Know Your Opponent: Michigan Wolverines

Written by Lloyd Ribner III (@Ribner3

There is no loser here...

There is no loser here...

This Years Record: 5-1 (1-1 3rd in Big Ten Legends)

Head Coach: Brady Hoke

Overall: 71-58

At Michigan: 21-8 (13-5)

Last Years Record: 8-5, Lost Outback Bowl 33-28 to South Carolina

Bowls Since 2000: 12 Appearances (5-7 Record)

Mascot: Wolverines

Colors: Maize and Blue

Outfitter: Adidas

National Titles: 11

Conference Titles: 42

Fun Fact: While Michigan made the winged helmet famous, it was actually brought over by Fritz Crisler from Princeton in 1938.

Last time we got together we took a look at the Hoosiers first road trip, which also happened to be the Old Brass Spittoon Game. This week Indiana again heads to the Mitten State, but instead of East Lansing, they will find themselves in Ann Arbor.

Let the audible groans commence.

The series between Indiana and Michigan is a long-standing, yet one-sided match-up. The two schools first met on the gridiron back in 1900, and have played 61 times since the turn of the century. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they have won just nine of the contests with their last victory coming way back in 1987. In fact Indiana’s victory that year marked the only time they had topped the Wolverines since 1967.

However, this game is not played in the history books, but instead on the field. So lets take a look at this years Michigan Wolverine team, which doesn’t look like one of Bo Schembechler vintage squads.

1. The Wolverines have been far from impressive

Michigan has matched up against two quality opponents thus far in 2013, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Penn State Nittany Lions. Neither of these teams are considered against the nations elite, yet the Wolverines struggled in both matchups, including a loss to Penn State their last time out. It hasn’t just been against their better opponents either, as Brady Hoke’s squad has looked as if it has been sleep walking through much of the first half of the season. It has been to the point where the maize and blue have had to squeak out single possession victories over below average non-conference foes like Akron and Connecticut.

2. Holding onto the football has been a problem

No matter how good your team is, if you are consistently losing the turnover battle, you are in for some tough sledding. Michigan hasn’t just had a bit of a ball security problem; it is the bane of their existence. They currently rank 11th worst in the nation in terms of holding onto the ball. They have lost four fumbles on the year, but the bigger issue is by far the interceptions. So far this year this year the Wolverines have tossed 11 passes to the opposing team, 10 of which came from the arm of Devin Gardner.

3. Devin Gardner has not looked the part

Many believed that the junior quarterback was ready to take the next step in 2013. While this is his first full year as a starter, the Motown native was the Wolverine’s quarterback for the last five games of last season, including the Outback Bowl. He looked solid at the end of last season, and with a full offseason as the starter he could only get better right? Think again...Gardner has seen a drop in completion percentage, average yards per pass, touchdown to interception ratio and quarterback rating. While the coaching staff has thrown a lot on his plate, he has not shown that he is the type of player to lead Michigan back to the level of play that the nation expects from the program.

4.  Different system, same results...

Throughout Denard Robinson’s time as Michigan’s quarterback the general consensus was that he was a dynamic player who was a threat to take the ball to the house on any play. The problem was that was the only weapon that the coaches could rely on, and that would lead to lackluster results in the long term. That was all supposed to change this season, as Al Borges supposedly had the quarterback he needed in Gardner to run “his system”. That has not gone so well through the first six games of the season. The interior of the offensive line has been a disaster, not allowing the running game to be more than a black hole where downs go to die. In addition the improved pro-style passing game has not been all that it was cracked up to be either. Much of that too falls on the poor line play, and the fact that the run game has been abysmal. The fact of the matter is though, that Michigan is once again relying on their quarterback to do it all. Albeit a different quarterback, and a different way, it is the same result. While he is talented, he is far from the dynamo that Robinson was. The big plays have not been there to mask the mistakes. Between passing and running the ball Gardner is asked to make a play with the ball nearly 37 times per game. It is far too much for a quarterback who has proven to be far from an all-conference performer.

5. Don’t sleep on the Wolverines D

While Michigan’s defense might stock up favorably against the in-state rival Spartans, it is amongst the best in the nation. As a team they are allowing just over 23 points per game. The Wolverines are ranked 14th nationally in total defense. They allow just 4.6 yards per play and just over 319 total yards per game. The maize and blue have been lead on defense by a pair of juniors. Linebacker Desmond Morgan is leading the team with 26 tackles, while safety Blake Countess has 14 tackles of his own to go along with his 4 interceptions on the year, one of which he took 72 yards for a touchdown. Last Saturday marked linebacker Jake Ryan’s return to the field, and while it was a disappointing outcome both for the team and for him statistically; this is a huge addition for the Wolverines. He is the leader of the defense, and for those who have forgotten he showed a glimpse of what he can do against Penn State when one of his three tackles came on a huge stop on a fourth-and-1.