Three weeks into the 2014 college football season, the first season with the College Football Playoff, the Michigan Wolverines find themselves struggling to find a positive identity.
Reeling from their historically porous showing against the Irish in Notre Dame Stadium only a week ago (shutout for the first time in 42 meetings against the Irish), Blue must focus their anger into beating an obviously outmatched Miami of Ohio squad at home.
The RedHawks enter the contest with an 0-2 record and running the 115th ranked offense and will field a defense that is 61st overall in yards allowed. A point of note, that ranking places Miami (OH) six spots ahead of the Wolverines instate rivals, Michigan State Spartans. Just saying.
Greg Mattison’s defense holds the 39th ranking for overall defense and are 38th against the run (um, one spot behind MSU, but who’s keeping track of such things?).
Wolverine Quarterback Devin Gardner has been taking plenty of heat for his performance against Notre Dame. Many fans are calling for a change under center.
But unfortunately, a quarterback’s success has a direct relationship to the ability of his offensive line to protect in passing downs and create holes for the running backs when its time to grind out yards. Gardner actually has demonstrated a more refined skill-set this year as he has managed to throw from the pocket more and rarely takes off to run, unlike years past.
Gardner was hailed after one week, now he’s bemoaned after week two. His ability and capability lies somewhere in-between and against Miami (OH), we should all expect a nice rebound performance.
The Wolverine running game combined for 100 yards against Notre Dame. In the opener against Appalachian State, Michigan had two backs individual exceed the 100 yard mark. Expect another rebound performance again here as well.
The Wolverines top rusher after two games is sophomore Derrick Green who ranks 46th national with almost 98 yards a game. The other sophomore De’Veon Smith has averaged 72 yards over the first two contest. If both backs get close to 100 yards each on Saturday, that wouldn’t be a surprise.
Heralded wide receiver #1, junior Devin Funchess is 26th nationally in receiving yards and after setting a Wolverine opening day record nabbing three TDs, went empty for the end zone against Notre Dame.
Look for a big game from the six-foot-five receiver.
But most importantly to success, which usually is the case, the coaching must improve. It must!
Emotion only gets players so far. When things get rough during a game, it’s the very specific, detailed, impactful strategy and scheme changes made on-the-fly that make all the difference between victory or defeat. A leader can only “rah-rah” so much.
Brady Hoke is no doubt a motivating individual that represents all that is good with the Wolverine football program. He is a Michigan man if ever there was one. But Hoke needs to evoke strategy directly during the contents that alter the outcome.
New offensive coordinator from Alabama Doug Nussmeier expressed his frustration early this week in the team’s offensive production against Notre Dame and is yet confident his squad will regain their offensive rhythm against the RedHawks on Saturday.
That sounds like a fine plan. Just be prepared to adjust should things not go to as scheduled.
Michigan – 34
Miami of Ohio – 17