They should be banging the pots and pans together and screaming and shouting in Ann Arbor, since the Wolverines are off to a 4-0 start, just like last year. The last time Michigan went 4-0 to begin consecutive seasons was in 1996 and 1997, so this should be considered an historic achievement.
But context is everything, and the Wolverines suffer when that light is shone on them. The 4-0 start loses some of its luster when the competition is analyzed, and Michigan's recent track record is put under review.
After wins over UConn, a struggling Notre Dame, Division II UMass and rebuilding Bowling Green, it might not be time quite yet to book those flights to a bowl game. While Michigan's 4-0 start certainly bodes well for the Wolverines' chances of playing in the postseason, it is hardly a guarantee.
We have to deal with the stigma of last year's collapse, since Michigan also went 4-0 out of the gate in 2009 before dropping seven of its last eight games, including the final five in a row. It is understandable that everyone is a little gun-shy about getting too carried away right now.
What lies ahead is also throwing a dark cloud over the proceedings, since after this week's date with Big Ten weakling Indiana, Michigan faces the gauntlet. There is rival Michigan State, then Iowa, a trip to Penn State, and after bouts with Purdue and Illinois, the Wolverines have to close the season with Wisconsin and Ohio State.
A wait-and-see approach makes the most sense here. If the Wolverines are truly on the way back to being a Big Ten power, they will win more than they lose over the final eight games, and march off to a bowl with confidence. Anything short of that split will leave the doubters well-armed. Another collapse will inflict considerable damage on the long-term confidence and put the future of head coach Rich Rodriguez in peril.
--Discipline has been a strong suit for the Wolverines through four games. Michigan is averaging fewer than five penalties a game, putting it in the top 20 nationally for the fewest infractions.
--RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, a redshirt freshman who has battled injuries earlier this season, made his collegiate debut in the fourth quarter of the Bowling Green game and broke loose for 61 yards on his first carry.
--Michigan scored on nine of its 11 possessions in the huge win over Bowling Green.
--The Wolverines had five running backs rush for more than 50 yards in last weekend's rout of Bowling Green.
SERIES HISTORY: Michigan leads 51-9 (last meeting, 2009, 36-33 Michigan).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: If Michigan's performance last week against Bowling Green is an indicator of things to come, the rest of the Big Ten will be up late trying to figure out how to slow the machine. The Wolverines had 721 yards of offense, four scoring drives of 80 yards or more, had three quarterbacks perform well and five running backs tally 50 yards or more. The reality is, the Big Ten will make things tougher, and Michigan needs a healthy Denard Robinson to be at its best.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Michigan is bolstered by its strong showing against Bowling Green, but nobody is pretending that the issues on this side of the ball have been laid to rest. A lot is determined by how much pressure the front can exert on the quarterback, and if they are effective, it makes everyone look good. If they don't surrender the big play, the Wolverines can keep their psyche in balance.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Hopefully he'll be able to do everything (in practice). We'll wait and see. We'll see how they practice this week. We have a starter right now in Denard Robinson, and we have two second guys in Devin and Tate." -- Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez on how he will handle his quarterbacks: starter Denard Robinson, and backups Devin Gardner and Tate Forcier
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Michigan at Indiana, Oct. 2 -- The Wolverines (4-0 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) are riding a fairly good wave of momentum with apprehension, since what lies beyond the matchup with the Hoosiers will require Michigan to raise the bar considerably. Indiana took Michigan to the wire last season, and felt it got robbed by a controversial call, so the Hoosiers are itching for revenge.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Wolverines will have to find other ways to win, if necessary, but if QB Denard Robinson can play, there is little guesswork about what Michigan will do. Robinson has rushed for more than 100 yards in four straight games and is the only player nationally with over 600 rushing yards and 700 passing yards. If he is out, the Michigan defense is under the gun to carry more of the load.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Tate Forcier -- After starting all 12 games a year ago, Forcier did not play in the first three games of 2010, but he had an impressive debut last week when he went 12 of 12 passing.
WR Roy Roundtree -- After his third 100-yard receiving game of his career -- a nine reception, 118-yard effort against Bowling Green -- the redshirt junior has to be attracting more defensive attention.
DB Jordan Kovacs -- The former walk-on who was second on the team in stops a year ago is tied for the Michigan lead with 35 tackles after four games.
QB Denard Robinson -- The fleet sophomore from Florida had 129 yards rushing in just nine minutes of action against Bowling Green before leaving the game with a tweaked knee. His availability for the Big Ten opener at Indiana is called "likely" by Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.
--QB Denard Robinson injured a knee in the first quarter of the win over Bowling Green and did not return in the game. He is expected to be available for the game at Indiana.
--DL Ryan Van Bergen had a two-sack performance against Bowling Green and has seven in his career.
--OL John Ferrara played in the season opener against UConn, but he has missed the last three straight games with a hand injury.
--OL Mark Huyge started at left tackle in the first three games of the season, then moved to right tackle last week against Bowling Green.
--RB Michael Shaw could miss the Indiana game with a sprained knee.
--S Mike Williams is expected to miss some time after suffering a concussion against Bowling Green. Williams has had multiple concussions in his career.
Inside Look: Michigan
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