|Alabama's Dee Milliner returns an interception after a |
Alabama is good. They're not the national champs for nothing. Nobody in his right right mind thought Michigan would win this game (although 63% of this site's voters picked Alabama to lose), but I did expect a little better showing than that. The Wolverines aren't as bad as that game made them look, but it certainly wasn't the kind of showing Michigan wanted to put forth in the nationally televised opener.
Al Borges deserves some blame, but not much. Michigan wasn't going to be able to run the ball in this game. I predicted that Michigan would rush for fewer than 100 yards; the final tally was 69, despite having one of the most electrifying players in the country at quarterback. Yes, Denard Robinson probably could have run the ball more, especially before he got dinged up. Would it have made much of a difference? Probably not. Where Robinson really could have made a difference was in the passing game. He had lots of open receivers early in the game, but he's just as erratic as ever in the passing game. He kept throwing deep (inaccurately), and completed just 11/26 passes. The offensive line did a decent job of pass blocking, but if Michigan has to rely on Robinson to win the game with his arm, they're going to struggle.
I hope Fitzgerald Toussaint and Frank Clark enjoyed watching that on TV. Toussaint erased any chance Michigan had of putting together a decent running game by drunk driving. Vincent Smith is what he has been for several years, and that means he shouldn't be a featured running back; he ended the game with 13 carries for 33 yards, and 22 of those yards came on one play late in the game. Thomas Rawls rushed 6 times for 9 yards and looked very slow in the process. Meanwhile, Clark probably would have struggled just like the rest of the defensive line, but he would have given Michigan another guy to rotate in there and get a bit of a pass rush. SAM linebacker Jake Ryan had to play a little too much defensive line, and he got manhandled in the process.
Injuries were terrifying. Blake Countess left the game after one series on defense because he got hurt on punt coverage. Taylor Lewan left the game late with a knee injury. And Denard Robinson inexplicably tried to tackle Dee Milliner with his throwing shoulder, which caused him to leave the game looking like he would miss a chunk of time. Including Toussaint, that meant that Michigan was missing its #1, #3, #4, and #9 most important players at various points, according to my preseason countdown. Michigan should be able to weather the storm if these are short-term injuries, but maybe not if any of them last long.
Eddie Lacy who? Everyone was talking about Alabama running back Eddie Lacy before the game, but he didn't impress me at all. He's big, and that's about it. The most physically impressive running backs on the roster were true freshman T.J. Yeldon (11 carries, 111 yards, 1 touchdown) and junior Jalston Fowler (8 carries, 67 yards). I don't think Lacy will be holding onto that starting job for long. Of course, all three made Michigan's defense look silly when combined with the Crimson Tide offensive line. All of Michigan's defensive backs struggled to tackle, even stout safeties Thomas Gordon and Jordan Kovacs, who are normally sure tacklers.
Special teams yay. Matt Wile boomed every kickoff deep into the endzone, allowing zero returns. Will Hagerup averaged 51.3 yards per punt, including a 62-yarder. Dennis Norfleet returned 8 kickoffs for 177 yards (22.1 yards per return) and looked like a potential star as a returner.
Burned redshirts. I'm not in a tizzy about any of these guys playing, but so far LB Joe Bolden, WR Amara Darboh, TE Devin Funchess, FB Sione Houma, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, RB Dennis Norfleet, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Ondre Pipkins, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, TE A.J. Williams, and FS Jarrod Wilson have burned their redshirts. That's 12 members of the 25-man class of 2012. At least a couple more will probably play before the end of the year.
Referees were bad, but it doesn't matter. Michigan didn't lose the game because of the refs, but there were some obvious holds, hands to the face, personal foul-quality hits, etc. that weren't called against Alabama. I'm not sure how Dee Milliner didn't get called for illegal contact/pass interference when he shoved Roy Roundtree out of bounds and then picked off Robinson. Meanwhile, Taylor Lewan alone cost Michigan 30 yards in penalties with a personal foul, a holding call, and a false start. He might as well be a redshirt freshman again.
Michigan is going to be fine. As long as none of those injuries last long, the expectations remain the same. Alabama didn't expose anything that we didn't already know to be true. The defensive line is going to be a question mark against good offensive lines; Denard Robinson isn't a consistent passer; the offensive line lacks depth. If you're surprised, you haven't been paying attention.