Sunday, November 24, 2013
What we learned: Week 13
By Chantel Jennings
Saturday was a big day for the Big Ten. Michigan State and Ohio State took the divisions with a week to go in the season. And for Michigan, which had hoped to be in one of those positions, it marked a weekend in which it dropped below .500 in conference play with a loss at Iowa.
Here are three things we learned during this low weekend:
1. Next week could be very, very ugly. Defensively, the Wolverines played a pretty solid game, coming up with clutch plays and turnovers. However, the Hawkeyes still managed to put up 407 yards of offense on Michigan. Of that yardage, 168 came on the ground. And if Iowa can do that, what will Carlos Hyde do? In the air, Jake Rudock picked up another 239 yards. Rudock is a good quarterback, but he's no Braxton Miller. The Wolverines defense will have to step up its game (and by step, I mean hurdle/leap/catapult) in order to slow the Ohio State offensive attack. But that might not be where it gets the ugliest, because if Michigan brings Saturday's offense to The Game, the Ohio State defense could have a field day. Michigan is going to have to make some major adjustments this week, because the product it put on the field against Iowa isn't going to stand much of a chance against a Buckeyes team looking to seal away its 24th-consecutive win.
2. The run game is going to become a running joke.Derrick Green tallied 11 carries for 23 yards. Fitzgerald Toussaint accounted for six carries for 12 yards. That's an average of 2.1 yards per carry between the Wolverines' top two tailbacks. Now, take out each player's best run and that average drops to 1.7 yards per carry ... which is pretty far from effective. And if Michigan brings the same game plan and execution next weekend against the Ohio State run defense -- which is No. 2 in the Big Ten, allowing just 95 rushing yards per game -- it's going to be a really rough day. Michigan needs to be able to run against Ohio State if it wants to stave off the blitz attack of the Buckeyes and give Devin Gardner a chance to make plays down field.
3. Time is what this team needs. Toussaint probably isn't going to become the nation's best running back between now and Saturday. Gardner likely won't return to his early-season-Heisman-hyped self in the next seven days. The offensive line is probably going to keep having the same struggles with consistency and blocking it has had all season. The biggest problems this team has aren't fixable before Ohio State. They may or may not be fixable before the bowl game. However, the good news is that they are fixable in the offseason. And generally, fans (especially Michigan fans) aren't accustomed to the idea that the best thing for their football team might be the eight months out of the year when they don't get to see the team at all, but that's exactly what this group needs. It needs an offseason together. It needs to find an identity. It needs to find cohesion. It needs to find playmakers. It needs to learn how to execute. And what does it need in order to accomplish all those things? Time.