Wisconsin 48 ... Michigan 28
There was a time when Michigan’s offensive line would maul defensive fronts. Line up, pound away, win big. While the Wolverines, by design, have gone to a leaner, mean offensive line over the last few years, they just got manhandled by a team that has no interest in lightening up.
There’s still a place to crush and kill with a monster offensive line and a powerful ground game, and Wisconsin is proving it. How many other teams (other than Oregon and Alabama) could be without a Heisman-caliber running back and still thunder away for over 120 points in two games? Michigan was able to rally back against the Badgers to make things interesting, but the UW front five ended all the drama and all the fun by paving the way on running play after running play to grind out the clock. Yeah, the explosive Michigan spread attack works, and it’s going to be even more special in time, but there’s nothing that takes the will out of a defense faster than by cranking out 356 rushing yards with six touchdowns on the ground.
Of course, Michigan’s issues aren’t on offense, or the line, and there’s no need to go back to the old days now that things are working so well with Denard Robinson and crew so good, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to get even more physical. With the defense as porous as it is, cranking out long, tough drives would be a nice plus for the Wolverine attack. Or Michigan could just get better on defense.
This is going to be a bit of a process for Michigan, but now that it’s bowl eligible, everything is on track to keep taking steps forward. Upgrading the secondary is a big must, but Rich Rodriguez also needs to load up on upgrading the beef and the line to handle the Wisconsins, Ohio States, and soon, the Nebraskas of the Big Ten.
Things might be better for the Wolverines compared to the last few years, but there still aren’t suppose to be 20-point losses at home to Wisconsin, or anybody. Michigan isn’t supposed to be run over in its own big house on Senior Day. Yeah, the steps forward are being taken, but there’s still a ton of work to do.
He who controls the line of scrimmage, controls the scoreboard.
In an increasingly complex game, there’s a simple charm to Wisconsin that’s impossible not to respect and appreciate. Block, tackle, score. To those who believe simplicity is a swipe at the Badgers, it’s quite the contrary. They may not be fancy or especially trendy, but they’re always fundamentally sound, doing the little things that lead to big wins. Dominating the other team’s defensive line at the point of attack, for instance.
As it’s done throughout the season, Wisconsin put on a clinic up front, mauling an overmatched Michigan D-line, en route to another blowout conference win. Sophomore Montee Ball and freshman James White are outstanding backs, using the inside and outside, respectively, with skill and vision. However, with all due respect to the runners, the ease with which they pick up yards is a product of the five men opening holes along the offensive line. The combination of center Peter Konz, guards John Moffitt and Kevin Zeitler, and tackles Gabe Carimi and Ricky Wagner treated the Wolverines as if they were a JV squad, blowing them off the ball with a blend of power and finesse. By the time Ball and White were touched, they were already at the second line of defense.
Since losing to Michigan State on Oct. 2, Wisconsin has played as well as anyone in America, winning six straight and most by double-digits. The Badgers have earned their place in the BCS bowl picture, but a thrilling comeback win by the Spartans means their ultimate destination won’t be known for at least a weekend.
By Matt Zemek
Rich Rodriguez can thank Ron Zook – yes, the man who led Michigan by seven points midway through the fourth quarter on Nov. 6 and punted on fourth-and-one near midfield – for his winning record in 2010, but as this face-plant against Wisconsin showed, a winning record is as much as RichRod will get from this season. A 7-5 mark is staring this team in the face, and when one realizes that Michigan has won only six games against the FBS – and only five against BCS-conference opponents – it becomes that much easier to appreciate the thin-gruel nature of the Wolverines’ latest monument to mediocrity.
There’s no reason for this experiment to go on any longer. The Jim Harbaugh era needs to begin the moment Stanford finishes its Nov. 27 regular-season finale against Oregon State. The complete absence of defense, of physicality, of backbone, has lasted for three full seasons at a program that – in sunshine or shadow, at home or on the road, on Labor Day weekend or Thanksgiving weekend – is supposed to punch people in the mouth. Lloyd Carr’s slobberknocker style of football, built on the bedrock of Bo Schembechler’s modus operandi, might have been as boring as a slice of bologna on white bread with mayo and a bag of plain-jane potato chips, but it worked. It’s time for Michigan to be Michigan again; in the words of Bo himself before the 1989 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, “A Michigan man will coach Michigan.” That’s the way things should be, at any rate.
Rodriguez will make a great coach at one of several other schools (Clemson, anyone?). However, he has clearly failed to impose his style on the Big Ten; the fact that he didn’t jettison Greg Robinson long ago speaks volumes about his inability to make good decisions and thrive in the Upper Midwest. It’s time to turn the page in Ann Arbor… and go back to the first chapter of the Maize And Blue Owner’s Manual.