OSU's D-line may be that team's biggest strength. Our offense has struggled to get production from our running game all season. Perhaps this conundrum places the question of Denard and Devin and who plays under/behind center the next two weeks in a context for productive discussion.
My thinking is that Borges has to be looking across both of our next two games to figure this out, hoping--if Denard is on the mend--to learn a lot from next week and Iowa. There are signs that both our passing and running game are developing under Devin Gardner, but if Denard can play you want him on the field. (Denard IS yards!)
Could these things suggest we might see a mix of QBs, with Denard getting some looks at running back? (Could featuring him in this way be useful to him when draft time comes?) To what extent is it necessary to "go with what got you to the dance," and not change things up for an O line that has sometimes looked confused? What's necessary to win? What's possible under these circumstances?
A nice little article from WolverineNation about Gardner splitting time.
They get input from Drew Bennett, which is a nice touch. Bennett was a heralded QB recruit who split time between QB and WR at UCLA while working under Borges. Want more 'it's a small world?' According to the article, at that time, Borges travelled to Ann Arbor to speak with Carr about how Michigan was managing with a certain two way player of their own, one Charles Woodson.
If you don't know, Bennett went on to be an NFL WR, something that I imagine had to make the split time appealing to Gardner. If Borges could get Bennett drafted at WR, he sure as heck can do it for Gardner.
AnnArbor.com has Al Borges saying that Rawls is the starter if Fitz misses games. It might not be groundbreaking news but it's unusual that a coach is this candid about players, especially at this point in the season.
"We're just going to the next guy -- we're not really changing anything," Borges said during a news conference at Schembechler Hall. "Thomas Rawls is going to be that next guy. Vince is going to do what he's done, and on we go."
On the week of Thanksgiving, it is important to look back and consider what we are thankful for, both as human beings and Michigan football fans.
I am thankful for Brady Hoke, our tremendous head coach. I am thankful for Mattison, our NFL DC who turned things around so much more quickly than anyone could have ever imagined. I am grateful for Borges, who despite some disagreements we have had this season, seems to have quite a pair on him when calling plays.
I am thankful for Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Troy Woolfolk, and the rest of the seniors for sticking with it through the most tumultuous career any players have ever had at Michigan. I am thankful for Jordan Kovacs and his inspiring story. I am grateful for Denard, Fitz, and the rest of the team, for representing the program in a way that would make Bo proud, and for sacrificing as much of their time as they do so that we may enjoy our Saturday afternoons.
I am thankful for 9-2 and a shot at a ten-win season. I am grateful for a possible chance to play in a BCS bowl for the first time since '06. I am thankful for the direction this program is heading, and the quality young men it will continue to shape. But most of all, I am thankful for a chance to smack Ohio State in the mouth, stand over them, and let them know that “WE’RE BACK!”
So with two games left, home contests against Nebraska and Ohio State, we know Michigan will finish the regular season 8-4 at worst and 10-2 at best.
I think most of us would have been happy with being 8-2 after 10 at the beginning of the season, my pre-season prediction was 8-4, so I have to tell myself I can't be very disappointed no matter what happens to finish the season.
There's no doubt, however, that Michigan has been a pretty bi-polar team this season. Impressive wins over some decent teams and a couple of poor performances in our losses leave many fans wondering how good this team really is. I think we'll find out for sure in the next few weeks, but who wants to wait that long? Here's a statistical breakdown of the season so far:
All stats are based on the last 9 games, the game against Western doesn't officially count.
Total Offense: Denard Robinson- 1,611 yds passing, 864yds rushing, 275 total YPG (24th Overall, 1st in B1G)
Passing YPG: Denard Robinson- 99/189, 179ypg, 13 TDS, 13 INTs (71st Overall, 5th in B1G)
Passing Efficiency: Denard Robinson- 132.92 rtng (57th overall, 5th in B1G)
Junior Hemingway- 27rec, 520yds, 19.3ypc, 1 TD (NR)
Jeremy Gallon- 23rec, 391yds, 17.0ypc, 2 TDs (NR)
Roy Roundtree- 14rec, 278yds, 19.9ypc, 2 TDs (NR)
Denard Robinson- 151car, 864yds, 12 TDs, 5.7YPC, 96.0YPG (32nd Overall, 5th in B1G)
Fitzgerald Toussaint- 114car, 673yds, 5 TDs, 5.9YPC, 84.1 YPG (48th Overall, 6th in B1G)
Passing: 200.4ypg, 15TDs, 14INTs (84th Overall, 7th in B1G)
Rushing: 235.9ypg, 22TDs (11th Overall, 2nd in B1G)
Total Offense: 436.3ypg, 6.48 yards per play (33rd Overall, 3rd in B1G)
Scoring: 32.3ppg, 38TDs, 8 FGs (37th Overall, 3rd in B1G)
Turnovers lost: 19, 14 INTs (111th), 5 fumbles lost (9th) (T-78th Overall, 11th in B1G)
Red Zone Offense: 44 drives, 27 TDs, 8 FGs, 80% (T-69th Overall, 7th in B1G)
Not exactly the powerhouse that we were last year, but we have the 5th and 6th best rushers in the Big Ten in Denard and Fitzgerald. Denard is obviously not much of a passing quarterback and he gets a lot of flack for it, but with his legs factored in he's still the most productive player in the Big Ten. Toussaint is looking like the running back of the future. Our lack of a passing game means we don't have any receivers that stand out nationally, with none falling in the top 100. Our turnovers have been brutal this season, with our 14 INTs landing us 111th in the country. After a great start to the season in the red zone, we've fallen to an 80% in red zone scoring, putting us in the bottom half of the B1G.
All in all, not as impressive as many of us were hoping for, but plenty of glimmers of hope, the most productive player in the Big Ten, and a solid ground game make it a pretty decent season so far.
Offensive Grade: B
Passes Defended: JT Floyd- 6 PBU's, 2 INTs, .89 passes defended per game (T-78th Overall, 2nd in B1G)
Forced Fumbles: Thomas Gordon- 2FF (T-68th Overall, 4th in B1G)
Thomas Gordon- 4FR (T-2nd Overall, 1st in B1G)
Jake Ryan- 2 FR (T-31st Overall, T-4th in B1G)
Passing Defense: 191.3ypg, 6.47ypa, 9 TDs, 6 INTs (22nd Overall, 6th in B1G)
Rushing Defense: 130.9ypg, 4.01ypc, 9 TDs (41st Overall, 5th in B1G)
Total Defense: 322.2ypg, 5.18yds per play, 19TDs (17th Overall, 6th in B1G)
Scoring Defense: 19TDs, 4 FGs, 16.1ppg (7th Overall, 3rd in B1G)
Turnovers Forced: 20, 6 INTs (T-94th), 14 FR (T-5th) (T-28th Overall, 2nd in B1G)
Sacks: 19 sacks, 2.11 per game (44th Overall, 6th in B1G)
Red Zone Defense: 27 drives, 16 TDs, 2 FGs, 67% (1st Overall, 1st in B1G)
First of all, we have the best red zone defense in the country!? I would not have guessed that. Second of all, the Big Ten is a defensive juggernaut of a conference. When we're 22nd in the country in passing defense and that's only good for 6th in the Big Ten, that's pretty ridiculous. But seeing that we're 17th nationally in total defense and that five other Big Ten teams are still ahead of us (MSU, Wisky, PSU, Illinois and OSU) is just obscene. There's not even a major statistic that our defense is outside the top 50 in (we're also 39th in 3rd down defense and 20th in 4th down defense). I think if you told me our defense would be this good a year ago I would have slapped you. We're lacking in interceptions but dominating in fumble recoveries. I love Greg Mattison and I love this defense.
Defensive Grade: A-
Punting: Will Hagerup- 21 punts, 49 long, 35.8avg (NR)
Kicking: Brendan Gibbons- 8/11, 38 long, 37/37 XP (55th Overall, 6th in B1G)
Punt Returns: Jeremy Gallon- 14ret, 11.43ypr (18th Overall, 2nd in B1G)
Punt Returns: 16ret, 160yds, 10.0avg (39th Overall, 4th in B1G)
Punt Return D: 16ret, 142yds, 8.88ypr (78th Overall, 10th in B1G)
Net Punting: 33 punts, 37.73avg, 16ret, 8.8ypr, 32.82 net avg (112th Overall, 12th in B1G)
Kickoff Returns: 20ret, 388yds, 19.4ypr (102nd Overall, 10th in B1G)
Kickoff Return D: 37ret, 708yds, 19.1ypr (23rd Overall, 3rd in B1G)
Turnover Margin: 20 gained, 19 lost, +1 (51st Overall, 7th in B1G)
Penalties: 40 penalties, 39.22yds per game (T-12th Overall, 2nd in B1G)
Not really sure what to make of this. Pretty disheartening to see that we're one of the worst net punting teams in the nation, one of the worst kick return teams in the nation, and one of the worst punt return defense teams in the nation. It is, however, encouraging to see Gallon in the top 20 punt returners in the country, and our penalties are under control. Gibbons is Gibbons, and 8/11 is pretty good compared to last year. Still, I feel like Special Teams aren't a priority on this team.
Special Teams Grade: C+
So our offense has been a little underwhelming, our defense has been an extremely pleasant surprise, and our special teams have been business as usual, sadly. But that's just what the numbers say. What do you say?
During the 2008 season, when things were horrible like WHOA on offense, some people asserted that Rodriguez should be running a Carr-style under-center set until he recruited the players he needed to run his Spread & Shred. This was shot down because, as it was put over and over, "He'd have no idea how to run it", and it would make it difficult to recruit for the offense he wanted, "We'll be running the offense you like... in two years." People accepted this and were unhappy whenever the O faltered, which was often, but accepted it as necessary to bring the team into the future. It's not really the offensive stumbles which got everyone upset anyway. It was the worsening defense and uncompetitive losses. When we won, it was good, but when we lost, we REALLY lost.
When Borges was hired, people had hope because he had run spread style offenses before. He might be able to make what he's got work better than Rodriguez did. And you know what, he is. Talent deficit or no, Borges isn't trying to make Stephen Threet run. But it doesn't always work. Sometimes, in spending a while trying to integrate what he wants to do, Borges gets away from doing what the offense is best at. People get upset. "Run out of the shotgun full time! More Zone Read! MOAR BUBBLE SCREENS!"
My question is, is it merely the fact that Borges has done these things before that's earned him less understanding for WHY he is not doing these things? Has his more varied experience shortened his rope? I think it has, and I don't think that's fair.
Borges has a plan for the Michigan offense. A place he wants to get it to. Just because he has experience with the Spread doesn't mean he should be expected to run it while Denard is here. It would make recruiting worse, and it would be unfair to the fans and the players when we suddenly had to go through an offensive transition in year three rather than year one. Give Borges the same rope as you gave Rodriguez on offense in the first couple of years. When he runs plays that don't really seem to fit the offense, don't say "Why not the other play?" Not the other play because that's not where he's taking Michigan, and it would hurt us later if he did.
He has an obligation to install the BEST package for him andthe players he will recruit right away, rather tahn preserve a momentary flash in the pan. At least our losses have been competetive.