Planning for success: Michigan

Michigan has struggled with consistency this season. And it hasn’t just been from game to game. It has been from one series to the next, sometimes even from one down to the next. All in all, it hasn’t seemed as though the Wolverines have been able to put together 60 minutes of good football in all facets.

However, last weekend against Northwestern might’ve been the most complete the team has looked, especially in conference play.

The Michigan run game appeared, the offensive line looked cohesive and the defense looked solid as a unit. Those three facets obviously don’t create a perfect game for the Wolverines, but Michigan will attempt build on that performance and maintain that consistency as it travels to Iowa City on Saturday.

“There’s no doubt in the consistency you want to play with and the carryover you want from one week to the next,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “The belief that [the players] have in each other and how they persevere and all those things. You want to build off that and build off the momentum of that.”

A lot of the offensive momentum the Wolverines created against the Wildcats was in the run game.

The Michigan offensive line was physical at the line of scrimmage and Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith averaged 4.4 yards per carry. However, this week the position battle has been open and Hoke said that the carries in practice have been pretty equally split between those two tailbacks and senior Fitzgerald Toussaint.

No matter who is running the ball, the offensive line hopes to be able to spring him through for another solid game. One place the O-line must look to improve from last week, though, is in its protection. It did allow five sacks and keeping quarterback Devin Gardner safe will continue to be of premium importance.

Also of importance will be building on last weekend’s defensive performance. Hoke said earlier this week that it was the defense that kept Michigan in the Northwestern game, and the defense will certainly have to contain Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock and the Iowa run game if it wants to be in this game, as well.

“This is going to be a definite challenge,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “They’re a very, very good offense. They don’t do a lot of things, but what they do, they do really, really well.”

But what the Wolverines did really well against Northwestern was creating big plays and coming up clutch for its offense in the red zone and in overtime, which defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said has been a focus for this team.

“That’s a huge emphasis,” Mattison said. “We go a two-minute [drill] every Thursday against our offense. Sometimes we do some really good things and don’t finish. ... We all know that to be the defense we need to be here, and it’s expected at Michigan, you have to finish.”

And Michigan is looking to finish this season with 10 wins, which means its next task is beating Iowa on the road. And certainly, a huge part of that will be creating a consistency that has been absent all season.