There's not a lot of mystery or intrigue involved with what is going on offensively with the Wolverines. There are a lot of pee wee teams out there using "hike it to me and I'll run," but with not nearly the success that Michigan has had.
The Wolverines are just running the ball, and not doing it with any kind of ultra-sophisticated approach. QB Denard Robinson has done most of the damage, and the majority of it has come on relatively simple plays where crisp execution and Robinson's elite speed have been the difference.
Michigan enters its showdown with rival Michigan State ranked second in the nation in total offense with 565 yards per game. The Wolverines have rushed for more than 280 yards in each of their five games this season, including a ridiculous 466 rushing yards against Bowling Green.
The speed of Robinson, and the fear factor he puts in the hearts of safeties and linebackers, is the equivalent of putting their shoes in quicksand. For that instant when they are trying to anticipate his next move, they are frozen. From that position, the chances of catching him is reduced to nil.
Due to Robinson's impact, the Wolverines do everything better offensively. They have hit on 20-of-22 red zone chances, with 19 of those for touchdowns. Michigan has six scoring drives in excess of 90 yards in five games.
There's no secret as to what is going on here. Michigan is going to run Robinson until someone stops him. And the Wolverines are going to display his vastly improved throwing skills just often enough to keep defenses dizzy with fear. The Wolverines are holding the right cards, until a defense comes along that can trump them.
--QB Denard Robinson had 494 yards of total offense in the win over Indiana, with 217 rushing and 277 passing. He won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for the third time in five weeks.
--Michigan ranks second nationally in total offense, third in rushing, fourth in pass efficiency, and ninth in scoring.
--With his next 95 rushing yards, sophomore QB Denard Robinson will have 1,000 for the season. Robinson needs just 87 yards of total offense to make 2,000 for the season.
--With three and four tackles, respectively, LB Jonas Mouton and S Jordan Kovacs will reach 50 for the season.
SERIES HISTORY: Michigan leads 67-30-5 (last meeting, 2009, 26-20 OT, Michigan State).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: It has been the Denard Robinson show for the most part, but the Wolverines are showing that they have other viable weapons. Junior WR Roy Roundtree had his second straight 100-yard receiving game last weekend at Indiana, while WR Junior Hemingway had 126 receiving yards on five receptions. RB Vincent Smith had a season-high 80 yards on nine carries and scored one touchdown in the Indiana game.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: While celebrating its 5-0 start, Michigan is also wincing at the sight of its defense getting shredded by Indiana's passing game last weekend. The Wolverines could do little to slow the Hoosiers through the air, and now head into the meat of the Big Ten schedule with major concerns about this defense's ability to match up with the league's better teams.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "For as many problems as we've had, and I don't want to belabor the fact and lower our heads . . . but the main thing is to win. We've won." -- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez on his team's success.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Michigan State at Michigan, Oct. 9 -- The Wolverines (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) clash with the rival Spartans (5-0, 1-0) with more than the usual bragging rights on the line. Both have looked exceptionally strong to date, and something has to give. Last year's meeting went to overtime, and this one has the potential to produce its own special drama.
KEYS TO THE GAME: When these two knock heads, the superior rushing game has usually led to victory. The team with the dominant running game has won 38 of the last 42 meetings. This series went through a 26-game stretch (1969-94) where the eventual winner had the best rushing total, so logic tells us that will be a pretty fair indicator of who comes out on top in 2010.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
-- QB Denard Robinson -- The stunning sophomore from Florida has had his previous performances outdone only by his next one. Robinson scored the winning touchdown in Michigan's 42-35 win over Indiana, and accounted for 494 yards of offense and five touchdowns. We are still looking for his ceiling.
-- DT Mike Martin -- This team's troubled defense needs some impact plays from Martin if it intends to impede the Spartans' passing attack. Martin is the team leader in sacks and tackles for loss.
-- LB Jonas Mouton -- The Big Ten leader in tackles, Mouton has a pair of interceptions and is the kind of big-play energizer the Wolverines need in order to help this unit turn things around.
-- SS Jordan Kovacs -- The former walk-on ranks second in the conference with 46 tackles through five games. Kovacs burst on to the scene for the Wolverines last year, and his team is hoping for a repeat performance of his 17-tackle performance against Michigan State from last season.
--RB Michael Shaw missed the Indiana game with a knee injury, but he is expected to play against Michigan State.
--RB Fitzgerald Toussaint was held out of the Indiana game as he nurses a sore shoulder, and his status for the Michigan State game is still uncertain.
--LB Brandon Herron is rehabbing an injured ankle but is expected to play against the Spartans.
--S Mike Williams was held out of the Indiana game due to suffering multiple concussions, and his career could be over.
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