Things have been better for Michigan. Both AD Dave Brandon and head coach Brady Hoke are still under fire for their handling of a concussed Shane Morris, and you won't believe this, but losing to Minnesota and Rutgers has not assuaged any of the fans' displeasure. Hoke was given a vote of confidence from Brandon on Thursday, which might be the most meaningless vote of confidence ever cast:
To clarify, as things now stand, I believe UM's Hoke will remain and be evaluated in December. Brandon's future less certain.— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) October 1, 2014
What does this mean for Penn State on Saturday night? Hoke will be desperate to get the Wolverines in the B1G win column, and there's no telling what he'll do to make that happen. A booby-trapped field? Lead footballs? Oil-slicked end zones? Who really knows how much "Wacky Races" Hoke's been watching on his VCR this week? The possibilities are endless.
This Season - Michigan: 2-4 (0-2); Brady Hoke: Sweated Through Five Adidas Polo Shirts Since Sunday Morning
Michigan did manage to get revenge on Appalachian State in the first game of the year, but after that:
Hoke has been throwing gasoline on that dumpster fire since UM's shutout loss at home to Notre Dame. The handling of a clearly injured Morris in the home loss to Minnesota seemed like the final nail in the coffin, but lo and behold he'll be on the sideline this weekend.
Though maybe not everything can be attributed to him, because the football gods have dealt him a crappy hand as of late. Hoke announced yesterday that leading rusher Derrick Green is out for the year with a broken collarbone, adding to the lingering injuries that have plagued both linebacker Desmond Morgan and five-star freshman Jabrill Peppers all season long.
Losing Green shouldn't set Michigan too far back in the running game. De'Veon Smith has pretty comparable averages (6.0 ypc) on 35 fewer carries, so this isn't quite the Wolverine run game that struggled for every yard in 2013. Though it's probably worth mentioning that Michigan's yards per carry averages against the four power-conference/Notre Dame teams they've faced look like this: 1.7, 3.3, 3.0, 4.5.
The team's third-leading rusher, quarterback Devin Gardner, will likely take all of the snaps with Morris resuming practice just this week. Gardner is pretty clearly the better option, though he's been unconvincing in his senior year with five touchdown passes and seven interceptions through his first six games. Morris, on the other hand? No TDs, three picks and a 39.5% completion percentage.
Gardner's leading receiver, Devin Funchess, made a permanent switch to wideout from tight end in the offseason and hasn't missed a step. The 6'5" 230lb junior is averaging 78.4 yards per game, and he'll be looking to replicate his 112-yard, two-touchdown performance against Penn State last year.
Michigan hasn't been able to bust many big plays this season, especially in the passing game - their longest reception on the year is 34 yards - so I have a sneaking suspicion Hoke will equip some of his wideouts' cleats with an FLS - Flubber-like substance - to give his guys that little extra spring in their step. I mean, it's not like Dave Witvoet's gonna recognize it. He's more of a bearded-Robin Williams kinda guy.
This surprised me a little bit, but Michigan is 19th in the country in total defense, allowing 315.5 yards per contest. It all starts on the line with senior Frank Clark (6.5 TFL) and sophomore Willie Henry (4.5 TFL), who spearhead a unit that gives up a mere 2.9 yards per carry. Rounding off a strong front seven are linebackers Joe Bolden and Jake Ryan, who lead the team in tackles by a wide margin. Ryan has had much more success getting into the backfield with six tackles for a loss this season.
I was fully prepared to praise Michigan's secondary last week, but then they made Gary Nova look like the Heisman contender that Rutgers fans were making him out to be before they faced Penn State. Nova threw for 404 yards (FOUR HUNDRED AND FOUR YARDS) and three TDs on Saturday night in Piscataway. The moral of the story is this: Christian Hackenberg with time to throw = great success! The maligned Nittany Lion offensive line might not have to be perfect, either, because Michigan hasn't really made any QB pay for their mistakes so far. If you're looking for a reason for Michigan's struggles, look no further - the Wolverines are -13 in turnover margin, the second-worst such margin in the nation.
Does this mean Brady Hoke will replace the football with a hairy tennis ball and only give his defensive backs the Velcro pads with which to catch them? Only time will tell, but we have yet to hear any confirmation that this will not be in his gameplan.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Michigan's kicker is having trouble kicking field goals. Yes, that's right, Matt Wile is 5 of 9 overall and 2-5 from 40-49 yards on the year. An investigative report by BSD has found that Brady Hoke's recent Amazon.com suggestions featured steel-toe boots and Nerf footballs. Stay woke, y'all.
Last Week: 26-24 L at Rutgers
See section 3, paragraph 2.
Blogs You Should Also Be Reading This Week
Two shout outs this week. One for our dear friends and "We Are! 2014" facilitators at MGoBlog, whose members are trying their best to take this situation in stride. Also, check out fellow SBN site Maize N Brew for great coverage like this.