The Other Side: Michigan

Michigan enters The Game below .500 for the third time in the past seven seasons. How have the Wolverines gotten to that point? We check in with our Michigan expert, the Detroit Free Press' Mark Snyder, for more on the Maize and Blue.

Ohio State fans always keep tabs on Michigan throughout the year, but it's never a bad thing to learn more about the rival on the eve of The Game.

So we enlisted the the help of our U-M expert, Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, to learn more about the Wolverines before tomorrow's clash.

1. Can you reflect a little on Devin Gardner on and off the field and what he's mean to the Michigan program these past few years?
Gardner's descent has mirrored the program's slide into mediocrity. He's defined by his turnovers -- 30 interceptions in the past 2 1/2 years -- and inaccuracy, struggling to place the ball in positions for his players to catch and move. But that overshadows Gardner's greatness in some of the great quarterback performances in Michigan history (against Notre Dame, Indiana and Ohio State last year.) Gardner has been an ideal role model while so many of his teammates have descended into off-field problems. He's played through multiple injuries. But there's too much vitriol in the fan base to appreciate that now. Maybe with some perspective.

2. What's the status of the Michigan running game right now? The Wolverines put up big numbers on Maryland.
U-M's offensive line has improved over the past month and is creating holes that weren't there for the previous year and a half. In addition to the tailbacks impressing -- De'Veon Smith and Drake Johnson each have a 100-yard game and Johnson got close against Maryland -- it's worth remembering they're the second- and fourth-string backs and still doing this. Producing on the ground with no passing threat is also impressive.

3. What has happened to Devin Funchess this year, and how hard has it been for Gardner to find dependable targets?
The Funchess implosion is the season's biggest mystery. How a guy who spent the offseason spending hours working with Gardner and focusing on his biggest weakness, his hands, has not paid off at all. He drops conversions, touchdowns and puts Gardner in the awkward situation of knowing Funchess is the most talented and explosive target but also the least reliable. Gardner has tried to use Amara Darboh as an alternative, but Darboh's biggest game came when Funchess wasn't available much.

4. How does the Michigan defense match up with Ohio State?
Michigan's defense is run heavy, with its impact players all in the front seven, which is the reason they're No. 9 nationally against the run. But the defense has struggled to close out games, shown again vs. Maryland last weekend.

5. It's always hard to describe a vibe, I guess, but can you give it a shot about how people are feeling around the Michigan program this week? Is there a sense the team can push aside the distractions and be ready to go Saturday?
The players? They've shown the ability to still compete on the football field, despite all the swirling chaos. Whether that's enough for a win, probably not, if only because Ohio State is so much more talented and productive. But Michigan's will and fight? It should be there. The Wolverines have dealt with distractions all season. This is not much different.


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