welcome back, Coach.
Bowl season used to be one day to look forward to while ringing in the new year with friends, family, and if you’re fortunate, watching your favorite team play an opponent it doesn’t typically play in a warm and sunny spot you wish you were in. These days, we don’t even get a break in between the last game of the regular season and a watered down slate of games you really don’t care to watch but watch anyway because your only other viewing options are Glee or reruns of House.
And so it is that we’ve finally arrived at that one day of the year where college football takes precedence over everything else and we Michigan fans get to watch a game we’ve been looking forward to since that brutal game on November 27.
Tomorrow’s matchup with No. 21 Mississippi State takes on added significance after Michigan’s two-year absence from post-season play and the fate of Head Coach Rich Rodriguez hanging in the balance.
Michigan always plays well against SEC teams (20-5-1 all-time and 7-3 in bowl games), but as we’ve learned the past three seasons, this isn’t the Michigan of old anymore.
That could spell doom for Rodriguez, but I don’t think the outcome of Saturday’s game will factor into his fate, and that’s the last thing I’ll say about the coaching situation.
Perhaps the most important factor for Michigan is the health of Denard Robinson who, by all accounts, is as healthy as he has been all season. He struggled late in the season when he was banged up and didn’t seem to have the same burst he displayed early in the season. But Saturday he’ll be healthy and playing in the warm and sunny weather of his home state of Florida.
Mississippi State is an interesting study. It’s a team that hung tough with Auburn and Arkansas, but didn’t really beat anybody good all season and barely survived 4-8 UAB. In other words, its season is reminiscent of Michigan’s.
The strength of the Bulldogs is the defense, led by linebacker Chris White, an all-SEC first team defender who gets the task of trying to slow down Robinson.
In week two, White and the Bulldog defense held Heisman winner Cam Newton to his worst performance of the season. Auburn won 17-14, but Newton completed just 11-of-19 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 18 times for 70 yards (3.9 yards per carry).
Head Coach Dan Mullen hopes to replicate that performance against Michigan on Saturday, but what give me hope is that performance was a long time ago. In the last five games, MSU’s defense gave up an average of 26.4 points per game. That’s good news for Michigan since the Bulldog offense doesn’t exactly light up the scoreboards, ranking in the middle of the pack nationally in points scored.
Offensively, the Bulldogs’ best player is tackle Derek Sherrod, a second-team All-American who figures to be a first round draft pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He has helped pave the way for the nation’s 16th-best rush offense, but his line has also allowed 22 sacks. An interesting matchup to watch will be Michigan’s defensive line against Sherrod and company. Can Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, and Craig Roh pressure quarterback Chris Relf or get into the backfield to disrupt the run game? If so, it will help Michigan’s young and oft-maligned secondary.
Mississippi State’s pass offense is it’s weakness, ranking 91st in the nation with just 178.6 yards per game. Much of that has to do with the strength of its running game, but Relf ranks 52nd nationally in pass efficiency, just behind Indiana’s Ben Chappell.
Expect the Bulldogs to pound the ball on the ground and try to keep Michigan’s offense off the field, much like Wisconsin did, except out of a spread similar to Illinois’ (and Michigan’s for that matter). That could play into Michigan’s hands since the defense goes up against a similar style offense in practice every day.
According to Rodriguez, Michigan should get junior receiver Martavious Odoms back from a foot injury that has sidelined him since the Michigan State game. If he really is healthy enough to play at full speed, that will help Michigan both in the run and pass game. Odoms is the most experienced wideout on the team,with sure hands, and despite his small frame, is a great blocking receiver to set up Robinson’s runs.
Also healthy is Michigan’s best offensive lineman, center David Molk who missed time in the last few games with a foot injury. His presence will help combat White and MSU linemen Pernell McPhee, Josh Boyd, and Fletcher Cox.
The strength of the Bulldog rush defense and weakness of its pass defense leads me to believe Michigan will look to pass a little more than usual. Rodriguez loves to run to open up the pass, but a couple shots downfield early on could open up the running lanes for Robinson and backs Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith and keep the safeties from creeping up. In the last five games, MSU gave up 257 yards per game through the air, which is almost exactly what Michigan’s secondary has allowed this season.
1. Denard has more rushing yards AND more passing yards than Cam Newton did against Mississippi State
2. Michigan’s defense turns in one of its best performances of the season
3. Roy Roundtree eclipses 1,000 yards for the season
Overall, I think the game rests solely in the hands of Robinson. If the Robinson of the first half of the season shows up, Michigan will be in good shape. If the Robinson of the second half shows up, it will be a long day. The absence of Tate Forcier, who was ruled academically ineligible yesterday makes the health of Robinson of utmost importance. Freshman Devin Gardner, who was the first QB off the bench in the season opener against UConn, would be the backup, but it would mean burning his medical redshirt that Rodriguez hopes will keep him two years behind Robinson and Forcier.
As long as Robinson doesn’t get banged up, I think Michigan will be able to score around 30 points, which should be enough to beat the Bulldogs. And then the real waiting begins.
Michigan 31 – Mississippi State 27
Eleven games into the season, I’ve either gotten this Michigan team figured out or I’ve become so desensitized to losses that it’s what I’ve come to expect against teams not from the Mid-American Conference or the state of Indiana.
All three of my predictions came true on Saturday, and while they weren’t too far out on a limb, they were right on, and save for a late touchdown by Wisconsin, the final score would have been exactly right too.
I don’t want to be right on those predictions, so it’s not exactly something I’m proud about. I’d much rather be completely wrong and Michigan win, but unfortunately, that’s where we are right now.
While defensive progress appeared to have been made last week in a 27-16 win over Purdue, window dressing is all it really was. Purdue was essentially playing with its second-team offense and the game was played in poor weather conditions, making good offense the exception rather than the norm.
So when Wisconsin came to town with its steamroller offense, everybody knew what the Badgers’ offensive strategy would be: run, run, run, and sprinkle in a pass here and there. Quarterback Scott Tolzien completed 14-of-15 passes for 201 yards, all of one of those passes coming in the first half when Wisconsin jumped out to a 24-0 lead.
From there on, Wisconsin ran the ball on 33 out of 34 plays in the second half, and Michigan was helpless to stop it as the Badgers rolled up 357 rushing yards.
The loss dropped Michigan to 7-4 on the season, 3-4 in the Big Ten, and set up a chance to play spoiler, and salvage the season, this Saturday in Columbus. I won’t go as far as to say this is the most important game in Rich Rodriguez’s three-year tenure at Michigan, since I think he’s returning next season no matter the outcome, but if Michigan wins it would certainly be his biggest win during that time.
Ohio State sits in a three-way tie for first with Wisconsin and Michigan State. Wisconsin beat Ohio State 31-18 on Oct. 17, and Ohio State doesn’t play Michigan State this season, so if Ohio State beats Michigan, it will claim a share of the Big Ten title and likely receive a BCS bowl game since it’s ranked higher than Michigan State in the BCS standings.
A Michigan win would keep Ohio State from reaching its sixth straight Big Ten title and a sixth straight BCS bowl. It would also give Rodriguez his first win over a ranked team since 2008 when Michigan beat No. 9 Wisconsin. That Wisconsin team was vastly overrated at the time and finished the season with a 7-6 record, so beating Ohio State on Saturday would easily top that one.
But most importantly, it would end Michigan’s six game losing streak to the Buckeyes, the longest in the rivalry since the 1920s. After dominating the 90s, Michigan has seemingly forgotten how to beat Ohio State since Jim Tressel took over. Ohio state fans love to point out that it has been two thousand and something days since Michigan has beaten Ohio State. Beat Ohio State on Saturday and Rodriguez will regain much of the Michigan fan base heading into the bowl game.
Ohio State is by far the better team this season and will be heavily favored, but just ask the 1993, ’95, and ’96 Buckeye teams if the better team always wins. The beauty of the rivalry is that you can throw out the records. Let Buckeye week begin!
Hats off to Denard Robinson for breaking Beau Morgan’s record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season. His 121 rushing yards against Wisconsin also made him the first 1,500 yard rusher and passer in NCAA history, not to mention the first player to have 1,500 yards rushing and 2,000 yards passing in a single season.
The sophomore in his first season as a starter has been electrifying for Michigan this season and gives the Wolverines a lot of hope for the next two years.
He’s now 403 yards short of the all-college football quarterback rushing record, which was set by Chris Sharpe of Div. III’s Springfield (Mass.) College. He would have to average 202 yards per game to break that record, which is a tall task considering Ohio State’s rush defense which ranks third in the nation.
Injuries are hitting Michigan hard in the last few games of the season. Already having lost starting receiver Martavious Odoms and cornerback J.T. Floyd, and nose tackle Mike Martin and center David Molk having missed all or parts of the past few games, Michigan suffered another blow on Saturday. Receiver Darryl Stonum was inured returning a kick late in the game and running back Vincent Smith and defensive end Craig Roh each suffered what appeared to be concussions.
Stonum ranks second on the team in receptions and third in receiving yards with 493. He also has four touchdowns. Smith is the leading running back 571 yards and five touchdowns. Roh has been more effective as a defensive end since moving there from linebacker.
All three of those guys will be needed this Saturday if Michigan has any shot to win. Hopefully Stonum is healthy enough to keep returning kicks, because at this point, he’s light years better than Jeremy Gallon, who has been Michigan’s returner most of the season.
After the game, Stonum tweeted, “hopefully I’m ok (I think I am) but its gonna take a whole lot to keep me out of this next game.”
Roy Roundtree’s 114 yards against Wisconsin put him within striking distance of becoming Michigan’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Mario Manningham in 2007. For the season, he has 839 yards, just 37 behind Northwestern’s Jeremy Ebert for the Big Ten lead. With two games remaining, at Ohio State on Saturday and a bowl game, Roundtree needs to average 80.5 receiving yards to eclipse 1,000.
He would join the ranks of Manningham, Jason Avant (2005), Braylon Edwards (2002, ’03, ’04), Marquis Walker (2001), and David Terrell (2000) as the only Michigan receivers to reach 1,000 yards since 2000.
|Roy Roundtree vs. Jeremy Ebert
To some, Michigan’s loss to Michigan State on Saturday only furthers the theory that Rich Rodriguez isn’t the right fit for Michigan and that Denard Robinson’s Heisman-leading start to the season will crumble against the meat of the schedule. They will look at the 17-point margin of victory or the three interceptions in Robinson’s stat line and say, “Told ya so.”
They point to Michigan’s first five games of the season, in which Michigan averaged 41 points and 565 yards of offense per game, and dismiss them as being against poor competition, as if every other team in the country plays only ranked teams all season.
The simple fact of the matter is that every team plays its share of cupcakes and every quarterback occasionally has bad games.
Even God, I mean Tim Tebow, had a similar game in his Heisman-winning season. In fact, he had two straight similar games in Florida losses that season.
After rolling through Western Kentucky, Troy, Tennessee, and Ole Miss to start the 2007 season, Florida fell at home to Auburn, 20-17. Tebow was held to 201 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception, and 75 yards rushing and a touchdown on 19 carries.
The following week, Florida fell to No. 1 LSU, 28-24, and Tebow was held to 158 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception, and 67 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Both of those performances were worse than the numbers that Robinson put up on Saturday. Robinson passed for 215 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, and rushed 21 times for 86 yards and a touchdown. He still accounted for 300 yards of offense and two touchdowns, but it was the interceptions that proved he’s human after all and ultimately doomed Michigan on Saturday.
Michigan moved the ball with ease for much of the game until it was forced into come-from-behind mode, so it wasn’t exactly the Michigan State defense that stopped Robinson.
On the first drive of the game, Michigan marched 65 yards in nine plays to the MSU 10 before Robinson threw his first pick in the end zone. On that drive, Michigan rushed seven times for 8.1 yards per rush. On the interception, Robinson had Roy Roundtree open in the end zone and also seemed to have room to run for the first down, but threw behind Roundtree.
Michigan’s next drive, which started on its own 10-yard line, was more of the same. Robinson led the team 73 yards to the MSU 17 before settling for a field goal. On that drive, Robinson overthrew a wide open Darryl Stonum in the end zone on a play that would have put Michigan ahead 7-0.
After a three-and-out, Robinson led Michigan’s first touchdown drive of the day of nine plays for 60 yards, completing a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Martell Webb.
|Robinson 2010 vs. Tebow 2007|
Through four drives, Michigan had 207 yards on 34 plays, an average of 6.1 yards per play, but it had only 10 points to show for it. Michigan went into the half leading offensively, 263 yards to 247, but trailed 17-10 due to the two bad throws by Robinson and a blocked field goal.
After a Michigan State touchdown to open the half, Michigan again drove 58 yards down to the MSU 12, but another Robinson interception in the end zone ended the drive. Robinson tried to force it through to Junior Hemingway, who was open with a good throw, but again, the throw was behind him.
Michigan State took advantage with another touchdown to take a 21-point lead, and Michigan was completely forced out of its offense at that point.
On the last possession of the third quarter, Roundtree, Hemingway, and Stonum each dropped passes, but Kelvin Grady pulled down a good pass for a 17-yard gain on fourth-and-10 to keep the drive alive. Robinson ran it in to pull Michigan within 14.
But after forcing a Michigan State punt, Robinson threw his third pick of the game on a seam over the middle. He forced it, but it wasn’t entirely his fault, as Grady, the intended receiver, got turned around and failed to find the ball.
Three interceptions, completely the fault of either Robinson or the intended receiver, were the difference in the game and showed Robinson for what he really is – a true sophomore making just the sixth start of his career.
Even the quarterback to whom most compare Robinson to, Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor, had a similar game last season in a loss to Purdue when he went 17-for-31 for 221 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions and also ran 21 times for 34 yards and a touchdown. He was a sophomore in the seventh game of his second season as a starter at that point.
Michigan will be okay going forward. Most expected to give up 34 points to Michigan State on Saturday, so it wasn’t the defense that lost the game. It still held the Spartans two points below their season average and the same point total that Wisconsin gave up in East Lansing the week before. That Wisconsin defense was giving up just 14 points a game heading into that matchup.
Michigan State was the better all-around team and would probably win six out of 10 under the exact same circumstances, but Michigan isn’t as far behind as most believe. The Wolverines moved the ball and put themselves in position to score. But for the first time this season, mistakes did them in.
Every game the rest of the season, with the exception of Ohio State, is a winnable game and 8-4 is a realistic possibility, which is one better than I predicted before the season.
Iowa will be tough next week, bringing the nation’s best defense into Ann Arbor. Even against Arizona, when Iowa gave up 34 points, the defense only gave up 20, and seven of those 20 were set up by a blocked punt that gave Arizona the ball at the Iowa eight-yard line.
Michigan’s offense will have its hands full, but if it executes and doesn’t beat itself, it can win.
The following three games, after a bye week, are the most winnable: at Penn State, vs. Illinois, and at Purdue, before finishing with Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Each week, Penn State looks more and more beatable with true freshman quarterback Robert Bolden at the helm. The Nittany Lions were spanked by Illinois at home on Saturday, and are averaging just 18 points per game.
Illinois looks to be getting stronger, having played Ohio State tough and then trouncing Penn State, but they’re still led by a freshman quarterback.
Purdue upset Northwestern last week, but lost to Toledo the week before, and Wisconsin at home could potentially be another win. We will find out a lot more about Wisconsin this week when they host Ohio State.
An 8-4 record is certainly attainable, but 7-5 is probably the baseline, which is right on par with what most predicted before the season started. The hot start raised expectations, but we have to remember that this team is still a work in progress. Denard is just a sophomore who has started six games. He’ll keep getting better as he learns to make the right reads and not throw late across the middle.
Yes, Michigan lost on Saturday, and it hurts to lose for the third straight time to Little Brother, but continue to keep the faith because it’s not as bad as it seems.
Why didn’t Michael Shaw get more carries? He missed last week’s game with an injury and was listed as probable on the injury report entering Saturday’s game. He played on the first series, carrying the ball three times for 27 yards, including a 21-yard run. From there on, it was Vincent Smith who got the playing time, with freshman Stephen Hopkins getting one series.
I like Vincent Smith, but he’s not nearly effective enough since coming off ACL surgery, and in Michigan’s offenes this season, the backs don’t get screens, which is where he was the most danerous at the end of last season. He’s certainly not the best option on short-yardage situations, like on Michigan’s first possession of the second quarter when he was stuffed for no gain on third-and-one.
Hopkins has run well when given the opportunity this season, though he did fumble earlier in the year. He’s a bigger back than the rest and provides the best down-hill change-of-pace from Denard.
All said, I think Shaw is the most complete back of the bunch and if healthy, should be on the field. Maybe he simply wasn’t healthy enough to warrant much of a work load on Saturday, but he played in the fourth quarter, so that doesn’t seem likely.
I’m always hesitant to criticize a coach, but Rodriguez did his best Les Miles impression on Saturday. At the end of the first half, when Michigan State had fourth-and-three at the Michigan 39, he chose to let the clock run instead of calling a time out. MSU ended up going for and getting the first down, which ultimately led to a field goal, so that wasn’t an obvious time out instance, but one that I thought he should have made. At the very least, it would have saved about 25 seconds on the game clock.
Then, on the first play after after the kickoff, Robinson ran for four yards and instead of calling a time out right away, Rodriguez waited about eight seconds before calling one with 12 seconds to go. On the next play, Robinson hit Martavious Odoms for 51 yards to the MSU 25-yard line. At that point, there were only three seconds remaining and Michigan was forced to try a 42-yard field goal, which was blocked.
Had Rodriguez called a time out right away when Robinson was tackled, Michigan would have had 10 or 11 seconds left after the long pass, allowing the offense to run one or two more plays to either score a touchdown or get closer to field goal range (which for Michigan this season is about 30 yards and in).
Scoring either a touchdown or a field goal would have been a huge momentum boost going into the half. Instead, the blocked field goal served as a momentum boost for State and was deflating for Michigan.
At the end of the game, with Michigan trailing by 17, Rodriguez chose to wave the white flag of surrender on fourth-and-nine from the Michigan 30 with about six minutes left. Granted, coming back was a long shot at that point, but going for it was the only chance they had, and punting it back to State was effectively giving up. The Spartans got the ball back with 5:41 left and ran out the clock.
It’s officially time to get Obi Ezeh off the field. Yes, he’s a senior three-year starter, but he’s still making mistakes that he should have learned in Pop Warner. I find it hard to believe that he’s the best option we have. He’s the most experienced option we have, but experience doesn’t necessarily equal best. At the very least, let’s get a young guy in there who can learn the trade. He certainly can’t do any worse.
I’m now on the bandwagon of moving safety Jordan Kovacs to the position and backfilling the safety spot. Kovacs, though not the best athlete in the world, is probably the smartest player on the team. He always puts himeself in the right spot. He won’t be running down any backs from behind, but he’ll fill gaps and help the run defense. At this point, there’s no helping the pass defense, but if we let teams run all over us too, we aren’t going to stop anybody.
Most of the offenses Michigan faces the rest of the season are similar to Michigan State: traditional Big Ten offenses with power running games. Michigan has to be able to stop, or at least contain, the run if it’s going to have a chance to beat Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. Michigan State ran for 249 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry on Saturday. That, in my opinion, is the number one thing that needs to be fixed for the rest of the season.
Five games into the season, Michigan brings an unblemished record into its first true test of the year. In-state rival, Michigan State, is coming off a big upset win over then-No. 11 Wisconsin. The two meet tomorrow in Michigan Stadium with a lot on the line.
Michigan is looking to bring the Paul Bunyan Trophy back to Ann Arbor from its two-year vacation in East Lansing and give Rich Rodriguez his first win over Michigan’s two chief rivals, MSU and Ohio State.
Michigan State hopes to earn a third straight win over its big brother and take another crucial step towards a Big Ten championship. It doesn’t play Ohio State, so the only major test remaining would be at No. 15 Iowa on Oct. 30.
Something has to give and analysts and fans alike will be looking to see if Denard Robinson can keep up his torrid start to the season. After racking up 1,913 yards in the first five games (more than 34 entire FBS teams), the only knock anyone can come up with so far has been that he hasn’t done it against a good defense. Saturday, he gets his first chance.
Michigan State enters with the nation’s 20th-ranked run defense, giving up just 101 yards per game. However, just like one can say that Robinson isn’t the real thing until he faces a good defense, the same argument could be made that Michigan State’s defense hasn’t yet faced Robinson.
In last week’s 34-25 win over Wisconsin, the Badgers’ run game wasn’t exactly shut down, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, sacks not included. While John Clay was held under 100 yards for the first time this season (17 carries for 80 yards), freshman James White ran 10 times for 98 yards (9.8 ypc) and two touchdowns.
Michigan gets Michael Shaw back from an injury that forced him to miss last week’s game and that could be big. Michigan State’s defense, led by linebacker Greg Jones, will be intent on keeping Robinson from beating them with his legs. Shaw, who has looked to be Michigan’s most dangerous back, could go off like White did last week.
The weakness of State’s defense is the secondary, which has given up an average of 227 yards per game and ranks 78th in the nation. Notre Dame shredded the Spartans through the air, racking up 369 yards and four touchdowns. By comparison, Michigan’s pass defense, which ranks dead last in the FBS, gave up 381 yards passing to Notre Dame, 95 of which came on one play.
If State’s defense focuses on forcing Robinson to beat it through the air, Michigan’s talented receiving corps will go wild. It seems as if a different Wolverine receiver has stepped up in each game, and all are competent enough to keep defenses from crowding the line.
Against Notre Dame, Martavious Odoms caught seven passes for 91 yards and Roy Roundtree caught eight passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. The next week, against UMass, it was Darryl Stonum who stepped up, catching three passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Against Bowling Green, Roundtree caught nine passes for 118 yards. Last week, against Indiana, Roundtree again had a big game with five catches for 126 yards and a touchdown, and Junior Hemingway broke out with three catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.
With that many guys to cover, it may be tough for a shaky secondary to handle. Robinson will focus on the slants and screens that have been his go-to plays when he’s not blazing into the end zone himself, but if he’s throwing accurate deep balls, which he has this season, but not last week, expect some big plays.
Defensively, Michigan will give up some points. I should just copy and paste that phrase into each post since it seems to be the theme of the season. Opponents have averaged 25.2 points per game so far and Indiana racked up nearly 500 yards passing last week.
Fortunately, Michigan State’s passing game, led by junior Kirk Cousins, isn’t quite as dangerous as Indiana’s. That’s not to say he won’t rack up some yards though. Cousins has been efficient so far this season, completing 68 percent of his passes for 1,132 yards and nine touchdowns against four interceptions.
Last week against Wisconsin, Cousins completed 20-of-29 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns. He was also picked off twice.
The running game is a good one with the two-headed monster of Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell. Each is averaging over seven yards per carry this season, and the two have combined for 12 rushing touchdowns.
One thing that stands out to me is the 11 sacks that the Spartans have given up. That’s just over two per game. Michigan’s defense has only recorded seven sacks so far, but the strength of the defense is the line of Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, and Greg Banks. Five of those seven sacks have come in the past two weeks and with State expected to try to take advantage of Michigan’s weak secondary, look for the line to get some pressure on Cousins.
1. Michael Shaw runs for near 100 yards and scores two touchdowns
2. Denard Robinson passes for over 250 yards
3. Michigan’s defense gets four combined sacks and turnovers
Overall, I see this game as being very similar to both the Notre Dame and Indiana games. High-scoring, back-and-forth, not much defense. State’s defense may slow down Robinson stat-wise this week, but Michigan’s other playmakers will step up and the offense will keep rolling. The defense only needs a couple of stops in this one to get the offense ahead.
Michigan wins at home 37-33.
From Their View…
The State News declares Michigan’s dominance over, while overlooking the fact that the past two years have given State a whopping 30 wins over Michigan in the rivalry. Oh yeah, Michigan has won 67 times. As if you needed any more evidence that State isn’t exactly Harvard (or Michigan), apparently the math goes like this: 30 > 67.
Michigan passed the non-conference test with flying colors the past four weeks and travels to Indiana tomorrow looking to kick off the Big Ten schedule in the same fashion.
Indiana also enters the matchup undefeated, although the quality of the opponents is hardly anything to write home about.
According to the Sagarin Ratings, the highest rated opponent IU has played so far was No. 144 Western Kentucky, which is 0-4. The other two opponents were Akron (0-4, No. 175) and Towson, an FCS school, and not even a good one (1-3, No. 195).
Against those three, the Hoosiers have averaged 41.3 points per game and 304.3 passing yards per game, which ranks 11th in the nation.
On paper, it would seem they are a legitimate threat to upset Michigan in Memorial Stadium on Saturday, but when you look at their rush defense, it tells a different story.
It ranks 92nd in FBS, surrendering an average of 177 yards per game to teams that are a combined 1-11. Only 14 teams in the nation allow more yards per carry than Indiana (5.16).
Michigan features the nation’s second-best rushing offense, averaging a whopping 331.3 yards per game (6.63 yards per carry), meaning it could be another Playstation-like offensive performance for Denard Robinson and company.
Only Air Force averages more yards on the ground per game (394) and only TCU has scored more rushing touchdowns (18) than Michigan’s 17.
On the opening weekend of the season, Towson running back Chris Hart rushed for 123 yards on 16 carries against the Hoosiers. The next three weeks combined, he was held to a total of 146 by Coastal Carolina, Villanova, and Columbia.
Needless to say, expect Michigan to run a lot, not that that’s much of a surprise, given the way the running game has dominated with Robinson leading the charge.
Robinson is the nation’s leading rusher, with 60 yards more than Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas. Michael Shaw has emerged as Michigan’s go-to running back, and ranks 91st in the nation in rushing with just over 61 yards per game, but probably won’t play on Saturday due to a knee injury.
Expect Vincent Smith to carry much of the load and Fitzgerald Toussaint, if healthy, to get some carries as well. If not Michael Cox will probably split the carries with Smith.
That said, Michigan is going to have to get some stops defensively against a good passing offense, one that it had trouble stopping a year ago.
Senior quarterback Ben Chappell comes in as the nation’s sixth best passer in terms of efficiency, having completed 72 percent of his passes for 890 yards, nine touchdowns, and no interceptions. Again, that’s against a trio of teams that are a combined 1-11 and giving up an average of 41 points per game, but impressive nonetheless.
Five receivers have over 100 yards each so far this season, with 6’5” Demarlo Belcher leading the way with 284 yards and two touchdowns. He could be a matchup problem for Michigan corners J.T. Floyd and James Rogers.
The running game hasn’t been great, but sophomore running back Darius Willis gashed Michigan for 154 yards and two touchdowns a year ago on just 16 carries.
What to watch for:
–The health of Denard Robinson. By now, everybody knows that Robinson has had to miss plays in three of Michigan’s four games so far due to injury. Against UConn and Notre Dame, he was only out a couple of plays, but last week, he sat out the remainder of the game.
Rich Rodriguez said he could have gone back in had he been needed, but with a 21-0 lead at that point, the wise choice was to let him rest and heal.
Provided he doesn’t get knocked out of this game, Robinson should have a field day and continue to pad his Heisman numbers.
Over/Under – 149 rushing yards. I think he goes well beyond because of the week IU rush defense, even though he won’t get the number of carries he got in the first couple of games.
–The corners covering Belcher and Tandon Doss. In last year’s meeting, it was Doss who Michigan couldn’t cover. He racked up 104 yards on just five catches. Doss is still around, and the emergence of Belcher means Michigan’s young and thin secondary will have its hands full.
Over/Under – 3 touchdown receptions for Belcher and Doss. I’ll go under on this one, and here’s why: Indiana has a tight end. Freshman Ted Bolser leads the team in touchdown receptions with four. Michigan has done fairly well covering receivers this season, but has had trouble covering tight ends, giving up a 95-yard touchdown to Notre Dame’s Kyle Rudolph.
–The defense forcing turnovers. While Michigan’s defense has received a fair amount of ridicule for giving up big plays and being the weakness of the team, it has been opportunistic with turnovers. Six interceptions and two fumbles have Michigan at a plus-four turnover differential.
Chappell hasn’t thrown an interception yet this season (again, consider the opposition) and IU has only fumbled once. That’s pretty darn good ball possession no matter who you’re playing against.
Over/Under – 1.5 turnovers forced. I’ll go with over. The Hoosiers’ offensive line features three returning starters from last year, but it’s relatively young. It’s only allowed two sacks so far, but without a proven running game, Michigan’s defensive line should be able to put some pressure on Chappell.
I really think Michigan can put up a lot of points in this one, but will also give up more than it would like to. It may start out as a shootout, but Michigan’s ball possession and running game will keep the ball away from Chappell and Michigan pulls away in the second half.
Michigan 51 – Indiana 31
From Their View…
The Indiana Daily Student claims that IU fans actually care about their football team this year and also says the Hoosiers are just taking this week as business as usual. What, Michigan’s coming? Oh, ho hum. The Crimson Quarry details the Hoosiers’ inglorious history against UM.
In what would have been situation of near panic for most teams, the genius of Rich Rodriguez’s system shone bright. After racking up nearly 200 yards of total offense and a 14-0 lead in the first eight minutes, Denard Robinson went down with a knee injury. Instead of going into a shell of the offense, backups Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner didn’t miss a beat, leading seven touchdown drives as Michigan pummeled Bowling Green 65-21.
Just like that it became apparent that Michigan is set at the quarterback position for the next few years and Rodriguez needed only to get his type of players into his system in order to succeed.
It was a stark contrast to both the team on the other side of the field and Rodriguez’s first couple of years at Michigan.
Bowling Green’s starting quarterback Matt Schilz suffered a shoulder injury in last week’s win over Marshall leaving redshirt sophomore Aaron Pankratz to make the first start of his career. He proved ineffective even against a Michigan defense that entered the game on pace to become the worst in school history statistically.
Michigan sacked Pankratz three times and forced two turnovers, limiting the Bowling Green offense to 283 total yards, 71 of which came on one busted play in the second quarter.
Two years ago, it was Rodriguez who found himself in a quarterback quandary with two quarterbacks that had no experience, one a walk-on, and neither of which suited for his system.
While the offense struggled to put together drives and score points and Michigan fans bemoaned the program’s worst season in 40 years, Rodriguez supporters insisted that he needed to be given time to recruit his guys.
Last season, the offense showed a glimpse of what was possible with Forcier, then a true freshman, leading Michigan to a 4-0 start, including a thrilling come-from-behind win over Notre Dame. Robinson, who didn’t enroll in the spring like Forcier did, provided highlights with his legs but had virtually no grasp of the offense.
Now, as sophomores, and Robinson firmly entrenched as the starter, Michigan has again raced out to a 4-0 start, boasting one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the entire nation.
Robinson has rushed for over 100 yards in all four games, leading the nation in rushing, but has also proven he can be an efficient passer. He currently ranks 18th in passing efficiency, right in between Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick.
|Offensive stats through four games|
|13/54 (57%)||Third-Down Conv.||25/58 (43%)|
|18/19 (95%)||Red Zone Scoring||11/15 (73%)|
|*2 other turnovers were fumbles on a INT returns,|
|so they don’t count towards offensive stats|
He’s certainly the electricity that fuels the dynamic Michigan offense, but in moments like this past Saturday, having a proven starter as the backup allows the offense to keep firing on all cylinders despite a flat tire.
When Gardner, a true freshman, gets added to the mix, one can see how Michigan has perhaps the best corps of quarterbacks in the country. Many believe Gardner to have the most potential of the three, and he has been the first off the bench each time Robinson has been forced out of the game.
His knowledge of the offense is akin to that of Robinson’s last season, but his physical talent and size make Gardner an imposing threat. On Saturday, he showed his passing ability, connecting on 7-of-10 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Hidden in those stats is a beautiful deep ball that would have been a 47-yard touchdown pass had Junior Hemingway not developed a case of alligator arms.
Forcier, meanwhile, set a Michigan record for most passes without an incompeltion, connecting on all 12 of his passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.
All together, the trio went 23-for-26 for 255 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 15 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns.
While it’s easy to look at the opponent and say, “Well, it’s just Bowling Green,” consider that the last time Michigan put up offense like that against an FBS team was in 1986.
Michigan plays MAC schools nearly every season and the next closest results were a 59-20 beating of Eastern Michigan in 1998 and 55-0 in 2005. Those teams were led by quarterbacks you may have heard of: Tom Brady and Chad Henne.
As electric as Robinson is, the offense was just as effective without him for 52 minutes on Saturday, while in Columbus, fellow Heisman candidate Terrelle Pryor played all but 16 minutes of his team’s 73-20 win over Eastern Michigan.
Imagine the kind of stats Robinson would have put up had he played another two-plus quarters against Bowling Green.
Despite the initial scare when Robinson got his knee checked out on the sideline, he was cleared to play and could have gone back in had he been needed. Instead, Rodriguez made the right choice to keep him healthy heading into Big Ten play and give Forcier and Gardner some valuable playing time.
Denard is the current front-runner for the Heisman, but he has selflessly embodied Bo Schembechler’s “the team” mindset. By putting the team first, Robinson earned his starting spot, and even though he wasn’t needed for most of the game last Saturday, he’ll be the fuel that keeps the engine running as Michigan travels to Indiana to open the conference schedule this Saturday.
Yes, we have little receivers. Get used to it
When are refs going to realize that just because our receivers are small and required to run block in Rodriguez’s system, it doesn’t mean they’re committing penalties all the time?
Maybe the refs aren’t used to seeing little guys blocking out in the open field, or maybe the defensive backs and linebackers have to get so low to approach them that it looks like it’s illegal, but when Martavious Odoms was called for a personal foul block below the waist in the second quarter, he literally hit the guy in the chest.
It was the second or third time this season a receiver has been called for the penalty when it wasn’t even close. That’s not even a penalty like holding that could be called on every play, or pass interference that is largely subjective. It’s not hard to tell if a guy hits another guy in the chest versus the legs.
If the game would have been three quarters long instead of four, I would have been close. But I’m glad it wasn’t, since it gave us a chance to see the debut of Fitzgerald Toussaint, in which he rumbled 61 yards to set up his own 5-yard touchdown run.
I ended up 17 over on offense and just two over on defense, leaving me 26 to 20 over on offense and defense, respectively for the season.
I Said What?
“While Michigan’s offense has looked virtually unstoppable so far this season, it will be that much better with a proven back to take the pressure off of Robinson. Hopefully Shaw continues to emerge as that back, and I think he will.
Over/Under – 99 Rushing yards for Shaw. I’ll take the over. Marshall’s Andre Booker ran for 126 last week against Bowling Green.”
Shaw didn’t really need to do much on Saturday. He carried the ball 12 times for 59 yards and a touchdown, but that only accounted for 21 percent of Michigan’s carries. Counting the three quarterbacks, nine different Wolverines rushed the ball against BG.
Shaw didn’t get over 99 yards, so I was wrong (-1), but he certainly didn’t do anything to warrant losing his spot as the top back.
“Over/Under – 2.5 sacks. I’ll take the over again. Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Greg Banks, and Craig Roh have to be licking their chops right now and hope to use this game as a springboard for the rest of the season.”
I was dead on with this prediction as Michigan recorded three sacks. Jonas Mouton, Ryan Van Bergen and Greg Banks each got to Pankratz, besting the total number of sacks Michigan had in the first three games combined. (+1)
“Gardner seems to have passed Forcier on the depth chart, and Rodriguez would love to get him some live reps. On the other hand, Forcier has a year of starting experience under his belt and hasn’t sniffed the field yet this season. Rodriguez would probably like to get him out there as well.
My bet is that Gardner gets at least a few drives to show what he can do and Forcier becomes the Darco Milicic human victory cigar late in the fourth quarter.”
Well, Gardner was the first to relieve Robinson, but Forcier was anything but Darco Milicic and I’m rather embarrassed for even suggesting he would be.
Forcier is a very important piece of this team and I have a much greater respect for the kid after his performance on Saturday and the press conference afterward. He basically said he loves Michigan, he loves Rodriguez, and he’s all in. (-1)
“Over/Under – 49 rushing yards for Devin Gardner. Once more, I’ll go with the over. Of course, this all depends on the first-team offense playing well enough to yield playing time, but my guess is that Gardner will get three or four possessions. The game should be well in hand by then, so Gardner won’t be passing much. I could see him breaking one long run.”
Gardner did show his passing skills but only made it halfway to the rushing yards I predicted, so I was wrong. He has certainly shown his talent, but has missed some reads and seems to get tackled much easier than Robinson does. He’s just a true freshman though, so there’s a long way to go. (-1)
“Michigan puts it away early in the second quarter. The offense will be firing on all cylinders and the defense will force some turnovers. Bowling Green won’t have enough firepower to keep up and Michigan’s backups will finally get a chance to play.”
Well, that about sums it up. It was basically put away in the first eight minutes, but BG fought back before it was officially put away with Shaw’s touchdown run just before the half. (+1)