Monday, December 31, 2012

Outback Bowl Prediction


I don’t see the Outback Bowl turning out well for Michigan.
I don’t see this game being terribly lopsided, but I think the Michigan offense will have problems moving the ball against a strong and speedy defense like South Carolina.
Defensively, I think Michigan can keep South Carolina in check, but the Gamecocks will still find a way to score enough points to win.
South Carolina doesn’t quite have the same defensive talent that Alabama has, but it’s not far off. Devin Gardner will have to have a tremendous performance for Michigan to win, and I just don’t think he’s ready to carve up this defense quite yet.
Denard Robinson has struggled running against tough defenses like this, and I don’t think he is going to have that much of an impact when the Wolverines call his number.
If Michigan is to win, it will probably take a defensive or special teams touchdown, and you can’t really expect those to happen.
In the end, I see Connor Shaw making enough big throws to set up a few touchdowns and a few field goals, while Michigan will be clawing for everything it can get on offense.
Prediction: South Carolina 20, Michigan 10

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Keys to victory for Michigan against South Carolina


Michigan returns to the football field coming up on Tuesday afternoon. Here are my keys to victory for the Wolverines against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
Mix it up with Denard – In the loss to Ohio State, Michigan became far too predictable on offense when Denard Robinson was on the field. The Wolverines didn’t have Robinson throw a single pass, which allowed the Buckeyes to stack the box when he was on the field. If Robinson is going to take any snaps at quarterback, he has to make a few throws throughout the game to keep the South Carolina defense honest. Michigan is much more likely to break a big play if the Gamecocks have to respect that Robinson could run or throw each time he touches the ball.
Keep Devin/Denard clean – The Michigan offensive line will be tested by an impressive front line for the South Carolina defense. If Michigan is going to be able to move the ball, the offensive line has to win the line of scrimmage and keep Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson from being sacked. The Gamecocks have an impressive 40 sacks this season, led by stud sophomore defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, who has 13. If South Carolina is able to consistently get into the backfield, it is going to be a long day for the Michigan quarterbacks and the Wolverine fans.
Create turnovers – This South Carolina defense is good. The Gamecocks are only giving up 17.4 points and 312 yards per game, and that is with a SEC schedule. Michigan probably isn’t going to find a lot of consistent success on offense. The Wolverines can’t expect to drive the field 80 yards each time it needs a score. That means the Michigan defense will need to find a way to create turnovers. South Carolina has been pretty good at not turning the ball over, as it has just 19 for the season. Michigan also hasn’t been great at creating turnovers, as the Wolverines have only 17 for the year. But Michigan has to find a way to make South Carolina cough the ball up, especially when the Gamecocks are in their territory. One key turnover could decide this game.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thoughts on MSU's 17-16 win over TCU


It was almost like two different games were played on Saturday night.
In the first half, Michigan State looked like it didn’t have any business being in a bowl game to begin with. The offense was as bad as it has been all season and the defense was giving up a number of big plays, which allowed TCU to score 13 points.
But, in true Spartan fashion this season, MSU found a way to make the game interesting.
Connor Cook led the Spartans on a 90-yard TD drive that saw a creative pass play from Le’Veon Bell on third down. Then, a big gift on a muffed punt by the Horned Frogs led to an easy touchdown run for Bell from four yards out. Those scoring drives gave the Spartans an improbable lead.
But, again in 2012 MSU fashion, TCU managed to respond with a mildly-successful drive that led to a 53-yard field from Jaden Oberkrom that just avoided hitting the left upright, putting TCU ahead, 16-14, late in the game.
Mark Dantonio again turned to redshirt freshman Connor Cook to lead the offense in response, and he did, hitting a pair of key passes to open the drive before Le’Veon Bell did the rest of the work to setup Dan Conroy for a 47-yard field goal that turned out to be the game-winner.
As ugly as MSU played, a win is a win. Bowl wins are important for the program and Saturday night’s victory puts a positive end to a disappointing season. It still doesn’t make this season a success for the Spartans, but the team and coaches showed some heart by finding a way to win that game.
Clearly many of the issues during the season, especially on offense, still were an issue in this game. Throwing short of the sticks on third down was the most noticeable one. Some blame goes to Andrew Maxwell, some goes to the receivers.
Regardless of who was to blame, it is clear that Michigan State knew Cook needed an opportunity to play in a big game, and he played as well as you could expect him to given his experience and the circumstances.
You would have to think Cook may have the edge on Maxwell heading into spring ball. Maxwell was as bad as he has been all season, going just 6 for 16 for 28 yards. We will see how he responds to this game in the offseason, but even he has to realize that his title as starting quarterback is in jeopardy.
If Saturday was Bell’s last game as a Spartan, he left it all on the field. He again shouldered the physical load, carrying 32 times for 145 yards. There weren’t many holes for him throughout the game, but he did what he could to move the offense forward.
If Saturday’s game did anything, it made the offseason for the Spartans very interesting, and it all starts with who is going to be on the roster come the fall.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Prediction


Michigan State returns to the football field Saturday night to face TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
This game is actually quite meaningful for both teams, as each has had a disappointing year, and a bowl victory would put a little positive spin to it heading into spring football for the 2013 season.
I expect the game to be low scoring, like most Michigan State games. Both teams are stronger on defense than they are on offense and I suspect neither offense will come out with a completely different look that the opposing team wasn’t ready for.
With MSU’s defense banged up a little bit in the secondary, as Johnny Adams may not play due to turf toe, that opens the door for TCU to be aggressive in the passing game. The Spartans will need to get pressure on TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and not allow the Horned Frogs to develop deep passing plays.
I don’t expect Le’Veon Bell to be able to take over the game. He should be about as fresh as he can be, but the Spartans still have issues on the offensive line. The game will ride on Andrew Maxwell’s arm, and I thought he was regressing as the season went on. I don’t know that a month of preparation will do enough to make Maxwell into an improved quarterback. He will get his chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, as he has had in most games all season, but I see him coming up short again.
Prediction: TCU 16, Michigan State 13

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Keys to victory for MSU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl


This Saturday night, Michigan State finally gets back on the football field for the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU.
Here are a few keys to the game for the Spartans:
- Get off the field on third down – TCU led the Big 12 in time of possession advantage this season, but was not that successful on third downs, converting just 34.1 percent. The Horned Frogs like to be aggressive on first and second down, but they are facing the toughest defense they have seen all season. Michigan State will get TCU into third-down situations and the Spartans will need to make stops on those third downs to get the ball back in the hands of the offense. If TCU is able to sustain drives, it will give the Spartan offense limited opportunities to succeed. Given MSU’s offense hasn’t had that high of a success rate, limited possessions don’t bode well for it.
- Don’t play into TCU’s hands – The Horned Frogs have one of the top rushing defenses in the nation, allowing just 103.9 yards per game on the ground. I know Le’Veon Bell is MSU’s workhorse, but if the running game isn’t establishing itself early, the Spartans need to air things out. TCU has 21 interceptions on the season, but they have given up 228 yards per game through the air. Michigan State should be able to find some holes in the secondary if Andrew Maxwell can make good throws and the receivers can catch the ball. With a month of preparation for this game, you would hope Dan Roushar has installed some creative passing plays to beat the Horned Frogs.
- Make the kicks – In a game like this, with two solid defenses meeting up, any chance for both teams to put points on the board will be key. Neither team has had a reliable kicking game, as TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom is 19 of 27 on field goal attempts this season. Oberkrom has missed four field goals from the 30-39 range and one from the 20-29 range. MSU kicker Dan Conroy went 22 for 31 on his field goal attempts this season, missed four form 30-39 yards and five from 40-49 yards. Conroy missed at least one field goal in nine of MSU’s 12 games this season. He needs to be on his game on Saturday night with points at a premium. Four of MSU’s six losses came by three points or less, and Conroy missed a field goal in three of those four losses.

Monday, December 24, 2012

My Christmas wish


It’s Christmas time and I want to start by wishing everyone a happy holiday. I hope you are getting a chance to enjoy some good food with your families, and maybe even getting that Christmas wish of yours.
I have already had a great holiday, but to be festive, I thought I would share my wish for the holidays, and it relates to the MSU-Michigan rivalry.
My wish is that the rivalry hits a new level in 2013.
In the ideal world, I would like to see both football teams and both basketball teams playing at their highest levels, with both contending for national recognition and Big Ten titles.
Whether you are on the side of the Spartans, or the side of the Wolverines, the games between these two teams are so much better when they mean something.
Some of the greatest games in the history of this rivalry are when both teams are ranked and battling it out on the football field or basketball court.
In football, Michigan State had a nice run over the past few seasons, but Michigan was in a funk.
This season, the Wolverines were still solid, but a little disappointing. Michigan State was a complete disaster. This year’s game between the two had no real meaning when it came to competing for a Big Ten title.
It would be nice in upcoming years to have this game mean a lot, with both teams possibly being unbeaten. It makes the game that more passionate and emotional. It brings out the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) of both fan bases.
In basketball, we might be there already. Michigan looks like a legit national title contender and MSU is strong, but a little inconsistent. By the end of the season, both could be primed for a run in the NCAA Tournament. Their meetings on the court this season should also be very competitive and feature great environments, and they could also determine who wins the Big Ten title.
I mean, how great would it be to see the Spartans and Wolverines tipoff in the championship of the Big Ten Tournament with a possible 1 or 2 seed on the line in the Big Dance?
I know Michigan fans say Ohio State is their biggest rival, and that is fine. I won’t argue that. But, as a neutral party to both, it is a lot better when both teams are flourishing and worrying about each other.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Parker's decision not too surprsing


Jabari Parker seemed to be most Michigan State fans’ favorite player before he had even committed to be a Spartan.
MSU was really hoping and counting on Parker to suit up in the green and white next season, but he instead opted for the “Yankees” of college basketball, Duke.
Parker made his commitment to the Blue Devils on national television on Thursday, changing the landscape of what Michigan State will look like next season.
In hindsight, the decision is not all that surprising.
Michigan State hasn’t been known to be a real hot spot for potential one-and-done recruits, which Parker is.
Tom Izzo has spoken out in the past about his dislike for the one-and-done rule and his only notable one-and-done player was Zach Randolph, who didn’t exactly flourish in his single season with the Spartans, averaging 10.8 points and 6.7 rebounds.
Izzo also isn’t known for being real lenient on his freshmen. He rides them, he challenges them and he also isn’t afraid to bench them for lengthy periods of time.
That isn’t to say Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t do much of the same, but he has had a better track record with one-and-done players as of late, including Kyrie Irving and Austin Rivers.
Izzo seems to embrace the challenge of developing players over a number of years. He has produced a number of talented stars that have translated to the NBA, but many have stayed at least three years in the program.
You also can’t forget that Duke is Duke. No matter what Michigan State has accomplished under Izzo, the Blue Devils still are largely considered the top program in the nation and have been for more than two decades.
It will be interesting to see how Michigan State bounces back from this recruiting loss. The Spartans weren’t able to make certain moves or get commitments from other players as they awaited Parker’s decision. It was a risk vs. reward situation, and the Spartans came out on the wrong end.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Who will win the Big Ten in basketball?


The start of Big Ten play isn’t far off in college basketball and this basketball season is shaping up to be everything the football season wasn’t.
The conference has six ranked teams, five of which are in the top 13. Both of those numbers are most of any conference in the country.
Illinois and Michigan are still unbeaten with Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio State all with one loss and Michigan State joining Iowa with two losses.
The Wolverines have the highest ranking (2), but the Hoosiers were the top team in the country until suffering an overtime loss to Butler last weekend. It still seems that Indiana is the best team in the Big Ten, but things should really be up for grabs this conference season.
There really seems to be about seven or eight teams that could all contend for the conference title, but the big guns seem to be Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio State, Minnesota and Michigan State.
Which one is most likely to come out on top?
I said before that I don’t think the Spartans have the talent and consistency to win the Big Ten this year. They just seem to play to the level of their competition, and that is a dangerous game when three losses in conference could take you out of the race.
I think Michigan has the talent, but they are still young and still have to have some concerns about defending in the paint. Glenn Robinson III is actually leading the team in rebounding at 6.5 per game. Jordan Morgan will need more of a presence inside. He is averaging just 4.8 boards per game right now.
So, who do you see winning the Big Ten this season? I am sticking with the preseason favorite, Indiana, because Tom Crean has slowly built the program into a solid team with strong depth. The Hoosiers can attack inside and out and have a competent coach leading the way.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Early thoughts on Michigan State's basketball season

Michigan State is off to an 8-2 start through 10 games.
Given some of the tough opponents early on, I think that is a pretty reasonable mark for the Spartans at this point in the season.
MSU handed Kansas its only loss of the season, and the two losses for the Spartans have come against 1-loss Miami and 2-loss Connecticut.
Still, Michigan State has had some shaky performances, with the narrow wins over Boise State and Lafayette coming to mind.
As a team, it is still quite hard to say what Michigan State is. At times they have looked brilliant. Other times they have looked awful.
It won’t surprise me if MSU ends up being a team that plays to the level of its competition throughout Big Ten play.
I don’t think the Spartans will get blown out, but I don’t see them having the all-around talent to light up many teams in the conference either.
Gary Harris has been as good as Michigan State could hope for from a true freshman. He is second on the team in scoring (13 ppg) and shooting 53.3% from the field. MSU was a noticeably different team when he was not playing due to a shoulder injury.
Keith Appling has been the team leader, which was expected. He is averaging 14.6 points per game and also leading the team in assists, with 45. Appling has still had his rough moments on the floor, though, and I am not completely sold that he is a players capable of leading MSU to a championship.
I do give credit to the development of Adreian Payne. He has been more impactful than I expected and he is also shooting 89.5 percent from the charity stripe, which is a great stat for a man of his size.
The Spartans have the potential to be great, but they face an uphill climb in the Big Ten. The majority of games in conference play will be a battle and the Spartans are relying on some young talent to be durable throughout the season.
The key to the season will be in leadership, and whether or not Appling can handle to the role of the go-to player. We all know he can score, but being a leader is about more than that.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Early thoughts on Michigan's basketball season


Michigan has gotten off to an 8-0 start this basketball season and the Wolverines have looked pretty good in the process.
The Wolverines haven’t faced the toughest competition, but they also haven’t played a cake schedule. In recent years, wins over Pittsburgh and Kansas State would carry more weight than they do this year. N.C. State was ranked 18th at the time, so that still is a good win, relatively speaking.
Everyone knew what Michigan had in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Those two have lived up to expectations thus far, with Burke average 17 points and 7.1 assists per game and Hardaway chipping in with 15.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
Many also knew of Michigan’s talented freshmen that were coming in, led by Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary.
What has been somewhat surprising is the play of another freshman, Nik Stasukas.
Stauskas is currently third on the team in scoring at 13.9 points per game and he is shooting an amazing 63.6% from 3-point land (21 of 33).
With McGary being a little slow out of the gates, Stauskas has picked up the slack and made Michigan into more of a dangerous team that first projected.
We have to assume that Stauskas will cool off at some point, but we can also expect McGary to improve. The key, either way, is that Michigan has a lot of scoring options this year.
With Robinson III’s 13.9 points per game, Michigan has four players averaging double figures in scoring. Outside of those four players, the Wolverines still have contributors like Jordan Morgan and McGary.
Right now the Wolverines are third in the nation in shooting at 52.1 percent. It would be hard to see them continuing to shoot that well. But, unlike past seasons, it appears Michigan won’t have to rely on shooting well from the outside to win games, which is why it is fair to call Michigan one of the best teams in the country right now.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thoughts on Michigan's & MSU's bowl game


The bowl schedule was announced on Sunday night and Michigan and Michigan State both found out their bowl matchup.
Here is my thought on both contests.

Outback Bowl
Michigan vs. South Carolina
If Michigan had to be matched up against a top SEC team, South Carolina is the best option.
There is no doubt that the Gamecocks have an amazing defense. They allowed just 17.4 points per game this year, which ranks 13th in the county. But South Carolina’s offense is not that strong and the Gamecocks will be without running back Marcus Lattimore, who is their best player.
Even with Lattimore, the Gamecocks were held to just 11 points by Florida and 21 by LSU. The Michigan defense should be able to keep the Wolverines in this game, especially with Greg Mattison getting a month to prepare for the game.
The real question will be how much can the Michigan offense score against South Carolina? This will be a great physical test for the offensive line and the Gamecocks should be able to match Michigan’s offensive speed with their back seven.
The Wolverines will also face a great challenge in stopping sophomore defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney has 13 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss this year and has the ability to take over a game. It will be interesting to see how often he lines up across Michigan tackle, Taylor Lewan, and who wins those battles.
Ultimately, it wouldn’t surprise me if this game rivals last year’s Sugar Bowl or this year’s MSU vs. Michigan game. I don’t expect a ton of scoring, but both teams should have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Michigan State vs. TCU
I also don’t think TCU is a terrible matchup for the Spartans to get for a bowl game.
The Horned Frogs have a similar build, with a defense that is better than the offense. TCU doesn’t have as good of a defense as Michigan State, but it does have a better offense.
The Frogs are scoring just under 30 points per game this season while allowing 23.1 points per contest on defense. What TCU does well is defend the run. It is currently 10th in the nation in fewest rushing yards allowed, just two spots behind the Spartans.
What this means is that this game will ultimately come down to whether or not Andrew Maxwell can make the big throws.
MSU can’t expect Le’Veon Bell to take over the game, so Maxwell will have to convert third-down throws and be accurate with his deep balls. He will also have to avoid turnovers. The Horned Frogs have an impressive 21 interceptions this season.
With a little under a month to get ready for this game and no other game to look ahead to, I would hope the Spartans get creative in their preparation and open up the playbook for this game.
We have seen the development of the receivers throughout the season and it is clear there are some playmakers there. The offensive line will be as healthy as it can be given who is available, so if MSU is going to finally break through with its passing game, this would be the time.
It will likely be a close game once again for MSU, but this game is certainly one the Spartans can win.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Grade Michigan's 2012 season


Brady Hoke set a high standard for Michigan when he took the job, indicating that anything less than a Big Ten Championship is a disappointment.
While that is the right thing to say to the fan base, I can’t say I agree with the mindset.
Certainly Michigan is a team that should go into each season expecting to contend for the Big Ten title and be among the favorites to win it. But last season saw the Wolverines get 11 wins with no title. That is not a failure.
This season, Michigan again finds itself out of the running for the Big Ten title, but the season wasn’t a complete wash.
Unlike last year, I would say this season has been somewhat disappointing.
The Wolverines went 8-4, but three of their losses seemed like very winnable games.
Michigan could have beaten Notre Dame had it held on to the football.
It seemed that Michigan could have beaten Nebraska had Devin Gardner been prepared to backup an injured Denard Robinson. I wouldn’t say that the Wolverines definitely would have won that game, but the offense clearly would have been more productive than it was with Russell Bellomy at quarterback.
Against Ohio State, the game seemed to be Michigan’s for the taking, but a lack of adjustments on offense allowed the Buckeyes to squeak out a victory.
You can read more into Michigan’s season by the four losses than the eight wins. Truth is, Michigan failed to beat the good teams it faced this year. Of the eight wins, the best win seems to be against Northwestern (9-3), but it took a late miracle to get the win, and I don’t think many view the Wildcats as a nationally respected program.
Michigan did end the losing streak to Michigan State, which it needed to do, but the Spartans’ 6-6 record takes a little steam away from what that victory meant for the season outlook.
Overall, the offense wasn’t as explosive this season and the defense was just a shade worse than it was a year ago.
An 8-4 record is okay this year, but if Brady Hoke wants to live up to the standards he set when he took the job, things have to get better next year. The Big Ten was not that strong this season. There is no telling that it will be this weak again in the future.
Given the record and the quality of victories Michigan had, I give them a grade of a B-. I am hesitant to say C because Michigan still won eight games and could get a solid bowl victory. I don’t think the Wolverines deserved a B because of the lack of quality wins and the failure to make the Big Ten Championship Game.
What are your thoughts on Michigan’s season?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Grade MSU's 2012 football season


The 2012 regular season is complete for Michigan State, and the final record is 6-6.
I am sure I am not alone when I say I didn’t expect that.
Coming into the season, the Spartans had some questions, but none of them seemed worrisome enough to keep MSU from having a winning record.
Despite the new quarterback and young receivers most expected MSU to be carried by its strong defense and be a contender in the Big Ten race.
To a degree, the expectations played out on the defensive side of the ball. The Spartans led the Big Ten in points and yards allowed per game and were 10th nationally in defensive scoring, allowing just 16.3 points per contest.
Where things all went wrong was on offense. The Spartans averaged just 20.3 points per game, which was down nearly 11 points from last year’s average (31.0).
Early on, the receivers were dropping passes. Midseason, the offensive line was banged up and not providing enough running lanes for Le’Veon Bell and pass protection for Andrew Maxwell. At the end of the year, Maxwell looked like he wasn’t progressing as he should.
The Spartans never really clicked as an offense outside of a lopsided win at Central Michigan. It will be a concern heading into next season with a defense that can’t be expected to be as strong as it has been the last two years.
It’s not a big surprise to call this year a disappointing one for Michigan State. It’s not just about a 6-6 record, or a 3-5 Big Ten record, or even an 0-5 conference record at home. The Spartans took more than a step back. They completely fell flat on their back.
The momentum MSU built the previous two seasons to be recognized as a legit program in the national spotlight has been lost. It will take some work to get back to that point.
For all those reasons, I give Michigan State a D for the season. The only reason I don’t given them an F is because they did manage to make a bowl. A losing record would have been the absolute failure in my eyes.
What are your thoughts on this season for MSU?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Final thoughts on Michigan/OSU, MSU/Minnesota


I expected there to be plenty to talk about following Saturday’s games, and there is. There were interesting developments for both Michigan and Michigan State in their regular season finales. Here are my thoughts on both team’s performances on Saturday.

Michigan 21, Ohio State 26
This is a game that looked to be Michigan’s for the taking at halftime, but an awful second half on offense kept the Wolverines from getting a big win in Columbus.
The fumbles are one thing. They happen. Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner could have tried to do a better job of protecting the ball, but ultimately, I thought it was the play calling that cost Michigan in this one.
Throughout the game, especially in the second half, I kept saying to myself: “Denard has to throw one of these times, right?”
But the clock kept ticking, and each time Robinson took the field, it was a run play. Not only was it a run play, it wasn’t a real creative run play.
Eventually Ohio State figured out what everyone in the world had figured out, that if Robinson is taking the snap, it is a run. The Buckeyes could commit their entire defense to stopping the run, which it did. The Wolverines couldn’t convert third downs because they were essentially giving away what they were doing based on who took the snap.
I know Robinson broke the big 67-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but he was unable to do anything in the second half because Ohio State adjusted to the way Michigan used him.
I had no problem with Robinson being on the field, but Michigan needed to have him on the field with Gardner to keep the Ohio State defense honest. Michigan showed those looks in the first half, but went away from them in the second half.
Michigan needed to have Robinson throw a short pass or two to not make it obvious what was coming when he was taking the snaps.
If Robinson was still not healthy enough to throw a slant or even a bubble screen, then why put him under center at all?
I expected the defense to play worse than it did. Ohio State still had nearly 400 yards, but I thought the Wolverines did a good job of containing Miller’s running ability and they also held strong in some tough spots when the offense turned the ball over.
I was surprised Brady Hoke decided to go for it on 4th and 3 from the Michigan 48 to open the second half. It may have been a different game had it worked out, but I thought there was more risk than reward in that case. I don’t think it cost Michigan the game, but it certainly gave a big momentum swing to the Buckeyes to open the second half.
Saturday’s loss certainly puts a negative on the season perspective for the Wolverines. An 8-4 season is clearly not bad, but no Legends Division title and a loss to Ohio State has to be considered a disappointment, especially when the conference was so up for grabs this year.
Three of Michigan’s four losses this season seemed to be games they could have won with a few changes here or there. The Wolverines controlled their destiny for the most part and couldn’t find their way to a championship when it was there for the taking.

Michigan State 26, Minnesota 10
A win to go 6-6 doesn’t turn MSU’s season from awful to good, but the Spartans came out and put on one of their best performances of the season.
The defense was dominant again, allowing just 99 yards of offense from the Gophers. It doesn’t matter who you are playing, it is difficult to hold a team under 100 yards of offense.
Le’Veon Bell was once again a work horse, pounding out 265 yards on 36 carries.
Andrew Maxwell struggled with accuracy, going just 13 of 29 passing. That has to be concerning at this stage of the season. Maxwell has not taken many strides throughout the course of the season that would give MSU fans much confidence for next season.
But, getting back to the overall point on this game, Michigan State fans should be happy that their team didn’t quit. It would have been easy to.
The Spartans came in with high expectations this season and missed them all by a wide margin. Making a bowl isn’t something that players can often get up for when they had hopes for a conference championship.
I give credit to the Spartans for not wanting to end their season on Saturday. A bowl victory can still salvage a little something to build on for next season.
But, make no mistake, this season has still been a step back for the program.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Predictions for Michigan/OSU, MSU/Minnesota


Saturday marks the end of the regular season for both Michigan and Michigan State, with both teams playing very meaningful games. Here are my predictions for both contests.

Michigan at Ohio State
This game really feels like more than just an annual rivalry game. Ohio State is looking to get an undefeated season while Michigan is seeking a ninth win. Both coaches (Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke) are looking to make a statement against the other for the sake of the rivalry.
I expect this game to be similar to last year’s game, where it is an offensive showcase that could come down to the final possession. I think Ohio State will be able to move the ball on the Michigan defense thanks to the play-making ability of Braxton Miller. I think the Wolverines will also be able to find plenty of offense against an Ohio State defense that isn’t all that strong. I think Michigan will pull out all the stops on offense, incorporating Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson at multiple positions to keep the Buckeyes guessing.
Ultimately, I see the Buckeyes winning this one. This game means everything to Ohio State (no offense, Michigan fans). With no bowl game and no Big Ten Championship opportunity, this is the national title game for Ohio State. Meyer has built this game up to be everything for the fan base and the players, and it will take place in the Horseshoe. I think Michigan puts up a fight, but Ohio State finds a way to win in the closing moments.
Ohio State 34, Michigan 31

Michigan State at Minnesota
I know it’s easy to assume that MSU will just waltz in to Minnesota and win and become bowl eligible, but what have the Spartans done this year to prove that would be a given?
Mark Dantonio may have guaranteed victory in his weekly press conference, but the only guarantee I expect is that this game will come down to the final possession just like all other MSU games.
Minnesota has plenty to play for here, just like the Spartans. The Gophers are seeking their first 7-win season since 2008 and head coach Jerry Kill came under fire this week from former player, A.J. Walker. There will be plenty of Minnesota players that will look to rally around Kill and get him a big win to end the regular season.
I am still going to pick Michigan State, as the Spartans are more desperate for the win. A loss for MSU would make an awful season even worse. I don’t expect it to be pretty, but some way, the Spartans will find a way to win.
Michigan State 20, Minnesota 17

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Roushar the easy target for MSU's struggles


There is plenty of blame to go around at Michigan State this season for the Spartans’ current 5-6 record.
Of all of the blame that is getting passed out, it seems the most is going on second-year offensive coordinator, Dan Roushar.
It seems fair to say that the MSU defense has played better than the 5-6 record this year, which means that the offense is coming up short.
When you look at where the Spartans fit in the Big Ten picture, they currently rank 11th in scoring (19.7 ppg), ninth in yards (365.7 ypg), fourth in passing (2,482 yards) and ninth in rushing (1,541 yards).
In the national aspect, MSU ranks 110th in the nation in scoring, 70th in passing and 89th in rushing.
Another big stat working against Roushar this year is scoring in the red zone. The Spartans have scored at least a field goal in 32 of 39 red zone appearances this year, but have just 20 touchdowns in those 39 opportunities.
Settling for field goals instead of touchdowns has been a crucial reason for why Michigan State has come up short, especially when you consider its five Big Ten losses have come by a combined 13 points.
Roushar is just the play caller, and it takes the players to execute the plays that are called. But when the same issues come up week after week, someone has to shoulder the responsibility.
Against Northwestern, the Spartans fumbled in the red zone on a third and one, and later, were stopped on a fourth and goal from the 1-yard line as Le’Veon Bell was hit for a 3-yard loss as soon as he touched the ball.
The Spartans have had injury issues this year and have worked in a lot of new pieces at receiver, and certainly at quarterback with Andrew Maxwell replacing Kirk Cousins.
But the numbers have taken a dramatic dip from last year as MSU averaged 31 points per game.
So, should the blame be on Roushar, or should it be on the likes of Maxwell and the offensive players?
MSU head coach Mark Dantonio says the blame should be on him. He pointed that out during his weekly press conference on Tuesday saying:
“The responsibility for how we play, falls on me. That’s how it’s got to be. Everybody is soul searching, but it has to start at the top and trickle down, and that’s with me.”
Dantonio also said that evaluating his assistants is about a lot more than just what happens on the field.
Dantonio has always been a loyal guy and protective of his staff and players. Roushar has been with MSU since Dantonio has been head coach and the two were together for two years at Cincinnati. It would be surprising to see Dantonio fire Roushar after one bad season, but the pressure will be on Roushar next season to improve the offensive numbers and help improve the win total.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Devin and Denard - what could have been


Last Saturday saw another sizeable win for the Michigan football team, but it came in a little different style.
After missing the last two games with an injury to his elbow, Denard Robinson returned to the field against Iowa and was creatively used alongside backup quarterback Devin Gardner.
Robinson didn’t throw a pass in the game. He was instead used as a running back and a receiver.
Defenses still had to respect Robinson for his speed and his quickness while Gardner remained the quarterback. Gardner finished with 314 yards passing and three touchdowns while running for two more scores.
The Michigan offense totaled over 500 yards and looked as good as it has all season, but the real question is, why now?
Obviously the answer for Saturday was to get Robinson on the field for his final home game with Michigan.
But, when you see what this offense is capable of with Gardner at quarterback and Robinson used as a running back/receiver, you have to scratch your head at why this wasn’t implemented earlier. Last season saw Gardner take some occasional snaps at quarterback with Robinson, but it wasn’t anything like what we saw on Saturday.
Could this combination have helped in games against Alabama, Notre Dame and Nebraska?
Digging up this kind of success this late in the season doesn’t do much good for Michigan outside of possibly beating Ohio State, but even a win over the Buckeyes won’t get them a Big Ten title unless Nebraska loses.
Is it fair to say that Brady Hoke and the Michigan coaching staff missed the boat here?
Coaches always say they have to put their best 11 on the field each week.
It is starting to appear that the Wolverines haven’t had their best lineup on the field most of the season.

What are your thoughts on how Michigan used Robinson/Gardner against Iowa

Friday, November 16, 2012

Predictions for Michigan/Iowa & MSU/Northwestern


Another Saturday of college football is upon us. Here are my predictions for the two games taking place.

Iowa at Michigan
I think this is a game Michigan can win with some ease. The Hawkeyes are a mess right now, having lost four straight. The Michigan defense shouldn’t break much of a sweat to keep the Iowa offense in check and the Wolverines should continue to build off their offensive performances of the last two weeks. Devin Gardner has played well thus far at quarterback and I expect that to continue. If Denard Robinson is given his shot to play in what is his final home game, I think he will come through with some big plays. Essentially, anything less than a comfortable win would be surprising to me. Michigan needs to carry some momentum into next week against Ohio State and Iowa is a perfect opponent for that to happen.
Michigan 31, Iowa 13

Northwestern at Michigan State
Despite MSU’s strength against the run defensively, I still expect Northwestern to be able to move the ball on the ground. The Wildcats have found a way to be competitive in every game this year and I don’t see that changing against the Spartans. For the MSU offense, I expect a solid showing, as the Wildcats are giving up nearly 400 yards per game. Le’Veon Bell will get his chance to shine, but I think it will be the MSU passing game that ultimately guides it to a victory. We have seen the Wildcats give up big plays in the secondary recently and Michigan State should look to attack them deep. I do think this game will be close and come down to the end, but I see the Spartans edging the Wildcats to become bowl eligible.
Michigan State 24, Northwestern 20

Is a win for MSU on Saturday worth celebrating?


As Michigan still fights for a potential spot in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday against Iowa, Michigan State finds itself with an important game as well, though the rewards are not nearly as sweet.
A win over Northwestern at home on Senior Day will make the Spartans bowl eligible.
I think it is fair to say that few expected it to take to Game 11 for Michigan State to get bowl eligible this year.
Coming into the season, expectations were high for the Spartans. Whether it be a Big Ten Championship or a 10-win season, few saw MSU doing all it could to have winning record at the end of the year.
Saturday will be telling for Michigan State for a few reasons.
The first will be if the Spartans can beat an above-average Northwestern team.
The Wildcats proved last week that they aren’t to be overlooked and certainly Michigan State hasn’t proven it can look past anyone. If you can’t beat Iowa at home, you can’t just step on the field at Spartan Stadium and expect to walk through Northwestern.
However, if Michigan State wants to remain a program that has some high expectations, it has to win this game.
The second reason this game will be telling is on how the Spartans (players and fans) celebrate if they do win.
Is getting bowl eligible a big enough accomplishment for the program?
Mark Dantonio has led MSU to a bowl in each of his five seasons as coach. That is an accomplishment to be proud of given the Spartans were shutout of the bowl season three straight years before his arrival.
However, Dantonio had been building Michigan State into something more than just a bowl team, as MSU had been at the forefront of the Big Ten title picture the last two seasons.
As an outsider, I consider this to be a disappointing season for Michigan State. The Spartans should have expected more and shouldn’t be satisfied with a 6-or-7-win season.
When you consider the talent on the defensive side of the ball, this was a prime opportunity for Michigan State to contend for the Big Ten title.
Ohio State is unable to contend for the title and Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin have all arguably played below expectations.
You can also expect all four of those teams to keep getting better, which may leave the Spartans as the odd team out in the Big Ten picture for the future.
It’s not crazy to think most of the top talent on MSU’s team this year could be gone next year. Le’Veon Bell and William Gholston have to consider moving on to the NFL when you think of the injury risks that come with going through another season.
Should Spartan fans just be happy with making a bowl game year-in and year-out, or should it expect to win a Big Ten Championship and play in the Rose Bowl once every handful of years?
MSU needs to define its expectations and decide if it wants to be an average program or if it wants to be a force in the Big Ten.
Last year when the Detroit Lions made the playoffs, head coach Jim Schwartz said “There's going to come a time when we don't celebrate going to the playoffs, or getting into the playoffs. It's not going to be tonight.”
Tomorrow (if MSU wins) will not be a time for celebrating. If the Spartans really want to be considered in the same discussion as Michigan as a football program, you don’t celebrate just making a bowl.
Making a bowl should be the first in a long list of goals and expectations each year if you are going to be a great program.
The Wolverines have already locked up a bowl win, but their fan base is still largely upset with the season because Michigan doesn’t control its own destiny in the Big Ten race with two games left.
I know this comes off like a Michigan fan belittling Michigan State, but it’s not.
The Wolverines were awful during the Rich Rodriguez era and I wasn’t sure Michigan’s expectations would ever get back to where they were when Lloyd Carr was coach.
But, Brady Hoke arrived, won 11 games last year and is in contention to win 10 this season if it wins out.
Hoke has essentially created his own monster because now Michigan fans won’t tolerate a letdown season. He must get to nine wins or more each year, and even some won’t accept that.
So, to get back to my point, will MSU fans accept this season? Is it okay for Mark Dantonio to have this team win just six or seven games? Should he feel some pressure going into next season if he can’t get MSU back to 8-to-10 wins?
It’s a thin line, but what side you stand on in this argument defines your expectations for what the MSU program should be.

Is becoming bowl eligible an accomplishment in college football

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Is Le'Veon Bell an All-American?


Le’Veon Bell is a big part of what the Michigan State offense has done this year.
His value to the Spartans is obviously high.
But, just where does Bell sit amongst running backs in the national picture?
Early in the season, Bell was being mentioned as an All-American candidate.
Phil Steele actually listed him as a midseason First Team All-American.
Bell currently ranks ninth in the nation in total rushing yards (1,249) and 12th in rushing yards per game (124.9).
But, of any players with over 1,000 yards rushing this season, Bell has the second-most carries (283) and is last in yards per carry (4.4).
I would credit his low yards per carry to the injuries to the offensive line for Michigan State. Bell doesn’t seem to get much help in terms of big running lanes being opened for him.
A lot is being asked of Bell. In each game that he has rushed for over 100 yards this season, it has taken a minimum of 29 carries to do it.
Bell’s early-season hype has certainly died down. That is in part due to Michigan State’s struggles as a team and in part due to his production lowering a little bit.
His top two rushing performances were in the first four games of the season.
His pass catching production has dropped significantly. Bell has just nine receptions for 20 yards over his last five games. He had 20 catches for 133 yards in the first five games of the season.
Bell has also yet to have that marquee play to lift Michigan State to a win since the victory over Boise State. Against the Broncos, Bell looked like a monster and played like one too. We haven’t really seen that since.
Bell has picked up the yards, but it has been in short chunks. When given the opportunity to really make the big play late, it seems Bell hasn’t done it. The loss to Michigan comes to mind when he had the chance to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get that last yard needed.
Again, it’s hard to criticize Bell too much because he has taken on a giant work load already this season.
He is a talented back and a big contributor for the Spartans, but I don’t feel he is at the All-American level.
If Bell elects to return for a senior season, he will be an All-American candidate, but he will need to lead the Spartans to better than a .500 record.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gardner or Robinson?


Denard Robinson is a polarizing player.
Obviously Robinson is a tremendous athlete.
He has put up historic numbers as a member of the Michigan football team, but he hasn’t been able to win over the entire Wolverine fan base.
There is a significant part of the fan base that feels Robinson is what is keeping Michigan from truly taking a step forward at the national level.
Their point has been emphasized over the last two games with the play of Devin Gardner.
Gardner, who also has the capability to run or pass, has shown much better passing abilities than Robinson.
Over the last two weeks, Gardner is 28 of 47 passing for 520 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also rushed for 68 yards and three scores.
In Robinson’s starts this year, he has thrown for over 210 yards in just one game. He has nine passing touchdowns with nine interceptions.
What he lacks in passing, he makes up for in rushing, as he has rushed for 946 yards and six touchdowns.
Saturday’s game with Iowa marks the final home game for seniors, including Robinson.
On Monday, during his weekly press conference, Brady Hoke indicated that Robinson is still day-to-day with his elbow injury that has lingered on into its third week.
When asked if senior day will impact his decision to get Robinson in the game against the Hawkeyes, Hoke indicated that Robinson’s health is the only thing that will impact whether he plays or not.
I would suspect that Michigan can beat Iowa with Robinson or Gardner under center. The real question is about Ohio State.
Will the Wolverines need a consistent passing effort to win in Columbus? If so, do Michigan fans trust that Robinson can be the player to provide that effort?
Robinson did go 14 of 17 passing for 167 yards and three scores against the Buckeyes last year, but I suspect that Ohio State’s defense will be stronger this year with Urban Meyer as coach and the added emphasis on beating Michigan this year since the Buckeyes can’t compete in postseason play.
That is just my opinion.
What is your opinion? Give me your vote as to who you think should be Michigan’s quarterback going forward.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Final thoughts on Michigan's win over Northwestern


Northwestern is a name doesn’t bring out a lot of fear in college football fans, but the Wildcats have been a pretty good team this year and I had a feeling that Saturday’s game would be a tight one.
I predicted Michigan winning 31-24, so I am happy with that as my predictions have been way off lately.
I certainly didn’t see the game coming down to a miracle at the end of regulation, but that seems to be something Northwestern lets happen.
The thing that was lost in the finish was the importance of Roy Roundtree finding a way to make that amazing catch. Sure, there was a penalty on the play, but in college pass interference is just a 15-yard penalty. Had Roundtree not made the juggling catch, the ball would have been put at the Northwestern 47 with eight seconds left. It would have been very tough for Michigan to get enough yards while stopping the clock to get a lengthy field goal.
Roundtree’s catch was clutch and he and Jeremy Gallon made some great plays during the game. That catch by Roundtree could go on to define the season if Michigan is able to get to a possible 10 wins (including a bowl victory).
The defense struggled on Saturday, but they aren’t the first to do so against Northwestern. Colter made some great plays for the Wildcats. It’s okay to expect the Wolverines to do better, but they are still going to have some down performances during the season.
As high as the win was for Michigan fans, I am sure they have to be disappointed about Nebraska’s win over Penn State.
An upset seemed to be brewing with the Nittany Lions up 20-6 at halftime, but Nebraska found a way to win. The Cornhuskers were the benefit of a big call on the McGloin “fumble” at the goal line, but that is how it works when you don’t control your own destiny.
Michigan has two games left and it appears that Denard Robinson’s injury may be more serious than the coaches either thought or let on. Devin Gardner has played well at quarterback, so well that some Michigan fans want him starting the rest of the season regardless of Robinson’s status.
I think Robinson deserves the right to be the quarterback if healthy, but certainly you have to keep Gardner prepared.
In fairness to Robinson, Gardner hasn’t faced impressive defensive units in his two games as a starter.
Michigan gets Iowa next week and I would think the coaches don’t want Robinson to face Ohio State without playing for three weeks, so I would expect to see him in action to some capacity if he is ultimately expected to play against the Buckeyes.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Michigan vs. Northwestern Prediction

I haven’t posted in a few days but I wanted to get up my prediction for Saturday’s lone game. Here is my take on what to expect for Michigan vs. Northwestern.

Northwestern at Michigan, Noon
No matter who is at quarterback, Michigan should be able to move the ball. Northwestern is allowing just under 400 yards per game on defense this season. This is a defense that Denard Robinson should be able to carve up with his legs or Devin Gardner should be able to carve up with his arm. Where Michigan will have to be sharp is on defense, as Northwestern is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring at 30.4 points per game. The Wildcats are very quick on the ground and Michigan will have to contain running back Venric Mark, who has posted over 1,000 rushing yards this year. I don’t see Michigan being able to really dominate this game. Northwestern has had its two losses come by a combined 12 points. Look for this game to be more of a shootout than a defensive battle. Ultimately, Michigan will make enough plays to win, but it will be a battle.
Michigan 31, Northwestern 24

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Big Ten College Basketball Preseason Predictions


It’s hard to believe, but the college basketball season already gets underway this Friday.
I plan on jumping heavily into basketball once the regular season of football is over, but I thought I would give my preseason picks for the Big Ten today before the season actually begins.
Here is how I look for the Big Ten to play out this year.

1. IndianaThe Hoosiers have the experience and the talent. It was a slow rebuild for Tom Crean, but patience seems to be paying off for Indiana.
2. MichiganThings can go really well for Michigan this year or really poorly. The Wolverines are relying on a lot of new faces, but they are expected to be a talented group of new faces. Hardaway Jr. and Burke will need to stay healthy throughout the season.
3. Michigan StateThe Spartans have a lot of talent, but the loss of Draymond Green will hurt in more ways than one. Leadership issues could lead to struggles during the season. If Nix and Payne take a big step forward in their progression, the Spartans could win the conference.
4. Ohio StateThe loss of Jared Sullinger and William Buford are big for the Buckeyes. They will have to rely more on their defense this year, led by Aaron Craft. I don’t see them being able to consistently win big games in the conference.
5. WisconsinThe Badgers return a solid core from last year but lose their playmaker in Jordan Taylor. Not sure where the points will come from for Wisconsin, but they should be strong defensively once again.
6. MinnesotaThe Golden Gophers could be the dark horse in the Big Ten as they return their top five scoring leaders from last season. The question is, even with the returning talent, do they have the talent that the other teams in the Big Ten have?
7. Purdue – The Boilermakers were hit hard with losing the likes of Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith. Purdue will be a team that is stronger later in the season as it develops new go-to players.
8. Iowa – The Hawkeyes took a step forward last year and I think that will continue some this year as they threaten to earn a NCAA Tournament bid. Iowa’s concern is not having a lot of depth to work with after losing four players from last year’s squad.
9. Northwestern – Some see Northwestern higher, but the loss of John Shurna will be a lot to overcome. The Wildcats still have some talent, but they don’t have a game-changer like Shurna to turn to. Drew Crawford will attempt to take that role, but I’m not sure he can do it with added defensive focus put on him.
10. IllinoisI like the addition of John Groce as the coach, but he doesn’t have a lot to work with this season at Illinois. Look for the Illini to struggle most of the year, but pull off a few upsets late in the season.
11. Penn StateIt’s hard to say if it’s good news or bad news, but Penn State lost four players from a 12-20 team last season. I see it as the Nittany Lions having little talent, and now, even less depth.

12. NebraskaWhat Nebraska can accomplish in football with a move to the Big Ten, it loses in basketball. The Cornhuskers are a mess of a basketball program. Similar to Penn State, Nebraska lost five players from a 12-18 team. It will be a long year for new coach Tim Miles.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Final thoughts from Week 10



It was an eventful day for football fans in the state of Michigan. Both Michigan and MSU had some interesting storylines come out of their games. Here are my final thoughts on the games.

Nebraska 28, Michigan State 24
I can’t tell you how upset I get when I hear about the refs “screwing” MSU on Saturday.
Was the pass interference call late in the game a bad one? I think so.
But, in no way can the whole game be blamed on that one call.
For one, Nebraska was still in field goal range to tie the game. Even without the penalty, the Cornhuskers were within reason to force overtime. Whose to say MSU would have won in OT?
Second, Michigan State had plenty of opportunities to close that game out and managed to not do it.
The most notable of those opportunities was on Darqueze Dennard’s interception of Taylor Martinez on the MSU 4-yard line that he returned for a touchdown. The score would have put the Spartans up 31-14 with 10:42 to play. Instead, the return was called back because of a personal foul hit by Johnny Adams on a Nebraska player.
Adams, who was completely out of the play at the time of the foul, lowered his shoulder into a Nebraska player and wiped him out. There was no need for the hit. It didn’t help Dennard or his team in any way. In fact, I’d argue the hit ultimately cost his team the game.
MSU’s offense sputtered from there and Nebraska came back on the next possession to score a touchdown and get back in the contest.
After the penalty, the MSU defense had multiple chances to close out the game, including a key fourth and short in Spartan territory, but they failed to make the stop.
Nebraska tallied 493 total yards in the win and Taylor Martinez rushed for 224 yards on his own.
The MSU defense failed to close out a game, which has been a problem in the past. The offense actually provided 24 points, which should have been enough to win this game.
After the game, I was disappointed to see the reaction of the players on Twitter. MSU has already had problems with players running their mouths on Twitter this season and tonight was no different. Here were a few choice cuts from running back Le’Veon Bell:
@L_Bell24: #ShoutOut to the refs...yall won the game tonight! Toughest team we played all year..”
@L_Bell24: We legitimately lost ONE game this year...and that was Notre Dame! The black & white team beat us 4 times
Bell removed the tweets afterward but the mindset of MSU blaming their losses on anyone but themselves is a disturbing trend this year and speaks to why the team is currently 5-5.
The Spartans need some accountability. Adams showed no accountability on the INT return and that led to a loss.
Bell is showing no accountability on Twitter and if the players carry this mindset the rest of the way, there will be more losses to come.

Michigan 35, Minnesota 13
Michigan had to feel like Saturday was a double victory.
The Wolverines not only won on the football field, but they won with the relief of knowing they have a quarterback they can turn to next season.
I’m sure Michigan fans were pretty nervous when they found out Denard Robinson wasn’t playing, and the first quarter didn’t do much to settle those nerves, but Devin Gardner settled in nicely and made some great plays with his arm and his feet to lead the offense to a victory.
His ability to buy some time on his 45-yard touchdown pass to Drew Dileo for Michigan’s first score seemed to spark the offense and give Gardner confidence the rest of the way.
He finished 12 of 18 passing for 234 yards while also rushing for 23 yards and a score. He doesn’t have the legs of Robinson, but he has a better arm and he looks like a player Michigan can turn to next season.
With a summer of focusing on being the starting quarterback, I think Gardner can be successful and keep Michigan from taking a step back next year.
I am sure Brady Hoke will put more emphasis on having Gardner ready to backup Robinson the rest of the way.