Posts Tagged ‘Mike Hart’
For the past three years, we have all watched Denard Robinson run up and down the field, leading the Maize and Blue as he set our hearts ablaze. From his first snap against Western Michigan to his to his three-year domination of Notre Dame to his clutch five touchdown performance to end Ohio State’s winning streak, the man they call Shoelace has littered the Michigan record books. He stands poised to finish in the top five in pretty much every rushing and passing category in Michigan history, so he will reach certain milestones throughout the season. A few other Wolverines can make their mark in the record book as well, so let’s take a look at all of the career records that may be set this year, project when during the season they might occur, as well as where the player will likely finish.
|1. Mike Hart||1,015||1. Mike Hart||5,040||1. Anthony Thomas||55||1. Mike Hart||28|
|2. Anthony Thomas||924||2. Anthony Thomas||4,472||2. Tyrone Wheatley||47||2. Anthony Thomas||22|
|3. Chris Perry||811||3. Jamie Morris||4,393||3. Mike Hart||41||3. Tyrone Wheatley||20|
|4. Jamie Morris||809||4. Tyrone Wheatley||4,178||4. Chris Perry||39||4. Jamie Morris||18|
|5. Butch Woolfolk||718||5. Butch Woolfolk||3,861||5. Denard Robinson||35||5. Butch Woolfolk||16|
|6. Tyrone Wheatley||688||6. Chris Perry||3,696||6. Rick Leach||34||6. Rob Lytle||15|
|7. Billy Talyor||587||7. Rob Lytle||3,317||7. Steve Smith||31||7. Denard Robinson||14|
|8. Rob Lytle||557||8. Denard Robinson||3,229||8. Billy Taylor||30||8. Billy Taylor||13|
|9. Denard Robinson||546||9. Billy Taylor||3,072||8. Tom Harmon||30||8. Gordon Bell||13|
|10. Lawrence Ricks||541||10. Gordon Bell||2,900||10. Butch Woolfolk||29||8. Tim Biakabatuka||13|
Attempts: In his rookie campaign, Denard carried the ball just 69 times, but in the last two, he has averaged 238 per season. Last year was 221, or an average of 17 per game. I would expect that to fall slightly with the emergence of Fitz Toussaint (depending on how long Brady Hoke keeps him out) as a true running threat. Let’s say his average falls by one carry per game. He’ll finish with 754 career carries, which would put him in 5th behind Jamie Morris and ahead of Butch Woolfolk. Projected finish: 5th
Yards: It’s hard to imagine that Denard ran for just 351 yards in 2009, but he burst onto the scene with 1,702 in 2010, his first season as a starter. Last year, that total dropped along with his carries due to Toussaint’s emergence, but he still broke the 1,000-yard mark with 1,176. Like attempts, his yards will likely drop slightly again this year and be around the 950-1,050 mark. Even 950 would put him just past Tyrone Wheatley into 4th place all-time. He would need 1,164 to pass Jamie Morris for 3rd and 1,243 to pass Anthony Thomas for 2nd. That’s as high as he could conceivably reach.
So when could we see him move up the ranks? There’s a chance he could pass Rob Lytle on Saturday, but it would take a monumental effort against an Alabama defense that allowed just one runner, Georgia Southern freshman running back Dominique Swope (153), to gain that much last season. Denard will surely pass Lytle by Week 2 against an Air Force defense that Michigan should run all over. He should pass Chris Perry by Week 5 against Purdue or Week 6 against Illinois, and then cruise by Butch Woolfolk around Week 9 against Minnesota. Projected finish: 4th
Touchdowns: With 30 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons, including a career high 16 last year, Denard is already in the top five in Michigan history. There’s a slight chance he could move into first place, but 20 rushing touchdowns is a very tall order. It’s more likely that he’ll reach 2nd with at least 12 this season. He should pass Chris Perry in the first two or three weeks and then Mike Hart by mid-season before closing in on Tyrone Wheatley. Projected finish: 2nd
100-yard Games: In 2010, Denard ran for at least 100 yards in nine of Michigan’s 13 games, missing Jamie Morris’ 1987 single-season mark by one. Last year, he had five. It’s likely that the farthest he will climb is 4th, but there’s a chance he could reach Wheatley with six more 100-yard games. If I had to bet, I would say Air Force, UMass, Notre Dame, and Minnesota are the most likely 100-yard games with a couple others possible. But a lot of it has to do with how quickly Toussaint is reinstated as well. Projected finish: 4th
There are several other rushing categories he could move up in aside from the main ones listed above:
• He has averaged 5.91 yards per rush and could potentially pass Biakabutuka and Lytle for 3rd all-time.
• He’s currently in a four-way tie for 4th in career 150-yards rushing games with Taylor, Woolfolk, and Wheatley. One more and he’ll move into a tie for 3rd with Morris. Two more and he’ll tie Thomas for 2nd.
• Denard needs two more games of 200 yards rushing to tie Hart for 1st, although with just three in his career, it’s unlikely.
|1. Chad Henne||1,387||1. Chad Henne||828||1. Chad Henne||9,715||1. Chad Henne||87|
|2. John Navarre||1,366||2. John Navarre||765||2. John Navarre||9,254||2. John Navarre||72|
|3. Elvis Grbac||835||3. Elvis Grbac||522||3. Elvis Grbac||6,460||3. Elvis Grbac||71|
|4. Todd Collins||711||4. Todd Collins||457||4. Todd Collins||5,858||4. Rick Leach||48|
|4. Tom Brady||711||5. Tom Brady||443||5. Jim Harbaugh||5,449||5. Steve Smith||42|
|6. Steve Smith||648||6. Jim Harbaugh||387||6. Tom Brady||5,351||6. Denard Robinson||40|
|7. Jim Harbaugh||620||7. Brian Griese||355||7. Denard Robinson||4,931||7. Todd Collins||37|
|8. Brian Griese||606||8. Denard Robinson||338||8. Steve Smith||4,860||8. Tom Brady||35|
|9. Denard Robinson||580||9. Steve Smith||324||9. Brian Griese||4,383||9. Brian Griese||33|
|10. Rick Leach||537||10. Rick Leach||250||10. Rick Leach||4,284||10. Jim Harbaugh||31|
Attempts: Denard has averaged 274 attempts per season as a starter, although he threw 33 fewer passes last season than he did in 2010. I expect this year to be somewhere in between, around the 275 mark, which would move him into 3rd place behind Chad Henne and John Navarre. The numbers of those two across the board won’t be challenged. Denard may pass Brian Griese on Saturday, though he threw 26 or more passes just twice all last season and three times in 2010. He should move past Todd Collins by midseason and near Elvis Grbac by season’s end. Projected finish: 3rd
Completions: In the last two years, Denard has averaged 162 completions per season. Last year, he completed just 142 passes and I expect that to rise this year along with his completion percentage. Around 175 completions is likely and that would move him into 4th place, ahead of Collins and just behind Grbac. He may reach Grbac, but won’t even sniff Navarre or Henne. He needs 18 completions to move up one spot and pass Griese, but the most he completed in a single game last season was 17. That’s probably unlikely against Alabama’s defense. Projected finish: 4th
Yards: With an average of 2,371 passing yards the past two seasons, I expect that to be about the mark this year. Let’s say an even 2,400. If he does so, he will easily occupy the 3rd spot in Michigan history. The next person on the list to pass is Tom Brady, but it’s not going to happen in Week 1. It will likely happen against Air Force, and then he’ll pass Harbaugh shortly thereafter. Collins should be passed by midseason and then Grbac late in the year. Projected finish: 3rd
Touchdowns: Denard is already 6th in the record books in career touchdown passes and needs just two more to move into a tie with Steve Smith for 5th. That could happen on Saturday. Last season, he threw 20 and the year before that he thew 18. Twenty is probably a realistic number this year and if that happens, he’ll finish 4th behind Henne, Navarre, and Grbac. There’s a big gap between 4th and 3rd and I think it’s too much to ask for. Projected finish: 4th
There are several other passing categories that he could finish highly in aside from the main ones listed above.
• He’s currently 8th in career completion percentage (58.3) and could move as high as 5th with a great season.
• He’s currently 5th in efficiency rating (142.1) and could jump another spot or two as well.
• With three more 150-yard passing games, he will jump up to 4th, and with six he could move into a tie for 3rd with Grbac and Collins.
• With four 200-yard passing games, he will jump Harbaugh for 5th. He needs five to tie Collins for 4th and six to reach Brady for 3rd.
• As a toast to Brett Favre, he will likely also finish his career with the dubious honor of most interceptions thrown. He’s currently 6th and needs just eight more to pass Henne for the top (or is it bottom?) spot.
|Total Yards Gained||Big Ten QB Rush Yds||Tackles||Field Goals Made|
|1. Chad Henne||9,300||1. Antwaan Randle-El||3,895||1. Ron Simpkins||516||1. Garrett Rivas||64|
|2. John Navarre||9,031||2. Denard Robinson||3,229||2. Jarrett Irons||440||2. Remy Hamilton||63|
|3. Denard Robinson||8,160||3. Juice Williams||2,557||3. Erick Anderson||428||3. Mike Gillette||57|
|4. Steve Smith||6,554||4. Paul Girgash||414||4. J.D. Carlson||39|
|5. Rick Leach||6,460||5. Mike Mallory||396||5. Ali Haji-Sheikh||31|
|6. Elvis Grbac||6,221||6. Andy Cannavino||385||6. Bob Bergeron||29|
|7. Jim Harbaugh||5,745||7. Calvin O’Neal||378||7. Hayden Epstein||26|
|8. Todd Collins||5,702||8. Sam Sword||377||8. Mike Lantry||21|
|9. Tom Brady||5,180||9. Mike Boren||369||9. K.C. Lopata||21|
|10. Anthony Thomas||4,472||15. Jordan Kovacs||266||15. Brendan Gibbons||14|
Denard shouldn’t have any trouble passing Henne for most career yards gained and Antwaan Randle-El for the Big Ten career rushing yards by a quarterback.
Safety Jordan Kovacs is currently 15th on Michigan’s career tackles list with 266. He would need 95 to pass Steve Morrison and move into the top 10. Another nine would allow him to pass Mike Boren for 9th. If he matches his career high of 116 which was set in 2010, he would move up to 7th. An interesting note is that every guy in the top 10 was a linebacker so Kovacs would be the first safety to reach that point.
Kicker Brendan Gibbons is also 15th on Michigan’s career field goals made list with 14. Thirteen of those came last season and if he can match that this year, he’ll move into 7th on the career list, just ahead of Hayden Epstein. As just a junior this season, he has a chance to move into the top three or four by the time his career is up. Who would have thought that after his freshman season?
As you can see, there are a lot of milestones to be reached this season, mostly by Denard Robinson. Stay tuned to Maize and Go Blue each week as we will keep you updated on his progress. It’s fun to see him pass some of the all-time greats in Michigan history week in and week out.
Last week, I was just a point away in my prediction. In fact, I was secretly hoping Brandon Gibbons would miss the extra point after the final touchdown so my prediction would be right (also because in espn.com’s Streak for the Cash, I picked that there would be a missed field goal or extra point in the second half). Sorry Brandon. I was wrong on both accounts, but am still excited that I win the DVD box set of Are You Afraid of the Dark? and a box of Lucky Charms in honor of our little green weeping leprechaun friends down in South Bend.
This week, Michigan hosts Eastern Michigan and we all get to take a deep breath and recover from the near heartbreak last Saturday. We at Maize and Go Blue will be battling for a Mike Hart football card and The Eagles Hell Freezes Over DVD because, you know, that’s about the only time Eastern will have a chance to beat Michigan.
Justin: Michigan has to guard against an emotional let down after last week’s thrilling come-from-behind win over hated Notre Dame. It’s the first early kickoff of the season so expect the Wolverines to get off to a slow start. After that, I don’t foresee it being much of a game. EMU is certainly improved with a solid rushing attack, but Michigan will stack the box to force a less than stellar passing game to beat it through the air. Eastern will get some yards and points, but won’t be able to keep up with Michigan.
Michigan 45 – Eastern Michigan 20
Matt: Many Michigan fans are taking the Eastern Michigan game lightly. And although I do believe Michigan will gain the victory Saturday afternoon, I don’t want to look at it as a gimme.
I think that in this game, Michigan’s defense still may struggle a bit, something that us Michigan fans need to be ready for this season, but I think they will get the job done. Denard will have over 100 yards rushing and many more passing. I also am hoping to see Fitzgerald Toussaint back at running back.
Eastern Michigan may take the lead in the game, but the only way I see that happening is if they get the ball first and score. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little bit of a back and forth game, at least for a couple of quarters.
Michigan 41 – Eastern Michigan 27
Josh: EMU features a “potent” rushing attack led by Javonti Greene (36 for 266) and Dominique Sherrer (30 for 231). Both boast over 7 ypc. It’s safe to say that with a whopping 176 yards passing in two games that EMU is all about the ground game.
While they bowled over Howard in their season opener 41-9, they struggled last week against Alabama St., winning a close 14-7 game. Now, having only looked at the stats and not seen the actual game, I can only speak speculatively about their team. Neither opponent put up many yards against them. Howard managed 201 in a balanced attack (105 passing, 96 rushing) and Alabama St. put up 223, mostly in the air as they were held to -13 yards rushing. In both games EMU rushed for well over 300 yards.
Much like Michigan a year ago in the early going, it’s hard to accurately tell how good EMU’s rushing attack really is, having only played lower level teams. That said, it is clear that they have some outstanding running backs and will look to get them a lot of touches (66 between Sherrer and Greene and 90 overall in two games).
Michigan’s weakness has been on the defensive line, against the other directional team (Western Mich.) when they couldn’t generate a decent pass rush, sans the blitzes, and they struggled against the run as well. EMU probably won’t be as good as WMU but they should still look to exploit the Michigan front seven. But with a one-dimensional offense it won’t be too hard for Mattison to cook up something to shut down the run and force them to pass. Normally that would worry me but this is Michigan (I can’t get enough of that Hoke quote!). We have far superior athletes than EMU and it shouldn’t take too much effort to stop their passing game.
Denard shouldn’t have any problems running or passing all over EMU and the game should be well in hand by the third quarter, opening up some playing time for Devin Gardner and perhaps some of the much ballyhooed frosh backs, Hayes and Rawls. This should be a good confidence booster for the Wolverines before Hoke’s old team, San Diego St., comes to town in what should be a very tough fought battle next week.
Michigan wins a “nail biter.”
Michigan 56 – Eastern Michigan 7
Chris: After last week’s last second win against Notre Dame, the guys in Ann Arbor probably had a good week of practice, all the while thinking back on how good it felt to beat one of their hated rivals with a fourth quarter comeback in the first night game ever played at Michigan Stadium.
This leads me to believe that Michigan will start the game on Saturday vs. EMU a little sluggish. EMU has 13 returning starters and is in the third year of Head Coach Ron English’s (former UM assistant coach) system (generally, team’s are much better in a head coach’s third year). Plus, the game is a noon kickoff, which may feel early compared to last week’s 8pm kickoff. The game will be close early on, but the struggles for Michigan will end halfway through the second quarter and the Wolverines will take control of the game.
Michigan 38 – Eastern Michigan 14
In case you forgot, or have been living in a cave, Michigan won in thrilling fashion last week, scoring two touchdowns in the final 1:13 to beat Notre Dame for the third straight year. It already feels like Brady Hoke has been at Michigan forever, but in reality, it’s been two games, and what a crazy two games they have been.
It’s basically unquantifiable, but I wonder what the most interesting first couple of games to start a career at a school is. Hoke’s start has to rank up there pretty high, starting off with the first non-full game full game in Michigan history and then the fourth quarter magic in the first ever night game in Michigan Stadium.
This week, Hoke hits a milestone with his 100th game as a head coach, but he’s probably ready to settle down into a typical Michigan football groove with a classic Mid-American Conference spanking. Eastern Michigan makes the 11-mile drive from Ypsilanti, and for the first time since 1989, is off to a 2-0 start.
Hoke isn’t taking Eastern lightly, however: “You can tell Ron [English]‘s done a great job in his footprint on that program…If you look at 331 yards per game, I don’t care who you’re rushing the ball, if you’re averaging that, that’s pretty significant,” Hoke said Wednesday. “There’s a number of guys that have spent time here in Ann Arbor on that staff who are very good coaches, and guys who understand and have a philosophy on how you play the game of football. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Coach speak? Yes. But Hoke’s the type of coach to instill the “don’t overlook an opponent” mentality into his team. Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare.
There’s really no comparison at this position. EMU’s junior quarterback, Alex Gillett, is a second-year starter who completed just 55 percent of his passes a year ago for 1,633 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also led the Eagles in rushing with 766 yards and five touchdowns on 4.3 yard per carry. Interestingly enough, Gillett began his career against Michigan two years ago when he took over for injured Andy Schmitt midway through the game and completed 2-of-4 passes for nine yards and rushed for 40 yards.
So far this season, he has been below average, completing 47.5 percent for 176 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. He has, however, rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Comparatively, Denard Robinson had a better fourth quarter last week than Gillett has had in two games. At this point, Robinson is behind last year’s pace, having just a 54 percent completion rate for 436 yards, 4 touchdowns and three interceptions, while rushing for 154 yards and a touchdown. Despite his struggles in the passing game, he’s still the most explosive player on the field.
Eastern brings the nation’s fifth-best rush offense into Ann Arbor, coached by former Michigan running back Mike Hart. It will be a bitter-sweet day for Hart, returning to his old stomping grounds but coaching against his Alma mater. He has a pair of talented backs at his disposal with Javonti Greenes and Dominique Sherrer. Greene is averaging 7.4 yard per carry and 133 yards per game, while Sherrer is averaging 7.7 and 116.
Green is the more explosive of the two, but both are equally dangerous, and with Hart coaching them up, they cannot be underestimated.
Michigan missed Fitzgerald Toussaint last week against Notre Dame. The sophomore was out with an injury and it showed as Michigan failed to get anything going on the ground. Hoke said Wednesday that Fitz should be back and Michigan needs him to prove he can be a feature back that opposing defenses have to respect. None of the other backs stepped up last week, combining for just 10 yards on eight carries.
Edge: Eastern Michigan
Receivers and Tight Ends:
The leading receiver for the Eagles so far this season is Nick Olds, who has caught five passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. He and junior tight end Garrett Hoskins are both good sized targets, but the EMU pass offense ranks 117th out of 120 in FBS.
Michigan has plenty of targets who, whether last week was a mirage or not, showed they can go up and get the ball. Junior Hemingway is the obvious go-to guy this year, but Michigan isn’t lacking for play-makers at the position.
Eastern’s line has been good enough to pave the way for 331 rushing yards per game so far this season. Standard cupcake disclaimer applies, as those two games were against Howard and FCS school Alabama State, but it’s still impressive. The unit has allowed three sacks so far, which isn’t bad either.
Michigan’s line got manhandled by Notre Dame’s defensive front last week. It wasn’t able to get any push up front to allow the backs any running room. However, Notre Dame’s front seven is a talented bunch and made it clear from the onset that it was going to stack the box and force Robinson to beat it with his arm. The UM offensive line is still more talented than EMU and that will show on Saturday.
The Eagles have been able to get to the quarterback through the first two games, recording 10 sacks, which is good for fifth nationally. Senior lineman Brad Ohrman has recorded two-and-a-half of those.
Michigan’s line has been average so far. It gave up just 96 rushing yards to Western Michigan in Week 1 (in three quarters), but allowed Notre Dame to gain 198 on six yards per carry. It hasn’t been able to consistently pressure the quarterback, with the exception of freshman Jake Ryan, although he has been rushing from both the linebacker and end spot. Like the offensive lines, Michigan still has the more talented of the two teams’ units
Eastern has a couple of solid linebackers in Marcus English and junior college transfer Justin Cudworth. Cudworth leads the team in tackles with 19, while English is second with 13. They each also have 3.5 tackles for loss, and English has a sack.
Michigan’s linebackers have been hit-or-miss. With Kenny Demens and Brandon Herron (who didn’t play against ND), you have to take the good with the bad at this point. Cam Gordon may be back this week, but may not have the stamina to play much yet. It will help the unit when he returns. Jake Ryan, as mentioned above, has been a surprise. He’s been able to get some pressure and make plays, but has also had his share of struggles.
The EMU secondary features a couple of BCS conference transfers in former UCLA transfer Marlon Pollard and Louisville transfer Latarrious Thomas. As a unit, the Eagles secondary is allowing just 170 passing yards per game (again, Howard and Alabama State).
Michigan’s secondary got torched by Michael Floyd et al. last week, but that’s likely the best passing offense it will face all season. Senior Troy Woolfolk continues to get banged up and J.T. Floyd and Courtney Avery are struggling. The safety play has been the most consistent so far with Jordan Kovacs as the big playmaker and Thomas Gordon not giving up the big play.
Sophomore kicker Kody Fulkerson has connected on 2-of-3 field goals so far, with a long of 45, and 7-of-7 extra points. Punter Jay Karutz is averaging just 34.3 yards per punt (92nd nationally). The returnmen are pretty good. Sherrer handles kick return duties and is averaging 29.3 yards per, which would rank in the top 15 nationally.
Michigan is still yet to try a field goal, and freshman punter Matt Wile is averaging 35.6 yards per punt. The return game hasn’t done much so far with a long return of 21 on a punt and 25 on a kickoff.
What I am worried about is the kick coverage. While it may not come back to haunt the Wolverines this game, it will eventually. Opponents are averaging 23.1 yards per return and have nearly broken a couple.
EMU is coached by former Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English. He’s in his third year there and is slowly turning the program around. The Eagles are 2-0 for the first time since 1989.
Hoke knows all about turning programs around and has a similar career path as English, although a much quicker rise. Both served as assistants under Lloyd Carr, but Hoke has been a head coach since 2003.
Michigan has to guard against an emotional let down after the thrilling last-second win over Notre Dame under the lights last week. Hoke is even-keeled enough to keep that from happening. Eastern will be pumped up, off to its best start in more than two decades, and coached by former Michigan players and coaches. Still, it’s in the Big House, and EMU hasn’t played a substantial opponent yet.
Michigan may get off to a slow start, but expect to see a lot of runs. After last week’s running game debacle, Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges will want to work on the running game, keep the playbook as simple as possible, and cruise to victory.
Defensively, Michigan will have its hands full with the EMU rush offense. Look for Mattison to stack up to stop the run and force Gillett to throw the ball. Expect a couple of interceptions as a result. The Eagles will probably still get some yards, but won’t be able to keep pace with Michigan.
Prediction: Michigan 45 – Eastern Michigan 20
Good to Know:
Michigan is 9-0 all-time against Eastern Michigan, having outscored the Eagles 296-59
Michigan has won 11 straight September games
Michigan is plus-five in turnover margin so far this season. It was minus-32 combined over the past three seasons
Three former Wolverine players (Kurt Anderson, Mike Hart, and Steve Morrison) are on the Eagles coaching staff, as well as two former coaches (Ron English and Tom Burpee). In 2007, Hart rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns for the Wolverines against Eastern Michigan
Brady Hoke is 4-2 against Eastern Michigan.
Denard Robinson needs just four more completions to move into the top 10 all-time at Michigan. He also needs four more touchdown passes to tie Drew Henson for 11th. With 41 rushing yards, he will pass Tony Boles (1987-89) for 17th on the career rushing list, and with four more rushing touchdowns he will tie Tim Biakabatuka (1993-95) and Lawrence Ricks (1979-82) for 15th.
When Brady Hoke was named the new head coach at Michigan it was received with mixed feelings. When Hoke and the Wolverines took the field on Saturday it was safe to say that the Michigan faithful were all in for Hoke as he brought the traditional Michigan style back to the Big House.
Michigan won the toss and deferred to the second half. I’m always a fan of putting your defense out there first, but it’s been a while since Michigan has had a defense worth putting out there at all.
Being a passing team, Western Michigan came out tossing it around. Michigan looked okay, not playing out of position and missing assignments like the past few seasons, but still looked a bit shy. WMU marched down the field almost unimpeded. Carder completed every pass he threw; not all for large gains, but all were complete.
Western came out in multiple looks, but it was the five-wide set around the nine-minute mark that did the damage. Michigan had one guy covering two receivers and Carder hit his man. Were it not for a great effort by Courtney Avery it would have been a touchdown. Michigan held on 3rd-and-goal but WMU went for it on fourth and put it in the endzone to go up 7-0. Carder was 8-for-8 on a 15-play, 74-yard drive taking up just over seven minutes.
Michigan’s new look offense took the field at its own 24. On the first play, a designed Denard run, gained 11 yards and I couldn’t have been happier. Living amongst Buckeye fans and general naysayers, seeing Borges call a designed run showed he is going to use what he has, and what Denard has is electric feet. Denard’s first throw was not as spectacular, a 3-yard completion to Roy Roundtree.
The Bronco defense had good speed and didn’t look out of place, while Michigan’s offensive line did a solid job of opening holes for the runners, especially on yet another QB draw which led to a first down.
A great play action pass to Kevin Koger was, in my opinion, the best play of the drive. Denard stood back in the pocket looking poised and threw a strike to Koger, who made a great grab and came down with it while getting railed by the opposing defender. Facing a 4th-and-1, Michigan went for it with a power running play, Toussaint straight up the gut for the first down. While not a big gainer or a terribly exciting play, those of us who grew up watching guys like Tyrone Wheatley and Tim Biakabutuka or more recently Chris Perry and Mike Hart, had been starving for some power Michigan football.
Denard looked good in the pocket, not getting happy feet and making his progressions, although the word on the street is Borges has a 1, 2… run progression for Denard. Michigan ate up a fair amount of clock as well, and started the second quarter still in possession and still marching. Toussaint had the honor of scoring the first Michigan touchdown in the Hoke era on a short run up the middle. The drive went for 16 plays, 76 yards and took 8:33 off the clock.
On the kickoff return, Troy Woolfolk, who had a couple tackles and a big hit on the first series, came off the field limping. Not a good sign at all. Carvin Johnson replaced him and he did not return with a sprained ankle, though Hoke said after the game that he could have come back in if needed.
WMU’s next drive was about the same as its first: moving the ball down the field with short, quick passes. Michigan started to apply some pressure, and a Kenny Demens blitz up the middle forced Carder to get rid of it quickly and throw incomplete. WMU settled for a 38-yard field goal attempt but came up shy, missing it wide right. The Michigan defense seemed to be playing a “bend but don’t break” style. Not what I expected but it seemed to be working.
After a 3-and-out by Michigan, Western took over again and started marching down the field just as before. Michigan turned loose a blitz and Carder picked it up, just barely stepping out of Demens’ way, but sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan busted through the line to tip Carder’s pass. It fell into the hands of linebacker Brandon Herron who then took it 94 yards to the house for the longest interception return in Michigan history and the first since Donovan Warren did it in 2009.
For once, broadcaster Craig James said something worthwhile, if not completely obvious, that those are the kinds of plays this defense needs, especially early on, to gain confidence in itself.
After a 3-and-out by the Broncos, Michigan followed up on its next series with some more nifty moves by Denard and another Toussaint touchdown run, this time from two yards out.
Michigan dialed up the pressure again on defense and the all-out blitzes started getting to Carder, but just a hair too late. They resulted in incomplete passes but they’ve yet to get him to the ground. WMU settled for a field goal to enter the half trailing Michigan 20-10.
WMU’s Jordan White had nine catches for 96 yards in just the first half, while Carder started hot but struggled late in the half in the face of pressure.
Michigan’s defense allowed 199 total yards in the first half, looking improved but still in need of a lot of work. Aside from the pick-six, it pretty much got owned by Alex Carder. Receivers were open all day. The blitzes late in the half forced some bad passes but overall WMU looked solid and was able to do whatever it wanted. Were it not for the missed field goal and the tipped pass leading to the touchdown, Michigan might have been down 17-7.
Denard had 101 yards of total offense overall, with no one else really stepping up on offense. Toussaint had 2 touchdowns, but his per carry average was under four.
At this point, Michigan fans were interested to see what sort of adjustments Hoke and Co. would make at the half, one thing Michigan lacked the past three seasons.
Michigan starts the second half with the ball and at this point, the pouring rain led to the officials call for a 30 minute delay due to the lightning. When the game resumed, Jordan White and WMU picked up where they left off in the first half, passing it all over the field. Michigan struggled to get pressure except when it blitzed up the middle.
Mattison seemed to have enough of the “bend but don’t break” philosophy and started sending more blitzes. Carder got drilled by Jordan Kovacs on a blitz, the first sack of the Hoke era, fumbled. The ball was scooped up and returned for a touchdown by none other than Herron, who became the first Michigan defender with two returns for touchdown in a game since Tom Harmon in 1940.
Mattison continued to dial up the pressure and send blitz after blitz. Carder was having a tough time and Michigan was starting to look like, well, Michigan. WMU was clearly getting rattled and the penalties started to rack up.
Michigan’s next possession looked very much like last season. Toussaint ripped off a 43-yarder, and two plays later, Mike Shaw went untouched 44 yards for a touchdown. A 3-play, 87-yard drive in just 39 seconds, putting Michigan ahead 34-10.
During the next series, play was halted again due to lightning and the stadium was evacuated. The game was called soon after with a few minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Hoke era began with a win, as most expected, but WMU showed some of the weaknesses still lingering on the defensive side. It certainly didn’t look as bad as last year, but until Mattison started sending some serious pressure it didn’t look that great.
The offense was solid and it was great to see someone other than Denard lead the team in rushing. Toussaint went for 11 carries for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Shaw had 4-for-54 and a TD. Denard finished 9-for-13 for 98 yards in the air and had 8 carries for 46 yards.
Carder went 22-31 for 183 and an interception, but most of those completions came before the blitzing spree occurred. A sore spot for Michigan last season, pass coverage, showed improvement, though Jordan White still had 12 catches for 119 yards. Is this guy on the Biletnikoff watch list?
The game changer was definitely Mattison sending the pressure with blitzes and forcing three turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Who knows what we would have seen had the weather cooperated and we’d finished the remaining 17 minutes. It could be a blessing in disguise for Michigan, allowing Borges to not have to show much of his hand to Notre Dame. All in all, there is reason to be excited in Ann Arbor again. Bring on the Irish!
Being a Michigan fan that grew up in Ohio and currently lives in New York, I’m constantly bombarded with ridicule from friends and family about the state of the Michigan football program.
“Wow, Michigan has really fallen apart; I don’t think they’ll ever be the same,” one will say, or “Don’t you wish you had a quality coach like Tressel?” another will ask.
In passing conversation, especially with an Ohio State fan, it’s impossible to adequately describe the perfect storm that has been Michigan football the past two seasons.
So as we enter Week 1 of the 2010 college football season, let’s put into words how Michigan’s recent demise, while frustrating, is not quite as bad as it seems.
Be Careful What You Wish For
On the surface, it’s easy to pronounce, “Carr never had a losing season and Rodriguez has losing seasons in each of his first two years, therefore, Rodriguez is a terrible coach and must be fired.”
Yet, a little critical thinking will tell you that there’s more to it than that. The blame for the past two seasons should be as much on former Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin as on Head Coach Rich Rodriguez. It was Martin, after all, who decided to take Michigan down a completely new path to modernity following Carr’s retirement after the 2007 season.
Carr was a conservative coach who continued the success of his mentor, Michigan legend Bo Schembechler, combining with Bo and Gary Moeller to guide the program to 40 straight winning seasons and 33 straight bowl games. His teams were never going to go out and put up 60 points or step on an opponent’s throat while it was down. But they were never going to get blown out either.
That was both a blessing and a curse. Carr’s safe approach, whether it was punting on fourth-and-one from the opponent’s 45 with a minute and-a-half left in the half, or running three straight times to wind down the clock late in the game while clinging to a two-point lead, worked out more often than not. However, in the few instances when it gave the opponent enough time to score before the half, or gave the opponent the ball back with a chance to drive for the winning score, it was enraging. Michigan fans were constantly calling for Carr to stop being so conservative and some were even calling for him to be fired.
When Martin went out and hired an offensive innovator from West Virginia, some Michigan fans were disappointed that he didn’t get former Michigan offensive lineman Les Miles, while others were intrigued by the notion of the spread offense in Ann Arbor.
Martin knew upon hiring Rodriguez that, while he was an offensive genius, that coaching IQ fit a certain system. His style of coaching doesn’t mesh with the 320-pound offensive linemen and statuesque quarterbacks of Michigan past. He needs smaller, quicker offensive linemen and dual-threat quarterbacks. Whether you think that’s the sign of a good coach or not, that’s what Martin hired.
Right off the bat, Michigan fans expecting a carry-over from the Schembechler/Moeller/Carr regime were in for a letdown. That blame cannot be pinned on Rodriguez.
An Empty Cupboard Won’t Yield a Feast
Carr officially retired following the 2007 season, but he seemingly checked out a couple of years prior. He first hinted at calling it quits prior to 2007 and many believe that had Michigan beaten Ohio State in 2006 and advanced to the National Championship game, Carr’s exit would have come then.
He entered 2007 with a senior four-year-starter at quarterback (Chad Henne) and a hot-shot freshman (Ryan Mallett) backing him up. Part of Carr’s bait to hook Mallett, the number two quarterback in the 2006 high school class, was that the job was his when Henne graduated and Carr wouldn’t recruit a quarterback in the 2007 class.
Mallett, however, had trouble adjusting to Ann Arbor, butting heads with Carr during his freshman season, while being thrust into playing time during Henne’s injury-plagued senior season. By all accounts, Mallett intended to return home following that season regardless of who the coach was in 2008.
Following that season, Henne graduated along with four-year starting running back Mike Hart and left tackle Jake Long (the 1st overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft). Junior wide receivers Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington chose to enter the Draft and left guard Adam Kraus graduated, leaving Rodriguez with just a handful of returning starters on offense, none of which were suited for his offense.
The coaching transition was further slowed when Rodriguez lost out on Terrelle Pryor to Ohio State and offensive lineman Justin Boren bolted for Ohio State, bad-mouthing the program on his way out.* Pryor’s talents fit Rodriguez’s system and would have made some difference in 2008 and Boren certainly had the talent, but wasn’t committed to working hard enough for Rodriguez’s system.
Instead, Rodriguez was left with less talent and experience on offense than the majority of college football. His choice at quarterback was a freshman (Steven Threet) or a walk-on junior (Nick Sheridan), neither of which had any game experience and neither was suited for Rodriguez’s system. That alone wouldn’t have doomed the Wolverines had there been an experienced supporting cast to make up for it.
The best running back Rodriguez had was also a true freshman, Sam McGuffie, a Carr recruit who would have redshirted in any normal situation. The top receiver was a true freshman as well, Martavious Odoms, one of Rodriguez’s first recruits at Michigan who is more suited to be a supporting receiver rather than the lead role.
It’s certainly no stretch to say that no team in college football history has succeeded with freshmen starting at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, no matter how highly-touted they are coming out of high school. It’s also no stretch to say that no coach in the country could have fared well with what Rodriguez had to work with in 2008.
Essentially, Rodriguez had two choices: to design a completely new playbook to fit the talents of the players Carr left behind or to begin installing his spread ‘n shred offense.
The former might have yielded another win or two that season, allowing Threet and Sheridan to be drop-back passers and McGuffie to run for three yards and a cloud of dust. Yet it would have set back the progression of the offense Rodriguez was going to install – the one he made his living on in working his way up from Glennville State to Tulane to Clemson to West Virginia and, ultimately, to Michigan.
The latter would at least get that progression started for Odoms and the rest of the players recruited by Rodriguez specifically for that offense.
Again, keep in mind that Martin didn’t hire a coach who then surprised everyone by running some wacky offense that no one knew about. Martin knew when he hired Rodriguez that he was essentially a system coach and the best in his field.
To expect that system to work from Day 1 is ludicrous even if he had Henne, Hart, and Long. Simply put, Michigan didn’t have the right players and that’s not Rodriguez’s fault.
Imagine if Schwinn Bicycle Company hired a new CEO who decided the company was going to start making airplanes. While the company is great at making bikes, handlebars and spokes will only fly so far. Mr. CEO would have to begin acquiring the necessary components to build airplanes and it wouldn’t happen overnight.
In the world of college football, players stay in a system for four or five years, making the roster turnover a slow process. It’s impossible to just get rid of 100-plus players of the old regime and bring in 100-plus of your guys. It takes four or five years to turn over the roster, and in theory, the results should progress each year.
By planting the seeds of his offense from Day 1, Rodriguez began to water the roots of his system.
In 2009, Rodriguez was able to land two quarterbacks that fit his offensive style, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson. Threet transferred to Arizona State when he realized he was a square peg in a round hole and Sheridan was relegated to third string.
In one sense, Rodriguez has progressed with Odoms and the rest of the returnees from 2008 already having a knowledge base of the system. But on the other hand, he was back at square one, having to start another true freshman at quarterback.
Even so, the offense showed marked year-over-year improvement, going from 20.2 points and 290.8 yards per game in 2008 to 29.5 points and 384.5 yards per game in 2009. It just lacked consistency as a result of inexperience.
Reporters With an Axe to Grind
The next fodder for the anti-Rodriguez crowd is the allegation of cheating which was exposed by the Detroit Free Press last August. While all kinds of conspiracy theories exist, the fact is that the Free Press’ reports were nothing short of slanted, biased and exaggerated.
The paper’s writers, Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder, succeeded in creating a national sense of animosity towards Rodriguez and ego-boosting by fans of other schools.
The NCAA’s probe, released in February found five violations that in any other situation would be considered the minor, slap-on-the-wrist types that are constantly self-reported or overlooked by other schools. However, as a result of the “Freep Jihad,” the NCAA came down hard, finding five so-called major violations.
While all are nothing more than what would be found at nearly every other school in the country, the national perception is that Michigan and Rich Rodriguez knowingly cheated. It’s easy to create that perception when you’re a reporter with an axe to grind. Just find a couple of disgruntled former players who will gladly trash their former coach as well as a few ignorant freshmen and distort their words. In that way, the situation in Ann Arbor is different than everywhere else.
There is no doubt that Ohio State would find itself behind the eight-ball if the Columbus Dispatch decided to declare jihad on the school. Just this summer the Ohio State athletic department self-reported 13 minor violations between Jan. 1 and July 1, six involving the football program. In fact, since 2000, Ohio State has self-reported 375 minor violations (across all sports), the most of any school in the NCAA. By comparison, Oklahoma has self-reported 224 and Florida 112.
This leads to two possible conclusions: either Ohio State purposely crosses the line just a little bit, and decides every now and then to self-report just to keep the NCAA at bay; or Ohio State’s athletic department and coaching staff don’t monitor the rule book well enough to know that they shouldn’t keep making these kinds of mistakes.
Either way, if the Dispatch decided that instead of just reporting these violations, they were going to dive in and blow them out of proportion, the NCAA would almost certainly have to come down hard.
So the issue isn’t that Rich Rodriguez is a cheating scumbag; it’s that he didn’t meet the standards of two local reporters.
I’m not saying that Michigan wasn’t wrong, but failing to count 10 minutes of stretching as countable practice time certainly doesn’t justify the national perception created by Rosenberg and Snyder, nor does it create any more of a competitive advantage than those 375 minor violations at Ohio State.
To Paraphrase Arnold, We’ll Be Back
So now that Rodriguez finds himself firmly on the proverbial hot seat, many consider him all but gone if Michigan fails to have a great season this year. But that’s not the case.
If absolutely no progress is shown and another losing season is the end result, then it could happen. But a winning season, a bowl game, and signs of progress assure a fourth season on the job because 2011 promises to be a good one.
Following this season, Michigan loses only one starter on the offensive side (left guard Stephen Schilling) and two on the defensive side (linebackers Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton).
When senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk went down with a season-ending ankle injury last week, it was both a blessing and a curse. Woolfolk won’t be able to help out a very thin secondary this season, but intends to come back for his senior season in 2011, so a position that will be a weakness this season will be a strength next year.
In addition to 18 starters returning (19 if you count getting Woolfolk back), quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson will be in their third season running the offense. By then, their comfort level will be enough to ensure an offense sure to be as vaunted as those Rodriguez featured at West Virginia.
The schedule also sets up nicely with Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Ohio State at home, Penn State off the schedule, and Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and San Diego State as the other non-conference opponents (although the conference schedule may change due to the realignment and addition of Nebraska).
In other words, Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon would be ill-advised to fire Rodriguez after this season unless things really blow up. I don’t support firing him this season anyway, since 2011 will really be the determining season.
Consider 2010 the primer for a run at the inaugural Big Ten Championship next season. Don’t write off Rodriguez and the Wolverines just yet, because it’s not quite as bad as it seems.
*Many have also piled on Rodriguez for the players that have left the program for various reasons, such as Boren and wide receiver Toney Clemons who transfered, Justin Feagen and Boubacar Cissoko who were kicked off the team, and others who failed to qualify. Yet they forget that Carr had the same troubles.
In 2007 alone, Carr dismissed tight end Carson Butler, defensive end Eugene Germany, and cornerback Chris Richards from the team for violating team rules, backup quarterback Jason Forcier (Tate’s older brother) transfered to Stanford, and linebacker Cobrani Mixon transfered to Kent State (all of which subsequently hurt the depth of Rodriguez’s teams).
Oh (Little) Brother, Where Art Thou? Michigan, Michigan State Writers Present Keys to the Game, Predictions
In anticipation of Saturday’s in-state rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State, I went head-to-head with Michigan State writer Joe Guarr. Each of us presents the keys to winning the game for our particular side and predicts who will win. Check out his article here.
For the first 23-odd years of my life, my younger brother was, well, my little brother. I remember fondly taking him out on the driveway and beating up on him in one-on-one (though he’ll probably deny it ever happened). I also remember one Christmas when we were much younger and got pajamas. I got Batman, while he was stuck with Robin.
But then he grew up – literally. The scrawny teenager gave way to the bulky college kid and then the rugged Marine (pictured right). And now, while he’s fighting to defend my freedom in Afghanistan, I can honestly say that I look up to him.
Many around the country, especially those in East Lansing, Mich., expected a similar situation to happen this year.
Former Michigan running back Mike Hart pinned the term “Little Brother” on rival Michigan State, following Michigan’s come-from-behind win in 2007.
“Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you’re playing basketball and you let him get the lead,” Hart said. “Then you come back and take it from him.”
Michigan State players, coaches and fans took offense to it, while Michigan fans played it up and took pride in the fact that the maize and blue have won nearly 70 percent of the all-time meetings.
Last season, however, Michigan State came to Ann Arbor set for revenge and won 35-21. Prior to this season, Michigan State looked primed to take control of the rivalry and make a serious run at a Big Ten title, while Michigan seemed to be in turmoil, fresh off a 3-9 season and allegations of NCAA violations.
And then the season began.
Michigan soared out of the gates with the Big Ten’s best scoring offense, while Michigan State stumbled to a 1-3 record that included a home loss to Central Michigan.
By merely comparing records, one would deduct that Michigan should win this one quite easily. But, as in all rivalry games, the record doesn’t mean much when toe meets leather.
The players certainly don’t need anyone to tell them they can’t win. Just ask Michigan State defensive end Trevor Anderson.
“Before the game last year, Coach D [Mark Dantonio] told us that if you haven’t played Michigan, within 30 seconds you’ll realize why we don’t like them,” Anderson said. “After about 15 seconds, I realized why I didn’t like them. Just the total lack of respect that they have for our school in general. Not just the program, but the general lack of respect they have for us.”
Now, I don’t have a problem with what Anderson said. After all, respect is earned, and when you’ve only won 29 of the 101 all-time meetings, you haven’t earned it.
So what does Michigan have to do to avoid losing back-to-back games to Michigan State for the first time since the 1966-67 season?
Here are three keys for Michigan:
1. Keep Tate Forcier healthy
Forcier could be the most important player in this game for either team. The cool and confident freshman has played well beyond his years at times when it mattered most.
He’s had his freshman moments, but he out-dueled Notre Dame junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen in the final minutes and overcame a sprained shoulder to lead Michigan on not one, but two fourth-quarter comebacks last week against Indiana.
But how healthy is that shoulder? And what happens if he can’t go?
“I fully expect Forcier to be ready to go and do everything,” said head coach Rich Rodriguez on Wednesday.
Is that just hyperbole, or has Forcier’s shoulder significantly improved since this?
I think it’s safe to say Forcier will at least give it a go, but he better play smart. You can bet Michigan State defenders will have that shoulder in mind when given the opportunity to hit him. One hard hit or one bad fall and the reigns of the offense would fall to Denard Robinson.
Robinson has shown incredible quickness and elusiveness in running for three touchdowns. He hasn’t, however, shown he can lead the offense for an entire game.
Against Indiana, Robinson pioneered a seven-play, 65-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. The biggest play was a 36-yard pass to tight end Kevin Koger on 3rd-and-8.
I love Robinson as a change-of-pace quarterback to compliment Forcier. But I’m not yet sold on his ability to quarterback an entire game yet.
So the biggest key to Michigan’s success is keeping Forcier in the game.
2. Score early
As I mentioned in my piece on how Michigan beat Indiana, Michigan has shown a propensity of getting off to fast starts.
Michigan has scored 52 first quarter points through four games and given up just 20.
In three of the four games, Michigan scored on its fist possession (two touchdowns and a field goal). In the fourth, against Notre Dame, Michigan scored a touchdown on its second possession, and followed it up with a kickoff return for a touchdown the next time it touched the ball.
A fast start is important in this game for two reasons:
First of all, to get the Michigan State crowd out of the game. This is Forcier’s first road test of his career, and while he’s done an admirable job of running the offense to this point, he hasn’t had to do it with a stadium full of rabid fans yelling at him.
Spartan Stadium will be electric on Saturday because for those in green and white, this is the biggest game of the season. This is the game that gets the blood boiling more than any other. Saturday is a chance to avenge a poor start and re-claim another piece bit of older brother’s birthright.
If Forcier can march down the field and score on the first possession or at least put up a couple of scores in the first quarter, it could mean a much quieter crowd than if he gets sacked a few times or knocked out of the game.
Which brings me to the second reason a fast start is critical: to build a lead in case Forcier isn’t able to play the entire game.
Michigan State leads the Big Ten in passing offense, and with three talented receivers in Blair White, Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham, it can put up points.
Michigan’s secondary, outside of junior Donovan Warren, has been suspect so far this season, giving up an average of 243.8 passing yards per game. Notre Dame, a comparable passing offense, torched the secondary for 336 yards and three touchdowns in Week 2.
I’m not confident that a Denard Robinson-led offense can keep up, especially if it doesn’t already have a lead.
Robinson has established he can run, but he hasn’t shown that he can make the big throw when needed, or lead the team down the field in the final minutes like Forcier can.
If Forcier gets knocked out of the game, whether by Michigan State or not, Robinson needs to have a lead and Michigan needs to be able to pound the running game and work the clock.
3. Get solid play from the offensive line
Last week, against Indiana, Michigan surrendered about 70 yards on poor snaps from guard-turned-center David Moosman. The fifth-year senior moved from right guard to center when David Molk broke his foot against Eastern Michigan.
One of those, early in the third quarter, took Michigan out of field goal range, forcing a punt. Fortunately, those mistakes didn’t cost Michigan against Indiana, but you can’t keep giving away points and expect to win.
The offensive line has given up just six sacks so far through four games, though it’s hard to compare sacks against a spread-option offense to those against a drop-back passing offense.
Still, the line has done a pretty good job of protecting Forcier, and has paved the way for the nation’s seventh-ranked rushing offense, averaging 240.3 yards per game.
Expect Michigan State to bring a lot of pressure to try to rattle Forcier and knock him out of the game. It’s up to the offensive line to give him time to throw and lanes to run through.
Michigan State features probably the top linebacker in the Big Ten, in Greg Jones. Jones was picked as the Big Ten Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and has lived up to the hype, leading the conference in tackles (52) and tackles per game (13).
The line, as well as backs Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown will have to be ready to pick up the blitz of Jones and junior Eric Gordon. Look for some big plays by the slot receivers and tight end Kevin Koger.
Michigan State will be ready to go and eager to atone for its early disappointment. Michigan might even make State feel disrespected less than 15 seconds into the game this time, although seconds have a way of standing still in East Lansing, so who really knows how long it will take?
All kidding aside, this should be a good old-fashioned shoot-out, just like Michigan’s games against Notre Dame and Indiana.
Prior to the season, I predicted Michigan would lose this one, but after seeing the two teams play four games apiece, Michigan has the hot hand, while State returns home with its tail between its legs.
Yet, the game is in East Lansing, after all…a place where Michigan is just 4-4 since 1993 (though Michigan has won the last three).
However, cold and rainy weather is expected in East Lansing on Saturday, which should favor Michigan’s running game.
I foresee Michigan reclaiming the Paul Bunyan Trophy by pulling out a close one. Minor and Brown combine for a pair of touchdowns and 150-175 yards, Koger and Junior Hemingway catch TD passes from Forcier, and Robinson runs for a score.
Michigan wins 35-31.