Posted by: marcmwm | May 24, 2009

Big Ten four downs: Michigan


This was Kirk Ferentz during the Hawkeyes' 20-6 loss at Michigan in 2006. He was pretty charged up in the fourth quarter. After two years off, the series sparks up again when Iowa hosts the Wolverines on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. (Gazette file)

This was Kirk Ferentz during the Hawkeyes' 20-6 loss at Michigan in 2006. He was pretty charged up in the fourth quarter. After two years off, the series sparks up again when Iowa hosts the Wolverines on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. (Gazette file)

QUICK LOOK BACK: Worst year since . . . ever. First nine-loss season since . . . ever. First home loss to Toledo since . . . first time for everything. Michigan’s offense was the worst in the Big Ten, averaging just 20.2 points a game. The defense wasn’t better, allowing 28.9 points. But the stats aren’t thestory. The story is coach Rich Rodriguez. He came in with fanfare and bluster. He brought his strength guy. Spent big money on new weight facilities. Had a vocal thinning of the heard, including the public spat with O-lineman Justin Boren, who left for Ohio State because of a lack of a family atmosphere at UM.

The West Virginia residue never seemed to wash off Rodriguez. WV sued for the buyout his contract called for. Rodriguez countered. It was eventually settled. Rodriguez, a spread guru, went through quarterbacks like underwear. Eventually, late in the November Big Ten tomb, the question came up whether the spread could thrive in the rugged Big Ten weather (it can, with the right personnel).

In his second year at his previous three stops, Rodriguez produced improvements of 4.5 (Tulane, as OC), 3 (Clemson, as OC) and 5 (WV) victories. Can Michigan expect the same bounce?

FOURTH DOWN — CONCERNS: The Wolverines might have a QB. Or they might not. Incoming freshman Tate Forcier made headway during spring practice. The early enrollee threw for four TD passes in UM’s spring game. More importantly, he made plays on the move, something that UM QBs lacked last season. Junior Nick Sheridan, who broke a leg in spring, and incoming freshman Denard Robinson will push, but, right now, it still looks as though the Wolverines will be young and untested at QB. Young and untested can work, but the clock is ticking, loudly, on this offense. That’s probably more of media creation, I guess we’ll see.

THIRD DOWN — STRENGTHS: The Wolverines are going to have a running game this season. Tailback Brandon Minor rushed for 533 yards last season with basically one arm (a wrist injury slowed him). Early enrollee Vincent Smith did nice things in the spring game. He’s only 5-7 and in the 170-range, but he could be an effective change of pace. What should really drive UM’s running game is the return of six part- and full-time starters on the O-line. This combination should help take some heat off Forcier (let’s face it, he’s the guy).

SECOND DOWN — THE TALK: “The folks in West Virginia are still pissed at me,” Rich Rodriguez told a UM alumni group last week, according to the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette. “I’ve said many times, I’d have been better off killing a family of five with an ax. Right now, it’s kind of hard.”

“There were a lot of things,” Rodriguez told the Chicago Tribune, speaking about his first season. “Some were a result of my ignorance and could have been avoided. Everyone’s happy to get all that behind us.”

FIRST DOWN — THE PLAY: Can Michigan enjoy the Rodriguez bounce that happened at Tulane, Clemson and West Virginia? Scoring went up a minimun of 30 percent in the second year at each three stops. Yards went up 20 percent at two of those three stops. And, of course, wins followed. Here’s what works in Rodriguez’s favor — Michigan’s talent, tradition and recruiting. This type of system flip takes more than one roster turnover, but it’s Michigan. That in and of itself is a seat in the living room of high school all-Americans all over the country. The raw material is there. Here’s what hurts — QB isn’t established. At Tulane, Shaun King was at the controls. At Clemson, there was Woody Dantzler. Of course, West Virginia had Pat White.

Right now, Michigan has Tate Forcier and that’s a maybe right now. QB is key.



  1. If there is ever going to be a year where the Hawks put the boots to Michigan, this has to that year.

    I know Iowa beat them down in 2002, but that was in A2. While that was a sweet win, it would be nice to see a beatdown of Big Blue at Kinnick.

  2. What’s A2 dude? I think we pummel them this year and that “running” game will have a bad day.

  3. Ann Arbor = A2

  4. It all comes down to QB, I believe.

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